PHP BasicsPHP is a declarative, general use scripting language used for server-side development. It was created in 1994 and used to build the original WordPress as well as both Joomla and Drupal. Despite its age, PHP is currently the most preferred language for server-side processing. 83.4% of all websites whose code is known use at least some PHP. The appeal is due partly to its low cost. All PHP features and updates are open source and free. On top of that, the language is flexible and encourages innovation. Because PHP interprets requests on the server-side, it allows for more interactive features than simple HTML.
StrengthsThere’s a reason over three quarters of the internet uses PHP. It was designed for the web, is easy to embed into HTML, and has a deep code base. Developers can use it to create blogs and websites with dynamic features in a very short time. One of PHP’s core strengths is powering database-enabled websites that can be used by non-technical employees. A CMS built with PHP and MySQL, for example, is intuitive enough that anyone can update content and do basic management tasks after a simple tutorial. PHP has stood the test of time. It is mature and portable, able to run on nearly any platform. The language has proven its reliability for server-side work again and again. When there is a problem, PHP enjoys a huge support community. Developers can easily find help troubleshooting unexpected issues or brainstorming workaround for tricky situations. Finally, PHP has a low barrier to entry. Its syntax is similar to C, making it easy to learn, and it’s more forgiving of mistakes than many languages. Errors kill the specific thread, not the whole process. That means even “spaghetti” code will run around mistakes.
WeaknessesMaturity is an asset, but it can be a drawback as well. PHP’s age means there are many outdated plugins around that can create lag or introduce weaknesses into a system. It’s important to check any new plugins thoroughly to be sure they’re still supported. PHP has an issue with separation of concerns. The “Model-View-Controller” (MVC) pattern- a best practice for scalable web development- separates the logical components of an application: data, behavior and representation. This ensures lasting readability, maintainability, and scalability of web applications. PHP, however, tends to mix HTML and language syntax inside HTML files. Views and business logic aren’t separated, which is hard to read (let alone maintain). Applications with a large code base become incredibly labor-intensive to maintain. Also, because of the muddled logic it’s difficult to extend PHP applications with new functionalities. Finally, the declarative style of PHP can stand in the way of creating as a team. Flexibility makes for bulky code when multiple people are involved. Commands can be written anywhere, so one person’s additions might prove tricky for other developers to find and detect. This presents an issue when adding new members to the maintenance team.
WeaknessesBeing single-threaded and event based means Node.js isn’t well-equipped for CPU-intensive processes. It runs into trouble handling graphics editing and creation, audiovisual editing, data structure transformations, complex calculations (for example, HTML template rendering), zipping and unzipping, and managing concurrent requests. Node.js is relatively new. Less maturity comes with a cost: though the community is large and active, it can be hard to assess the quality of individual modules. There isn’t good oversight for approving module publishing, so developers must make a point of checking prospective modules for bug fixes, updates, and other signs that it’s still being maintained.
When to SwitchNode.js is exciting, but not everyone should start planning to migrate. There are good reasons to stay with PHP.
- The application features CPU-intensive processes.Node.js isn’t designed to handle these.
- A virtual server with Secure Shell (SSH) access is needed to run Node.js applications.When that resource isn’t available or desired, Node.js isn’t an option.
- PHP is easier to integrate and deploy.When so many websites already use PHP, there’s less fear of incompatibility. Plus, non-technical employees can update and maintain content through the CMS.
- The project involves working with relational databases.This is part of PHP’s original purpose, so there are many simple tools for interacting with an RDBMS. Node.js does have tools for this purpose, but they aren’t as simple or elegant.
- Real-time Applications: Chats, collaboration programs, Single Page Applications(SPAs)
- Data-intensive applications:Internet of Things (IoT)
- Rapid development of highly scalable applications
Best Practices for Migration to Node.jsAs with any migration, making the switch to Node.js involves some measure of disruption. Following these best practices will make the transition as smooth as possible.
Start with smaller appsChoose a good team to handle early stages of the transition. Their success serves several purposes. It proves the viability of Node.js, gains support for the process, and gives other teams the confidence to follow suit when it’s their turn.
Implement a module screening processEarlier it was mentioned that 160 developers publish their first module to the NPM every week. While a promising sign of activity and innovation, that does translate to some uncertainty regarding module quality. There could be serious bugs that haven’t been seen yet or even malicious code designed to be overlooked on a cursory inspection. Have strict procedures in place for using new modules. Either choose well-tested, popular modules with good ratings or go through the code of more obscure modules to make sure they don’t pose a threat.
Standardize integrationExisting systems are often complex and require set-up to integrate. Because Node.js is highly flexible, teams can invent different solutions to the same problems. This makes connecting components and working seamlessly as a team harder than it needs to be. Standardizing integration practices cuts down on that complexity and encourages smoother team operations.
Lock dependenciesRelying on servers to pick up dependency patches can also introduce unwanted changes. Use shrink wrap and lock features to increase consistency and control over updates. Debugging is easier when it’s simple to see which changes came from which dependency.
Emphasize Node.js best practicesWhile Node.js is new, it’s not so new that there aren’t well-established practices for achieving the best results. For instance:
- Adopt a consistent style guide.
- Utilize environment variables from the start.
- Automatically restart the app after a runtime error.
- Load and configure dependencies up front.
- Keep code compact to reduce lag and increase speed.
Is Node.js a good fit for your next application? Concepta’s developers can walk you through the pros and cons and put together a development plan that puts your business goals first. Set up a free consultation to get started!