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One of the first things a software development agency does when starting a new client project is set up developer accounts. This may include Apple Developer and Google Developer accounts, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) account, and accounts for other essential services.
You should own these accounts because they are necessary for distributing and maintaining your app. Consider them part of your product. Even if you don’t know what to do with your developer accounts, being in control of them is important. If you don’t control your accounts, you don’t control your app.
Imagine you hire a contractor to build your new home. They build the house and charge you for their labor, but they never give you the key to the front door. It may be your house, but what good is it if you can’t get in?
What are developer accounts for?
Some developer accounts are used to distribute mobile apps to users through the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Without account access, you can not update your app or distribute new versions to users.
Other accounts are used for your app’s infrastructure. Infrastructure includes the servers and services that help your app function. For example, an Amazon Web Services account will host your app’s database and API, necessary components for most mobile and web apps.
The risks of a vendor owning your accounts
Oftentimes when a vendor sets up a developer account on your behalf, they’re trying to move quickly. Instead of asking you to set up accounts, they just do it themselves. It’s a quick and easy way to get development moving, but your vendor may forget to transfer ownership of the accounts to you.
You may encounter issues later if you do not have account access. For example, you may wish to review your hosting costs to better budget for the future. Without access to your AWS account, you won’t have insight into hosting costs.
Or you may want to update your App Store listing with a new description. Without access to your Apple Developer account, you will have to wait for your vendor to make changes on your behalf.
In a worst-case scenario, you may decide you need to switch vendors. If the vendor owns your accounts, they may not be willing to transfer them to you. That means you can’t update your app, even if you do find another vendor. Without account access, you may be stuck with a broken app.
Some clients have come to us after working with another vendor who has locked them out of their accounts. When needed, we’ve helped our clients recover passwords, issue new signing keys for app distribution, and even regain access to servers in clients’ hosting accounts. As soon as we regain access we give that access to the rightful owner: our clients.
Ensuring you own your accounts
When you start a project with a new vendor, ask them about the accounts they need from you. Be clear that you wish to own the accounts and that you will provide them with the access they need.
Here are some of the accounts you may need to provide:
- Apple Developer: distribute your iOS app through the App Store.
- Google Developer: distribute your Android app through the Play Store.
- AWS: host your app’s database and web services.
- Firebase: mobile app analytics, push notifications, and crash reporting.
The specific accounts and level of access requested by your vendor may depend on the type of app you’re building and their preferred technology stack.
When you sign up for new accounts, ensure you use your business email account and legal business entity information. Using your business email and information will help you avoid issues later if you ever need to recover your account.
How we help clients manage account access
At Twin Sun, we ask clients to provide us with access to needed accounts, and walk through the steps required to give us adequate access. We are also willing to create new accounts for you and give you the credentials.
If we do create an account on your behalf, we will use your business information and a dedicated email address used solely for your project. That way, even if we technically “own” the account, we can cleanly transfer ownership to you.
We do this for two reasons. First, we believe you should own everything related to your business. It just makes sense. Second, we wish to earn your trust at every step. That means setting everything up right and ensuring you have what you need to protect your business interests.
We want you to work with us because we make great partners, not because you feel tied to us as a vendor. Your software development partner is in a critical position of trust when it comes to building your app. When you work with us, we do our best to ensure that you feel empowered and in control of your project.