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Backend Development With Node.js: Is It Worth Using?

Node.js is a runtime environment built on the V8 JavaScript engine, and is primarily used for creating both server-side and dynamic web applications. The technology isn’t just another backend development tool; it also allows performing frontend-related tasks. However, Node.js is used for backend the most often among the frameworks. It has also been the fastest-growing framework for at least six recent years.

But does it mean you should rely on it as the ultimate backend technology? Answering that question depends on various factors which you must always consider carefully, and not choose this technology based on beliefs alone.

most-used web backend and frontend frameworks worldwide in 2022
Most-used web backend and frontend frameworks worldwide in 2022. Source: Statista

Let’s look closer at Node.js as a potential backend framework, analyze its pros and cons to best understand its strengths for backend. Doing so will help determine if Node.js is the right choice for your project development — and possibly prevent you from failing your project due to an improper tool selection.

Node.js Key Features and Benefits That Make it Attractive

It’s obvious that the most popular web backend framework has plenty of advantages. Let’s quickly review them.

Has a Huge Professional Community

One of the most evident advantages comes from the huge Node.js popularity among developers. There are at least several million people globally who can code in Node.js! This means you always can expand your development team with new members or replace existing developers with similar talent at the same skill level.

Below you can find some links to the primary Node.js community resources.

Fullstack-Ready

The Node.js framework is based on the JavaScript programming language. But the primary purpose of this language for many years was creating frontend elements and effects. Before Node.js was launched, there was no JS-powered backend at all.

Proficiency in Node.js means a solid knowledge of JS. This fact alone makes any hired Node.js developers you bring on as already capable of full-stack development. The reverse is also true: all the frontend developers, with rare exceptions, are highly familiar with JavaScript and, in theory, can handle Node.js backend development activities. As a result, your business gets a wider 2-for-1 expertise for the same price.

Free From Excessive Rules and Guidelines

Apart from most of the other web development frameworks, Node.js grants developers the freedom to create their apps from scratch with no pre-installed rules or obligatory guidelines.

This makes it possible to develop a single backend for different operating systems and platforms, including Windows, Linux, macOS, and the web. Such an uncluttered environment makes the development process smoother and free of legacy issues. For your business, it means faster deployment and fewer security and compatibility issues.

Highly Scalable

This is one of the most notable Node.js perks. The starting package is quite streamlined out of the box, which makes it fast and lightweight. But you can add any required packages once they become needed, allowing you to increase the complexity of your app accordingly.

One standout ability of the event loop is to cover multiple requests in parallel. Your app can start as something simple and then become more and more sophisticated once the business grows. This translates to both the expansion of the feature set and adjusting to the continuously growing number of users.

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Suitable for Real-Time and AI-Powered Applications

Node.js shows high efficiency with applications where high amounts of low-duty requests come most of the time. Among them are real-time applications (RTA) aimed, for example, at collaborative editing of documents or images. Another example of apps with an intense flow of lightweight requests are apps featured with AI.

A secret of success in such applications is the lowest possible latency. Node.js acts smart with the allocation of the available resources, sharing them among the different requests where it is possible, making some code pieces reusable, and providing lightning-fast client-server data synchronization.

Supports Microservice Architecture

Among other things, Node.js supports building microservices-based architecture. This makes it possible to wrap each app feature into a separate container, interacting with the others via an API.

This approach makes code pieces inside the containers fully independent of each other.

  • You can add, disable, or even remove one or more containers at any moment with no risk of crashing for the remaining features.
  • You can outsource the development of your microservices to different teams, and it won't deteriorate your app's overall quality.
  • Even major updates usually have no effect on the whole app, instead limiting it to single microservices.

As a result, businesses receive a modular app with much lower scalability expenses.

Handles Requests in Parallel

Concurrent request processing is a capability Node.js developers can be proud of. This feature works more efficiently in Node.js than those in some other backend development technologies. Non-blocking I/O and Async support both make request processing streamlined and rapid. As a result, your application works fast and satisfies all the user experience expectations.

Both NPM and YARN Package Managers

NPM (Node Package Manager) and YARN (Yet Another Resource Negotiator) are package managers supported by Node.js. Both of these managers give businesses a way to develop projects less-expensively thanks to ready-made implementations usage.

The first one is a basic package management tool for this framework. Currently, the number of available packages released by third-party developers has exceeded 1,300,000. There is a special Enterprise version that works behind a firewall.

Node.js NPM packages number from 2010 to present

YARN is the child of Facebook, released as a measure against the risky usage of NPM. Since that time, the software became open-source, and is now supported by the community. The tool isn’t just a simple package manager; it also keeps the urgency of third-party packages under control.

When Is It Worth Using Node.js for Backend Development?

Simple Real-Time Apps Without Complex Computations

Examples: instant messengers, collaboration tools, online conferencing apps, and community-oriented apps

As we said above, the superpower of Node.js is the fast processing of real-time requests in parallel. But there is a limitation on the overall size of the app: Node.js is only good for small applications with the same light requests.

Microservice-Based Apps for Enterprise

Examples: Netflix, Uber

The microservice architecture allows virtually infinite scaling possibilities. There is no need to worry about possible app crashes once new features are released. All the engineer needs to do is just implement and test the required feature separately from the others, wrap it into a container, and then connect this new block of code to the API.

Streaming Apps

Example: Netflix

Netflix is one of the brightest and most famous examples of Node.js usage for media streaming platform development. Thanks to the asynchronous requests, media file uploading is always running in the background, and safe from handicapping other parts of the application.

Serverless Apps

Examples: any web app that can be serverless

The logic behind a “serverless” concept lies in the fact that within this architecture there’s no need to think about server infrastructure. All the server-side infrastructure is handled by a cloud provider fully under its control — and all required services are included.

As a result, developers don’t need to think about load levels, scalability during peaks, or any other questions related to the processing of their app in the data center. The serverless architecture is event-driven, which means the code is being executed as a reaction to a certain triggering event.

Single-Page Applications (SPAs)

Examples: any app within one URL

SPA means a rich web application implemented on a single web page. This makes it possible to load the page data from a server just once, and then change the state in answer to user interactions. Most changes are run right in the browser by executing JS code.

Node.js offers server-side page pre-rendering as a way to avoid some negative consequences of a client-side rendering, like the 56% search visibility drop Hulu faced in 2016.

It is also worth mentioning that Node.js could also be applicable to mobile app development services.

Backend for IoT

Examples: orchestration apps for IoT devices

Most IoT devices have a fairly simple internal structure, combining sensors, transceivers, batteries, as well as some additional elements. Instead of storing data in the internal memory, they just send it in real-time to a server. Node.js is a good option for developing such server-side IoT-controlling applications.

Apps Where the Response Speed Is Crucial

Examples: video games, eBay, GoDaddy

This category intersects heavily with the others, as there are many web app types mentioned above that should also be the fastest possible.

  • Messaging, collaborative, and other real-time apps where even barely noticeable delays negatively affect user experience.
  • Ecommerce apps and websites — for example, eBay’s main requirement for their website is to be as close to real-time as possible.
  • Successful gaming and gambling services are totally intolerant of any delays, due to it causing issues for players resulting in their high dissatisfaction.

For such demands, Node.js offers asynchronous non-blocking request handling, processing of data on a client-side without sending it to a server, as well as fast client-server interactions with instant data validation.

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When Shouldn't You Use Node.js for Backend Development?

Alongside all the positives of Node.js usage within the backend development, there are a few negatives. Let’s review.

When Development Speed Is Crucial

A lack of excessive rules and guidelines encourages developers’ creativity, but may increase the average development time. Some things that can be used with a few clicks in other backend frameworks (like Ruby on Rails), Node.js developers must create from scratch. Even with all other things being equal, this single factor makes the implementation longer.

For Heavy Calculations

As we already mentioned, processing requests that require heavy calculations is, by far, not the best thing Node.js can do. Due to a single thread processing only, such complex computational tasks can block the event loop, decrease performance, or even lead to a crash of your application.

For Simple Apps With HTML/CRUD Features Only

Applications where the requests are limited by simple HTML protocol methods, or by CRUD operations, aren't the ones that should be built using Node.js. Such apps have no need for an API, receiving all the data from the server.

In this case, building your app on Node.js is like shooting a cannon at sparrows. HTML client-server request-response protocol contains nine methods only, while all four CRUD operations are among them, too:

CRUD operations

HTTP methods

Create

POST

Read

GET

Update

PUT

Delete

DELETE

PATCH

TRACE

CONNECT

OPTIONS

HEAD

When System Crashes Without Recovery Are Unacceptable

Some apps must be built so that it is obligatory to recover all data in case of crashes. For example, a crash of a fintech solution without a data recovery feature can lead to severe financial losses. Due to a significant part of requests being processed right in the browser, Node.js makes recovering all data after crashes an unavailable option.

Within the Projects Where the Open Source Elements Cannot Be Applied

Sometimes security and reliability requirements are quite significant, numerous and prohibit using any third-party or open-source software within app development. For example, it’s obvious that every app for the military, police, or government must be free of such elements and the inherent risks they would bring. Due to the Node.js repositories being jam-packed with open-source items, it’s hard to develop your app fully ignoring third-party packages.

Use Cases of Backend Development With Node.js

Yahoo And Their SPAs

Yahoo started their relationships with Node.js in 2009 — less than a year after the framework’s initial release. Starting with the simplest tasks, Yahoo then expanded their Node.js usage. The framework championed by Yahoo developers is a highly scalable tool with great performance-increasing potential.

In 2018, Yahoo became a member of the Node.js foundation. Currently, the company has powered 75% of their web apps with Node.js.

Yahoo uses Node.js for the backend

GoDaddy Goes Node.js

The famous and largest domain registrar in the world decided to choose Node.js as their new main backend technology. Within several years, the company had fully rebuilt its infrastructure. According to an interview with their senior developer Stephen Comisso, there were several goals for this drastic change:

  • To have the capability of building web applications of higher quality
  • For the immediate implementation of new features
  • For easier integration and unit test writing
  • For a more convenient REST API usage
  • To access NPM (Node Package Manager)

The result is highly impressive: 10 times lower server load; from 60ms to 12ms drop in Time to First Byte; increased Google search ranks.

PayPal Success

Despite the fact PayPal is a fintech business — where Node.js is hardly applicable — the company decided to use it to develop customer sides of their web applications.

As a result, they eliminated the existing gap between the server and client sides. The use of the same programming language helped PayPal to combine its development teams into one.

Other results by the numbers:

  • Delivered 2 times faster with the help of a smaller team
  • Code is reduced by 33%
  • Repository now contains 40% fewer files compared with Java.

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EPAM Anywhere Business Experience in Hiring and Extending Teams of Node.js Backend Developers

Reflecting on the numbers presented in the use cases above, some of the achievements look highly impressive and seem like they require mad skills to achieve. Bringing the first byte in answer to a request just in 12 milliseconds looks like something between magic and aerobatics!

For usual outstaffing and outsourcing software development companies, the chances of hiring such brilliant experts are nearly impossible. But the good news is that you don’t need to look further — EPAM Anywhere Business is here, ready to help you hire highly skilled Node.js developers.

Having 30 years of experience in the software development domain and many Fortune 500 companies among our clients, we’ve developed the necessary skills to attract the best talent and business development expertise in software products for various industries and niches. We’re proud of the fact our customers have a 100% retention rate and continue to work with the EPAM Anywhere Business engagement platform.

Apart from outsourcers, EPAM Anywhere Business is a platform with a huge pool of roughly 53,000 highly talented software developers, including Node.js experts who specialize in backend development. Rest assured, you’ll get as many skilled Node.js developers as your project demands.

We usually sign all the required papers within 1-2 days and assemble the development team upon your request in 2-4 weeks with middle-level developers. Building a team of senior-level developers could slightly increase the initial timetable. As an option, we can always expand your team on any scale, so you can start risk-free with a smaller team.

Conclusion

Node.js is a technology initially created for backend purposes. As a backend framework it isn’t universal, and is predominantly aimed at lightweight I/O-oriented web applications. Despite this fact, Node.js has become a global leader among web development frameworks. Yahoo, PayPal, LinkedIn, eBay, GoDaddy, Groupon, Mozilla, Uber, and Netflix are among the most famous Node.js business users.

Here are the main advantages of using Node.js for backend development we’ve found:

  • Node.js works quite fast thanks to advanced client-server interaction processes, asynchronous requests processing, and no-blocking I/O, increasing both user satisfaction and SEO ranking.
  • The framework is highly scalable and supports microservice architecture, making it possible to power web apps from the simplest to the most sophisticated.
  • Node.js repositories contain about 1.3 million third-party packages for making the development process cheaper and faster.
  • Node.js is best when aimed at lightweight real-time applications, single-page applications, apps based on a microservice architecture, apps for media streaming, serverless, IoT backend, as well as apps designed for the fastest response times.

Ready to choose the best Node.js developers from across the globe? EPAM Anywhere Business can assist you with this.

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