What is Firebase Review: Why Developers are Fired Up About Firebase

firebase-review

Firebase has been growing fast since Google acquired it in 2014. Developers praise it as a way to keep up with technical demands of modern enterprise.

The powerful mobile and web app development platform provides a healthy suite of tools for building and growing highly scalable apps, all within a shorter time frame that fits digital transformation efforts.

What exactly does Firebase bring to the table? Here are the five features most commonly cited by its community of supporters.

What is Firebase?

Firebase is a “backend as a Service (BaaS)”, meaning there is no server infrastructure needed. This shortens development time and removes a layer of complexity for developers.

The best thing about BaaS, though, is that it frees developers from the tedium of building out a backend. Instead, they can direct all of their focus to creating dynamic, user-oriented apps.

Firebase has a Huge Feature Set

One of the Firebase’s biggest draws is its robust, well-tested feature set. It has tools for nearly everything a developer could need. Some, like Google analytics, are built in free.

Other can be incorporated as needed, such as:

  • Authentication
  • Hosting
  • Push notifications
  • Real-time messaging
  • Cloud storage
  • Performance monitoring

These can all be used independently of each other. Developers have the option to buy only what they need instead of getting locked into a huge bundle they won’t use.

NoSQL

SQL databases are geared towards highly structured data. For less organized data like comments, photos, and reviews the flexibility of a NoSQL database is better.

Firebase handles large datasets and bi-directional references easily. That makes it a good choice for Big Data operations for which the object-oriented approach doesn’t work as well.

Firebase is Economical

Price is one of the most pressing priorities during development. Firebase lowers the initial investment by using a subscription service model.

The beginning tiers of Firebase are cheap or even free initially. Companies can publish their app and start working towards OIR much faster than when the backend has to be built from scratch.

There’s also the fact mentioned earlier, that developers can buy only what is needed at the time. That goes for both features and cloud storage.

By the time more storage is necessary, the app should be on its way to earning back its development costs

Firebase is Enterprise-Oriented

All of these qualities contribute to Firebase’s most compelling benefit: its focus on enterprise. The platform is optimized for the kind of real-time and streaming apps that help a company stand out among its competitors.

It’s startup friendly, enabling growing companies to build cross-platform apps fast and economically. Apps start small, with just a little cloud storage, and scale as their usage grows.

Plus, Firebase offers easy social authentication integration. Allowing customers to log in with their social media solves several pressing business problems.

Visitors stay on the site longer, share posts more often, and are shown targeted ads that improve their user experience.

Firebase Limitations

Some developers are understandably wary of platform dependency. While it’s true that Firebase has more tools for migrating than it did at launch, it’s still reliant on Google.

The Parse shutdown is still fresh in the industry’s memory, so this is a risk some prefer to avoid altogether.

Configuring the database and security settings are on the complex side. It takes a Firebase expert to set it up without accidentally making sensitive sections public.

There are the querying limitations common to NoSQL to think about, too.

Long-term cost is another consideration. At lower levels it’s inexpensive, but at scale it can get pricey.

Final Thoughts

Firebase is a dynamic platform with a lot of potential. No tool is perfect for every situation, but where Firebase fits it serves as a welcome shortcut for companies trying to work through their development priorities.

Could Firebase be the platform you’re looking for? Schedule a free consultation with one of Concepta’s developers to discuss your new project and whether Firebase is the right fit.

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Choosing an App Development Platform: Firebase [REVIEW]

Firebase is a backend as a service mobile and web app development platform from Google. Although developers have the option of skipping server-side programming, Firebase’s powerful suite of cloud-based features can expand functionality using server side code.

BaaS

Backend as a Service platforms provide a subscription-based backend so developers don’t have to write one.

App development platform: Software that allows developers to create and deploy applications.

What problem does Firebase solve?

Firebase helps developers build dynamic, scalable mobile apps quickly. It negates most (if not all) of the hassle of creating and managing infrastructure.

Benefits of Firebase

  • Hosting
  • Realtime database
  • Authentication
  • Ad management
  • Analytics
  • App Indexing
  • Remote configuration variables for apps
  • Performance monitoring/Crash reporting
  • User management system
  • Cloud storage and functions
  • Test Lab for Android

Strengths

Users like Firebase for its huge feature set (currently 16 well tested features). Developers don’t have to pay for the complete package; they can pick and choose which features they want to use independently of each other. Besides the features listed above under benefits, Firebase offers push notifications, Google Analytics, dynamic links, invites, cloud messaging, AdMob, and Adwords.

Mobile apps are Firebase’s strong point. It’s cross-platform friendly and optimized for realtime apps. Firebase is also scalable; the number of users can grow very quickly without an appreciable affect on performance.

Firebase excels when it come to prototyping. Freed of the need to recreate a custom stack for each mobile app, developers can focus on building their front end and begin generating revenue up to four times faster than possible through non-BaaS methods. In addition, a mobile developer without backend experience could conceivably test a new idea without involving a full-time backend expert. (To be fair, that method would be much slower than traditional app development since one person would be doing all the work. The savings there would be financial.)

Speaking of financial matter, projects with slim budgets are a good fit for Firebase. The large up-front investment associated with backend development is broken into more manageable subscription payments. Shorter app development also leads to lower labor costs since the time of skilled programmers is one of the most significant costs of any development initiative.

Weaknesses

The biggest weakness of Firebase is that, while it’s great for prototyping and scales well, it only handles a certain level of complexity. Embedding third party services requires adding a server code. Users also need to to create their own API to integrate their app with Firebase. To build a truly robust application developers use cloud functions to create custom logic for different flows and to integrate with other third party services. This means that once an app grows past that certain level of complexity developers can find themselves doing much of the work Firebase was intended to avoid.

As a NoSQL database, Firebase is not the best solution for large amounts of structured data. It doesn’t easily support transactions and is not HIPAA compliant. There are limits on queries imposed by the streaming data structure.

With subscription services like Firebase, it’s important to remember that this leaves apps vulnerable to potential Firebase issues (company changes or closure, fluctuating prices, disruptions to uptime, etc). Closure isn’t a serious threat since Firebase is a Google project, but there have been notable periods of downtime in the recent past. Migrating to another service could be a significantly difficult experience, too.

Comparison

Kinvey: While Kinvey is easier to implement with a shorter learning curve than Firebase, it’s priced accordingly.

Couchbase: Couchbase is similar to Firebase. While it is open source, it lacks the bevy of features that attract users to Firebase.

Hoodie: Hoodie’s advantage is its offline support. It has a very small developer community, though, and few of Firebase’s trademark features.

Parse Server: Parse Server was popular, but after struggling with some intrinsic faults Facebook (who owned it) decided to shut it down earlier this year. It is still brought up as a comparable tool to Firebase, though it’s been shuttered.

Real-life application

NPR uses the analytics feature of Firebase to improve targeting and insights. Playbuzz employed a combination of Firebase features to increase campaign efficiency. TradeFix.io, a real time stock/option trading company, uses Firebase in its mobile app.

Conclusion

Within its area of focus, Firebase is enormously successful. Most criticisms of Firebase can be attributed to using it outside that area. For rapid prototyping and deployment, there are few tools that match Firebase for features now that Parse Server is out of the picture.

If you need highly experienced backend developers who know Firebase, share with us your challenges and we’ll help come up with the right solution tailored to fit your needs.

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