The backend on the other hand is the side of the application which is not visible to the end user. The backend runs on the servers and its primary purpose is to handle the data coming from the frontend or to be sent to the frontend.
It involves operations like storing the data in the database, sending data to the front end, sanitizing form data, registering users, etc.
We must also understand that various backend frameworks have their strengths in building different types of architecture over other frameworks. E.g. if you need to handle a lot of requests concurrently use Node.js, use Python for fast development etc.
It is therefore necessary to understand the strength of all these frameworks and choose the right one for your project.
Do we always need a backend for our web application?
In short, the answer will be NO. Not all web apps need a backend. If we are making a website that doesn't have any dynamic data, doesn't need to accept any data from the user or stores anything on the server, we will be good to go with a 'static website'.
Static websites store pre-generated HTML pages on the server. Whenever a user visits a link, the corresponding static HTML page is sent as it is to the user by the server. It doesn't involve any processing by the backend.
However, most web apps nowadays are not static. Modern web apps do have some amount of dynamic content on them. E.g. YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter are all dynamic web applications. And most probably you will need a backend for your web app too.
Why do we need a backend development framework?
The primary use of a framework is to automate the nitty-gritty tasks necessary for software development. A backend framework helps us by abstracting the logic behind doing basic tasks such as running up a server, sending network requests, and parsing the incoming data so that we don't have to worry about all this stuff.
Therefore a backend development framework helps us by
- Reducing time and effort
- Reducing the chances of bugs due to manual coding.
- 3rd party integrations.
Top 10 best frameworks for your web application.
Listed below are the top 10 best backend development frameworks and the type of applications best suited to build with the corresponding frameworks.
1. Spring Boot
Spring boot, released in 2014 is one of the most popular backend frameworks among backend devs. This Java based framework excels in building fast and scalable web applications. It powers the backend needs of companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Accenture, Udemy, Intuit, PayTm etc.
Spring boot is an extension of the spring framework. Spring boot reduces the boilerplate code required to initiate the application when using the Spring framework and makes development faster.
Use Spring Boot (or any Java based framework) if the speed of execution is the primary concern for the application. Also, note that java based apps consume a lot of memory (bec of JVM) so configure your server's RAM accordingly.
Advantages of Spring Boot
- Embedded support for Jetty, Undertow and Tomcat servers. (default Tomcat)
- Opinionated starter dependencies reduce boilerplate code.
- Allows to freely link modules.
- Support declarative programming.
- Easier dependency management.
Disadvantages of Spring Boot
- Less Control - spring boot introduces a lot of unused dependencies that increase the size of deployment files.
- Not suitable for large scale projects - Spring boot is not suitable for large scale monolithic applications. However, it is still a good choice to build microservices which together can build a large application.
- Not for beginners - Spring boot can be overwhelming for novice developers. If you are not familiar with the spring ecosystem it can get challenging.
- High RAM usage - All Java based applications run on the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) and hence consume a lot of RAM.
2. ASP .NET Core
ASP .NET Core is a free open-source framework created by Microsoft that is used extensively in backend web development. It is based on the C# language. The primary feature of ASP .NET is that it is faster and uses less memory than Java due to its natively compiled code.
Advantages of ASP .NET Core framework.
Cross platform support - ASP .NET core is a cross platform backend development platform. It means that applications built with it can run on Windows, Mac as well as Linux operating systems. It uses the same C# code across all platforms.
Extremely performant - One of the major advantages of this framework is its performance. The code due to native compilation provides native speeds and also its memory footprint is very less as compared to Java.
Enhanced security - ASP .NET Core comes with a lot of security features that are readily available for developers to use. It offers mechanisms for authentication, authorization, data protection and attack prevention. It also offers integrations with other major authentication providers.
Minimal Coding - ASP .NET Core requires less coding to build up an application. It helps developers to move fast and develop projects quicker than other frameworks.
Express is a fast, extremely scalable, and very rapid development framework. It helps developers rapidly convert an idea into a product. It involves many middlewares that can make a developer's life easier and helps to move faster.
Advantages of Express.js
Smaller team size - due to express being js based, we do not have to maintain a big team for the app development fewer devs can work on both frontend and backend as well. It is very helpful for startups and also improves communication.
Supports various architectures - Nodejs is very modular in nature. It doesn't come with any dependencies apart from the official node packages. It helps to ensure that we only use the code we need and the production bundle is very small in size. This feature of node js makes it one of the best choices for microservice and serverless architectures. We can spin up many lightweight Nodejs microservices and build a large application.
Disadvantages of Express
No shipped security features - Express.js can be called a DIY framework due to its middleware architecture and minimalistic dependencies. It doesn't offer any ready-to-use robust security features. It rather leaves it upon the developer to implement the security features as they need them. It can also be considered an advantage for the devs who love control.
Single threaded - Although Nodejs offers features such as asynchronous non-blocking I/O for real-time speeds, it is still not considered a good choice for processor-intensive tasks. These tasks increase the wait time for other processes as all the tasks are handled by only one thread.
When to use Node.js for backend development?
You should use node js when you need real-time performance and the application relies more on database I/O operations and doesn't require processor-intensive tasks.
Django is a free and open-source leading python based framework. Django follows the MVC pattern and therefore it is a full-stack framework, however, it can also be used to build backend applications.
Django is a simple but feature rich framework that specializes in reducing the time taken in initiating the project to its completion. It offers many features such as an automated admin panel that is important for the content management of the application.
The most popular web apps built with Django are - Disqus, Spotify, Instagram, The Washington Post etc.
Advantages of Django
Feature rich - Django offers many features that make a dev's life easier when building a web application, such as an automated admin panel, sitemap generation, user authentication and credential management etc.
Security - Django offers security against common threats right out of the box, such as XSS attacks, clickjacking, CSRF attacks, SQL injection etc.
Learning curve - Django shines in the category of easy-to-use development frameworks. It is very beginner friendly and has a low learning curve.
Disadvantages of Django
Monolithic architecture - Django doesn't offer much versatility in building varied architectures. Django projects are monolithic by default.
Performance - Django can lead to slow websites. The point to be noted is that it has less to do with the Python programming language, but more with unoptimized database queries, too many crud operations and the number of resources used.
Laravel is a free and open-source framework used to make Symfony based web applications that follow MVC architecture. Laravel is based on the PHP programming language.
Laravel is very popular among many developers with many experts regarding it as the best choice for backend web development.
Some of the popular brands using Laravel are:- 9GAG, Pfizer and TourRadar.
Advantages of Laravel
Authentication - Authentication is simple with Laravel. It abstracts important logic like hashing of passwords etc. and offers easy access to resources.
Caching - Laravel offers inbuilt support for cache backends like Redis, Memcached, DynamoDB etc. Laravel also lets users write custom cache configurations. By default, Laravel uses the 'file' cache driver that stores the cache in the file system. For larger projects, we can use in-memory caches like Redis and Memcached.
Logs - Laravel has powerful logging features that help to automate server logs. It uses a Monolog library that provides support for a variety of log handlers.
Disadvantages of Laravel
Slow Development - Development is slower when using Laravel as compared to other backend frameworks.
6. Ruby on Rails
Ruby on Rails (aka Rails) is a popular free and open-source backend development framework based on the Ruby language. Rails like Laravel is an MVC architecture-based framework. Rails is extremely popular because of its simplicity and performance.
Advantages of Ruby on Rails
Tonnes of libraries - Ruby on Rails provides a huge collection of packages called gems that can be used by developers to add features to the applications without having to code everything from scratch.
Easy Testing - Ruby on Rails creates automated tests for the models and controllers we write while building our applications. These skeleton test codes save a ton of time for the developers. We can even simulate browser requests for testing apps without a browser.
Scalability - Rails is a highly scalable framework. It is an apt framework for building apps that have to handle a high volume of users.
CakePHP is also a PHP based open source web development framework. It is greatly inspired by Ruby on Rails. It follows the MVC architecture.
Advantages of CakePHP
Built in ORM - CakePHP features a built in ORM that makes it easy to communicate with relational databases. The tables are represented as classes on which we can perform programmatic operations, call methods etc. and the changes are reflected on the database.
Scalability - CakePHP is a highly scalable and very performant framework in terms of handling requests.
Disadvantages of CakePHP
Documentation - The documentation of CakePHP is not very comprehensive as compared to other frameworks.
Gin is an open-source backend development framework written in golang. Gin is a relatively newer member of this list of best frameworks. What makes gin special is the speed and simplicity it inherits from golang.
Gin tends to be more performant than java spring boot and ASP .Net in many benchmarks. Another speciality of golang based frameworks is their very low memory footprint.
Advantages of Gin
Ease of use - Gin is a simple and easy-to-use framework. It is easier for new developers to learn and start working with go/gin than other frameworks.
Speed - Golang is a very high performant language. Gin claims to be 40 times faster than other frameworks.
Disadvantages of Gin
Small community - Gin is a relatively new framework that has a much smaller community than other major frameworks like Spring Boot or node.js.
Flask is a free open-source, micro backend framework. Micro means that Flask does not come with many features packed in. It actually supports extensions that can be used to add features to the application. Flask uses Python language for development.
Advantages of Flask
Simplicity - Flask is a very easy-to-grasp backend framework. Python developers find it easy to get started working with Flask as there are no strict standards.
Modularity - Flask uses external modules to extend the features of the application. It makes. It makes Flask an optimal choice for making small servers that need to perform specific tasks.
Disadvantages of Flask
Over simplicity - Flask being oversimplified is also a drawback. It takes a lot of time to take decisions and implement every feature that is required by the application and also comes packed with other larger frameworks. This makes Flask not suitable for Large applications.
More security risks - Flask leaving a lot of decisions on the developers creates more room for the introduction of bugs.
Phoenix is an MVC pattern based development framework. It uses Elixir for development. It is based on the Plug library and the Cowboy Erlang framework. It is compiled to bytecode and runs on Erlang virtual machine.
Phoenix is a great choice for building real-time, high speed applications. It handles requests from the Cowboy server and uses Erlang VM to handle massive concurrent connections.
Advantages of Phoenix
Concurrency - Both Elixir and Erlang are designed to build distributed applications and thus handle concurrency really well.
Productivity - Phoenix framework enhances developer's productivity. Elixir is a purely functional programming language. It makes applications quicker to build.
Highly scalable - Phoenix runs on Erlang BEAM virtual machine. The Erlang BEAM VM was designed to be highly scalable and is used widely in the telecommunications industry.
Live Dashboard - Phoenix offers a real-time dashboard for performance monitoring and debugging tools for developers.
Disadvantages of phoenix
Small community - Phoenix is a fairly new framework launched in 2014, therefore, it has a small community as compared to other popular frameworks.
The above mentioned frameworks are the best options you can use to build your own application's backend. Each framework has capabilities that make it suitable for building a certain kind of architecture. E.g. if ease of use and a small team is required use node.js. If the app needs to be distributed try Phoenix.