Advantages and Disadvantages of Node.js for Businesses
Despite the variety of tools available to modern developers, a particular set seems to always lead the rankings. One prominent example comes in the form of the powerful features of Node.js. If you’re familiar with this framework, this probably isn’t all that surprising to hear. For those who aren’t, DigitalSuits has prepared a handy guide.
Node.js is an open-source runtime environment created all the way back in 2009. It offers asynchronous I/O (input/output) and quick processing, which would already be enough to make it a favorite for some. But that’s not all that it has to offer and we’ll explore its potential in detail here.
We’ll list the Node.js advantages and disadvantages in detail to showcase it properly. In addition, we’ll provide some insight into how Node.js can transform your development processes and why it’s a game changer. This is all essential to know before you commit to one framework or another. It helps make an informed decision and understand the good and the bad.
You can commit risk-free by making a balanced decision based on a deep understanding of the technology. DigitalSuits is happy to share the knowledge based on our own experience with Node.js. So, let’s discuss what makes Node.js a good pick and what could negatively impact your experience with this framework.
Potential advantages of Node.js
The reason we’re calling them potential isn’t that they only exist in certain conditions. It’s that they’re at their most useful for certain types of companies and projects. So, while everything here is a plus and will sound positive, remember to read on to the practical application section. This is when you’ll be able to see how these work in action.
For now, though, let’s list the top five benefits you can get with Node.js. These are:
- Increased performance and scalability
- United frontend and backend language
- A healthy and thriving ecosystem
- Non-blocking I/O with faster request processing
- Cross-platform operation
Why do these matter, and what do they entail? We’ll start with the first one.
Higher performance and scalability
Node.js uses a single thread for all connections. It means there is less load on the server. As a result, whatever you build with it will support numerous users easily, with potential for powerful scaling. With up to a million connections per thread, Node.js benefits for scalability are clear. That kind of support for simultaneous users makes it perfect for large enterprises.
In addition, the event-driven nature of Node.js means its performance rates are better than most. It uses the Chrome V8 engine, so it’s effectively getting regular upgrades on Google’s bankroll. Competing frameworks can’t exactly boast that kind of backing and thus struggle to keep up in terms of throughput.
This power works best when it comes to web apps, all thanks to Node.js essentially being able to multitask. It’s a popular pick for PWAs because it helps pages load faster regardless of device type or how rich in content these pages are. These benefits of Node.js for web development have pushed companies like Medium and Mozilla to use the framework for faster processing.
Single language for frontend and backend
Moreover, you will only ever need one team to work with this framework. That’s why Node.js is also a cost-saver. You keep one department focused on it, with internal communication also guaranteeing that there won’t be any management issues. This means Node.js is also suitable for smaller companies concerned with sticking to a budget.
Active community and rich ecosystem
Another significant benefit of using Node.js is its thriving community. For one, your developer team can solve any problem they encounter along the way with the help of fellow Node.js enthusiasts. But, in addition to that, the community is also constantly suggesting updates, as well as creating their own Node.js-based tools.
With that kind of support, Node.js continues getting better every year. It’s possible to find elegant and cost-effective solutions to challenges you face, all thanks to some open-source enthusiast creating them. This streamlines a lot of work that goes into development, as well as gives the platform room to evolve, expanding Node.js advantages.
Non-blocking I/O for efficient handling of requests
What does this non-blocking business mean in layman’s terms? Well, the traditional model for Input/Output is called blocking. The name is apt and comes from the fact that any I/O operation, such as opening files, sending a query, or even making a network request, would block the execution of anything else. Operations would only continue once that one was done.
As you understand, this is not ideal, though this approach is still used in Java and Python. What Node.js does instead is called asynchronous handling. Once you launch an operation, it’s handled by the OS, while Node.js features keep working as usual. This results in more efficient processing, with the operation being processed via a callback.
The reason why this works better is that it reduces idling, supports more user requests at a time, and lowers latency. This directly improves the user experience, making your services better.
Node.js works on all popular operating systems used in servers and work environments. This means that your team can create and deploy apps on Windows, Linux, or macOS without making all that many adjustments to them. Reusing code makes development faster and lets your developers busy themselves with improving the apps instead of wasting time on porting.
Other benefits of Node.js based on its platform nature include the uniform UX across platforms. This helps adapt your applications to any device, making it a better fit for a wider variety of users. When you hire just one team of Node.js developers, you’re effectively paying for multiple platform-specific teams all rolled into one.
Most importantly, having this single codebase changes how much work needs to be done post-release. For example, maintenance is much easier when all the apps run the same way. The same goes for updates, which you can push across all platforms simultaneously and expect identical quality.
Potential issues with Node.js
As we’ve mentioned, Node.js has some cons, which one should know before taking up this framework. They mainly limit what is Node.js good for, changing the potential use cases. Like the advantages, we’ll list the most common ones and discuss what makes them stand out.
- “Callback hell”
- Difficulties with asynchronous programming
- No multithreading
- Only fit for non-intensive tasks
- Relatively young ecosystem Let’s talk about what they mean and whether they could be problematic for your business.
So, in the pros section, we answered the question “What is Node.js for?” by illustrating its usefulness in web apps and solutions with many I/O requests. However, the asynchronous I/O approach does have a challenge associated with it.
As we said, I/O requests are handled as callbacks - meaning the operation is initiated but takes some time to provide the desired result. Now, when an application is complex and performs numerous such requests regularly, the callback queue grows and stalls the app.
As a result, callback hell is a state where the app has so many nested, complex callbacks that it becomes impossible to work with. First, it slows the app’s performance down. Second, the code ends up looking messy and thus harder to work with and maintain. Lastly, the nested structure means that a single error on one of the deeper levels will disrupt everything.
Difficulties with asynchronous programming
This one is directly related to the issue of callback hell. Or, rather, callback hell is a result of poor async programming, which inevitably ends up hampering inexperienced developers. Asynchronous development must include a lot of focus on error handling, as well as the use of async-specific libraries.
As it’s a very particular approach to development, using standard tools would just lead to problems down the line. Common suggestions for libraries to use in async programming are:
Realistically, you shouldn’t face this issue if you have experienced Node.js developers. A core Node.js purpose is to provide asynchronous I/O operations, meaning any team that’s worked on Node.js projects will know about the potential difficulties. Navigating them is simply part of the task.
No multithreading, lack of support for CPU-intensive tasks
We’re combining these two points because one is caused by the other, and they both have the same semi-solution. So, as you already know, Node.js does not fully support multithreading, and that causes a bit of a bottleneck when trying to navigate CPU usage. This is perhaps the biggest problem you can face when using Node.js, and it’s also one that doesn’t have a clean solution. So, when Node.js gets a task requiring a lot of CPU, it simply pauses everything else and prioritizes this intensive chore. As a result, all other queued operations are delayed, the application starts lagging, and users are understandably unhappy.
No matter how skilled your developers are, this is just an innate problem with the framework. And, sadly, it does mean that applications that need to perform CPU-heavy tasks should usually steer clear of Node.js. However, as you may note, we did say usually, and that’s because there is a loophole.
Back in 2018, Node.js was updated to include the worker threads module, a direct response to the CPU problem. This module runs several instances of Node.js within one system memory, making it possible to execute tasks simultaneously. It’s not a perfect solution and doesn’t fully transform Node.js into a powerhouse, but it helps mitigate the problems with Node.js somewhat.
Relatively young ecosystem
As active as Node.js’s community is, the ecosystem is still quite fresh compared to competing frameworks. It means there aren't as many libraries and projects for Node.js as possible. Granted, this is only a problem if you want to rely on third-party solutions for major parts of your project. Otherwise, it’s just part of a technology’s natural lifecycle.
Node.js will eventually mature and have a vast ecosystem. The framework is leading in popularity, so it will only see more use as the years go by.
What Node.js means for your business
Now that we have discussed Node.js pros and cons, let’s talk about what they could mean for your projects. As we’ve highlighted above, Node.js allows any web apps you make to be more responsive and load faster. This is one vector to consider, as it avoids almost all the potential issues with Node.js while highlighting its strengths.
With Node.js, you can limit the size of your development department without sacrificing quality. The same team members can work on both the frontend and backend, centralizing development efforts among just a few devs. Meanwhile, the framework’s cross-platform compatibility makes it easier to push updates and do maintenance, ensuring long-term success.
Realistically, Node.js’s advantages make it a good fit for customer-oriented apps that need to support large volumes of simultaneous users. Its throughput and ease of updating make it uniquely suited to following the users’ changing preferences and sustaining high traffic periods. Basically, e-commerce solutions can benefit greatly from Node.js.
With that out of the way, how can you make sure the issues we listed won’t affect your development? Well, like we’ve said, the Node.js definition of problems is pretty broad. For example, the ecosystem con won’t affect most companies unless they’re relying on community-made solutions.