What is an Online Backend?

Computer programmers and web designers have a lot of jargon that is foreign to the average computer user. Yet, if you are hoping to work in this field or create a website for your business, there are specific terms that you need to know.

“Backend” is one of the most important terms to know, as well as the applications that rely on it. Here is the structure the article will follow:

  • Backend meaning
  • Backend Architecture
    • Server-Based Backend
    • Serverless Backend
    • Decentralized Backend
  • Client-Side vs. Server-Side
  • Request flow over the backend
  • Example of backend processes

Keep reading to learn more.

What does backend mean?

In layman’s terms, the Backend is the portion of an application that users cannot see, but it’s there and works as the foundation of a great software product.

A Backend describes layers of hardware, a computer program, or a website that differentiate the typical user’s access to that technology. Like the front of the house and the back of the house in theater and restaurants, computer programming has a similar delineation.

For instance, in a restaurant, the front of the house is the dining area, while the back of the house is the kitchen. Customers are only privy to the front of the house, where the back of the house is where the chefs prepare the meal.

With computers, the concept is similar. The Frontend is the visible portion of the hardware, program, or website. That portion is what every user can access. The Backend comprises layers only the builder, creator, and developer can access.

How Does Backend Architecture Look Like?

To decide which architecture is best for your business or project, you need to consider how big of a server you need, how much your system needs to cost, and of course, what you want from your architecture.

There are three main types of Backend architecture:

  • Server-Based Backend
  • Serverless Backend
  • Decentralized Backend

Keep reading to know more.

Server-Based Backend

It is the most used and more traditional approach for a backend. A server-based backend is composed of servers. Servers are computer programs or devices which provide a service to another computer.

A server-based backend can be on-location or cloud-based. This backend offers improved data sharing and the simplified integration of different services. Centralization limits the points of access to one place, even if that place is not in your home or building.

Generally speaking, a server-based backend has three main layers:

  • APIs

An Application Programming Interface (API) is intermediary software that helps applications communicate. If you use social networks, send texts, or open an application on your mobile device, you interact with an API.The API’s depth, clarity, and function depend on its capabilities concerning the applications using its intermediary services.

  • Database

The database is the location of a large volume of data managed within the computer system. There are different modeling techniques and formal design utilized to develop and collect multiple data. Developers cannot only access the database using the built-in application programming. Instead, they can manage data through an external application.

Developers are required to submit a database query when requesting information within the database. A request is also needed to integrate new data to get stored in the database.

  • Application

Application refers to the program or software that relays and submits the requests from the database. The response of the application depends on the information obtained from the database. Simply put, this program supports the actions facilitated by front-end user services and interfaces.

Serverless Backend

The second type of backend architecture is a serverless backend. It does not mean that there are no servers, but the servers are hidden behind the scenes and managed by a third party.

A serverless backend will shift the responsibilities of running, maintaining, and scaling servers from the user to the backend provider. The user will no longer view or operate servers, but only manage an application dashboard. Examples of serverless backends are a BaaS – Backend as a Service or a FaaS – Function as a Service.

The architecture of a serverless backend indicates less time needed to complete the tuning and development of applications. In this particular set-up, they can rely on third-party cloud providers to perform the autoscaling of systems.

Given that cloud providers handle the processes, many developers believe that a serverless backend has a more secure architecture than others. Cloud providers save them from the headache of monitoring and managing OS vulnerabilities. However, the serverless backend contains a higher number of components to the application.

In comparison to traditional architectures, every element of the serverless backend serves as an entry point. Therefore, additional efforts have to happen to make the architecture more secure.

Decentralized Backend

The third type of backend is brand new and called decentralized backend. It’s composed of a decentralized network of computers, and there is no central location or owner that manages the backend infrastructure.

Decentralized backend applications are open-source, which is in renowned distributed computing systems such as Ethereum or Bitcoin. From its name, the code of a decentralized backend runs on a segregated peer-to-peer network.

What’s great about this application is that front end code, and user interfaces can be in any language. These can directly affect the processes within the backend. Decentralized backend applications like Swarm and IPFS can host the frontend in decentralized storage.

What are the Differences Between Client-Side and Server-Side?

The client-side and server-side of a digital program is closely related to the Backend and Frontend of a product. Yet, it is not the same.

Client-Side

Client-Side functions are anything that takes place on the client (customer or user) side. Typically the “Client” is the desktop, smartphone, or another end-user device accessing the product.

For example, if you access a website on your laptop that you have no affiliation with besides being a user, you will see the website’s client-side. The neat, organized, polished and easy to understand version of the website is the part that everyone can see.

Although, if it is possible, some functions run on the client-side that are traditionally server-side functions. Push-notifications are a good example. This coding method helps avoid latency (lagging) as the process doesn’t need to communicate with the server each time it launches.

Server-Side

Server-Side functions are anything that takes place on the server-side. This function category is for any tasks that need to communicate with the server with each launch. Such functions include interacting with databases and identity authentication, but many non-security purposes use the server-side too.

How it Works the API Request Flow Over the Backend?

To further understand how making a request to the server over the backend works, here is the step-by-step guide to explain the process:

Let us take a look at this simple and hypothetical scenario: Isabelle proceeded to ArtistMerchandise.com to purchase her favorite band’s official merchandise. She looks for her favorite band from her smartphone. Clicking their photo prompts a GET request to this website:

http://www.ArtistMerchandise.com/favoriteband-products

GET refers to the request submitted by the end-user. In this case, Isabelle is looking for the merchandise catalog of her favorite band. Upon checking the selection, she finally found the merchandise that she wanted and clicked its photo. The GET request now looks like this:

http://www.ArtistMerchandise.com/favoriteband-products/1234

The Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) added by the end of the official website (/favoriteband-products/1234) specifies the particular request. The client wants to know more about the product, so she was led to its page, with the indicated product ID of 1234. There can be more categories that can affect the URI depending on the filtering functions of the website. However, this is the general principle of administering requests.

The request gets directed across the servers of the website. This process can take a significant amount of time, so developers decided on utilizing varying servers. It speeds up the operation connecting users to the servers closest to them.

Once the request reaches the designated server, event listeners that match the particular request get notified. A middleware ensures that the code between the server and the request gets coordinated.

The request gets processed through the server code. It creates a database query to obtain more information about the product the client wants to buy. In this scenario, the database contains the data about the merchandise of Isabelle’s favorite band. The name of the product, its price, product reviews, and a string leads to the images showing the product within the database.

Upon submission of a database query, the request is processed and reverted to the server. It is important to note that this process can take a significant amount of time before it gets completed. The database reads and writes from static memory, which can go relatively slow. Not to mention, it can go even slower when the database gets located on a different machine from the original server.

Following the database processing, the data that contains all the necessary information gets sent back to the end-user. At this point, Isabelle should access the complete details on the merchandise to help her decide. Isabelle can finally use this information to determine whether she will purchase the merchandise from her favorite band.

Example of Backend Processes

Here are the examples of backend processes:

  1. Handles the process involved between when the client requests a webpage and the time relevant content is displayed.
  2. Produce HTML from PHP, ASP, or JSP script.
  3. Retrieve data from a database using SQL queries.
  4. Integrate and store data within the database.
  5. Encrypt and Decrypt specific data.
  6. Process the download of files and upload them into the system.
  7. Process user input through JavaScript.

The examples stated above refer to server-side backend processes that get handled through the webserver.

Conclusion

This article explained an online backend, differences between client and server-side, the backend types, and an overview of the process flow over the backend.

Backend development plays a fundamental role as the foundation of the code that processes the end user’s actions. Without backend applications, users cannot access useful information on the frontend.

The backend development’s main objective is to deliver sufficient changes and updates for users to navigate the website seamlessly. On top of maintaining the applications’ functionality, the code communicates with the database to retrieve all the information needed.

In other words, anything not found within the interface gets facilitated at the backend. Nevertheless, the frontend and backend coincide with one another. Both are vital to maintaining the functionality of any website or application.

FAQ

What is a Backend?

In layman’s terms, the Backend is the portion of an application that users cannot see, but it’s there and works as the foundation of a great software product.

What is a Frontend?

In layman’s terms, the Frontend is the portion of an application that users can see and interact with.

What are the backend categories?

– Server-Based Backend
– Serverless Backend
– Decentralized Backend


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