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Web And App Development

When, How and Why Use Node.js as Your Backend

Node.js is an application runtime environment that allows you to write server-side applications in JavaScript. Credits to its unique I/O model, it excels at the scalable and real-time situations we are increasingly demanding of our servers.  It’s also lightweight, efficient, and its ability to use JavaScript on both frontend and backend opens new avenues for development. It comes as no surprise that so many big companies have leveraged Node.js in production. Software development is a precise and well-thought-out process. What backend environment you are going to choose for it,must be made at the early beginning as it is the most critical decision.

Node.js was the first legitimate attempt to bring JavaScript to the server-side. The original idea behind the use of Node.js was to build websites with real-time push capability. Therefore, unlike the previous client/server model, it became possible to develop two-way connection websites with free data exchange. Why use Node.js as your backend, then?

JavaScript has been the most commonly used programming language for a few years now, being valued especially for its simplicity and versatility. With Node.js, however, JavaScript is not limited to the front-end but works outside of the browser as well. As a result, it’s possible to build fast and scalable applications with the same code for both server- and client-side. 

Due to its asynchronous, non-blocking I/O (input/output processing) and its event-driven nature, Node.js is a good choice for building modern solutions based on micro-services, event queues, jobs, and WebSocket. It’s a relatively young runtime environment which has both pros and cons – on the one hand, its libraries and patterns are less mature and stable, on the other hand, its approach is very modern. Node.js has been created many years later than Python, Java or PHP, which makes it more modern and doesn’t require maintaining backward compatibility with solutions from the previous era. This modern approach, designing Node.js’s environment from scratch, and a possibility to learn from the experience of older programming languages, allowed to develop solutions that win the lion’s share of the mobile app market. 

Node.js is a good choice for applications that must process a high volume of short messages requiring low latency. Such systems are called real-time applications (RTAs), and they can be easily developed with Node.js. In fact, Node.js is an impeccable choice for data-intensive, real-time apps that run across distributed devices. Take chats, as an example. With Node.js, you can easily serve multiple users and devices, and handle both big traffic and intensive data exchange. Speaking of data – it is also possible to leverage the fact that HTTP requests & responses are essentially data streams, and stream large files or even process them while they’re being uploaded (to encode audio & video, for example). Thanks to its specifications, Node.js is also an advantage for the real-time collaborative drawing/editing-type apps, where you can watch the document being modified live by someone else (such as Trello, Dropbox Paper or Google Docs).

With Node.js configuration & customization come at a price, and if you’re inexperienced or undisciplined, you might lose yourself—or your client.Even though the main Node.js modules are stable, there are many entries in the npm registry which are low-quality or just haven’t been tested and/or documented properly.

By Sandeep Chauhan

Sandeep Chauhan is a Software Developer at plancoders. He loves to build beautiful Mobile Apps, and Websites.

In the past, he has worked in companies like OpenText, Intel, CenturyLink, and Walmart Labs.

He is the founding CTO of Dealsite (prev WorkingGroupLink), GoPetie, and HRaspirin. Sandeep created the first version of Doc.com (prev Docademic), and helped develop ScaleLab product.

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