Node.js as Backend - We Are Explaining Why, When and How to Use It

Node.js has been in the limelight for over a decade and utilizing Node.js as backend is much more common than making use of it in the frontend of applications. A 2018 Node.js User Survey Report indicated that while 37% of Node.js users are focused primarily on the back-end, and 39% - on full-stack development, only 14% use it first and foremost for front-end purposes.

This lightweight, efficient, fast, multi-purpose, and extremely versatile JavaScript environment is immensely popular, outshining many other well-known technologies. In Stack Overflow’s annual Developer Survey for 2020, Node.js came first in the „Other Frameworks, Libraries, and Tools” category, with over a half of professional developers (51.9%) utilizing it.

What’s more, over two-thirds (66.8%) of programmers who already use it want to continue doing so in the future, making Node.js one of the technologies that are the most „loved” in this category. Microsoft, PayPal, Netflix, eBay, General Electric, and Yahoo! are all where we can find Node’s trace. Another Node.js backend example? NASA, Netflix, Uber, Twitter, Trello, PayPal, LinkedIn, and Groupon are also on the list.

Is Node.js backend only? Using Node.js as backend may be more obvious as Node.js is most commonly referred to as a backend JavaScript runtime environment. However, not only Node.js server side but also Node.js client side applications are possible to design and implement. But let’s focus on the main topic, which is Node.js backend applications.

 

Table of contents:

1. Node.js as backend – when and why develop with it

2. Node.js backend: pros and cons

3. Node.js as backend wrapped up

1. Node.js as backend – when and why develop with it

On the website devoted to it, Node.js is called a „popular tool for almost any kind of project”. However, its definition published in the same source reads that this JavaScript run-time environment lets programmers „write command line tools and server-side scripts outside of a browser”, with the back-end side of Node.js emphasized from the very beginning. But what kind of server-side tasks it is best suited to? When to use Node.js as backend, to take advantage of it fully?

Building highly scalable applications, even data-heavy ones, is one of the major use cases of Node.js. In particular, this event-driven environment based on a non-blocking I/O model is perfect for developing real-time solutions, being famous for quick client-server interactions, no latency, and push capabilities. Online gaming and single-page applications are also often in the mix.

In general, many of the backend use cases of Node.js include web applications that have to do with things like multiple concurrent requests, heavy client-side rendering, and frequent shuffling of data

What companies that take advantage of Node.js may gain by utilizing it are, among others, scalability, transparency, improved user experience, decreased number of servers needed, immense connectivity, increased traffic capacity and loading speed, reduced response time, and decreased loading time, and thus lowered expenses.

The 2018 Node.js User Survey Report indicated that for many users, Node.js entails a positive business impact. As much as 68% said it increased developer productivity, 62% that it improved developer satisfaction, 56% that it reduced development costs and 48% that it increased application performance. As for the latter, it was the case of eBay who switched to Node.js from Java due to its „long startup times and poor performance”.

2. Node.js backend: pros and cons

An impressive number of Node’s advantages explains the reasons why it has taken the software development world by storm. Some of the pros of making use of it include the possibility to use JavaScript also on the server side. In short, front-end developers who already know JavaScript don’t have to learn a new programming language if they wish to write some code for server-side purposes. Of course, it works both ways, making Node.js an exceptionally advantageous technology with code universality as its hallmark.

Those two-way connections between server and client are one thing, and the fact that they are event-driven is another. For this reason, Node.js is a perfect solution for those who want to develop things like real-time collaboration tools, and real-time chat applications as well as streaming web apps and microservices architecture.

Node.js is simply known for being very fast – not only in terms of the development process but also data processing. Another Node’s advantage is the ease of learning it. Interestingly, about half of programmers utilizing Node.js praise this feature, and this is the case of 50% of those who use it primarily for backend purposes. As for those who focus on front-end development, 42% say that it was easy to learn Node.js. A strong community and huge Node.js ecosystem certainly facilitate it.

As for the downsides, some of the developers emphasize the fact that although Node.js gives programmers a lot of freedom in terms of decision-making, this also entails greater responsibility and the risk of choosing the wrong path. Moreover, building a massive web server as well as debugging may be somewhat demanding with Node. Specifically, this platform is ideal for I/O-bound work but not really for CPU-intensive tasks. In other words, it is fast when the work associated with each request is small in terms of processor time needed to handle it.

3. Node.js as backend wrapped up

Node.js, an open source, cross-platform JavaScript runtime environment built on Chrome’s V8 JS engine, is primarily used in backend applications. Obviously, this trending technology for building cutting-edge web applications is great for full-stack developers, too. Some software developers even argue that it’s worth going the extra mile to learn Node despite developing the frontend only to know how the backend works. Also, most of the tooling for frontend frameworks these days is based on the Node.js platform.

Node.js significantly speeds up the development as well as the team’s efficiency and performance, and one of the reasons for that is that it makes use of JavaScript on both the front end and the back end. And because time is money, we may expect that this technology’s huge popularity will continue to grow.

And how would you comment on that? What are your experiences with Node.js as backend? To you, what are the challenges of developing with it? What kind of projects or content type is it best suited to? Can you spot any significant limitations of using it?

IT Content Writer with 12 years of professional writing experience. Prefers facts and figures to any kind of fiction.
Software Developer. Passionate about creating readable and testable code and architecture. Happy dad and traveller.