Pros and cons of outsourcing back-end
The complex and multi-level structure of modern web applications requires an appropriate component separation of the development process. Historically, this process has been divided into two parts: front-end (client) and back-end (server).
First, let's take a look at how to create the back-end part of your project using outsourcing and what tasks need to be solved for this method to be successful.
What is back-end
The back-end is responsible for the server logic of the web application. This is where work with a data warehouse is implemented, so a person who develops server logic should have the skills to work with databases, as well as experience in using microserver architecture and cloud systems. The performance of the server code, its scalability, security, and reliability, depending on the developer’s back-end.
Front and back-end are variants of software architecture. These terms appeared in software engineering due to the development of the principle of separation of responsibilities between external representation and internal implementation. The back-end implements an API that uses the front-end to provide its function. Thus, the front-end developer does not need to know the features of the server implementation, and the back-end developer does not need to know the front-end implementation.
In addition to server logic, the back-end must integrate with the client part of the application. This entails the need to understand the operation of the TCP/IP, HTTP, REST protocol stack, the principles of building an API, and the interaction of the browser with a web application.
Despite the fact that the front-end sphere is traditionally considered the most complex and diverse in terms of technology, the back-end also has a wide range of development tools. In addition to the classic PHP, which is effectively used now, Python has gained strong niches with the Django, Java and Node.js framework, Ruby, C # .NET and other programming languages.
The front-end and back-end function together and do not oppose each other. For those who feel equally at ease in the front end and back-end, there is such a thing as a full-stack. A full-stack developer deals with both the client and server parts of the application.
Fig. 1. Typical back-end application architecture
Separately, we can consider the task of building a back-end for mobile platforms. This task is also very common and quite often you can use a remote team to develop a back-end, and the mobile application itself will form the on-site part of the team.
Fig. 2. Typical mobile back-end application architecture
Problems of outsourcing back-end
What kind of tasks are there when developing a backend? Let's look at the largest and most important of them, namely:
- Creating a description of project requirements and design documentation. This is the most important part for transferring a back-end development to a team. At the very beginning, it is necessary to choose the right direction and embed in the project the possibility of expanding functionality for the future. The more effort you put into the requirements description stage, the easier it will be for you to choose the right team and complete the project.
- Project architecture development. Do not try to save money on developing the architecture of the project. This is an important part and the basis of the future system; all the basic functionality of the system will be supported by the architecture. The right architecture will allow you to easily implement the project and not waste time and budget for extra support.
- The choice of framework. See what options are available to choose a framework and a programming language. The better the framework, the easier it will be for you in the development of the project. Pick the best team that knows this framework thoroughly. Sometimes even a very professional development team can produce an ineffective result if they are using a new framework.
- Database development. The database is an important part of the system and special attention should be paid to its development. The development team must properly design, implement and document the database. Often the database is developed using the back-end framework. You need to know how the database will be built and how it will scale with the increase in the amount of data in the future.
- Deployment in the cloud. Almost all back-end systems are now deployed in the cloud. Before starting work on the project, coordinate all the necessary points on the use of the cloud system, budgets and the readiness of the development team to work with the cloud provider.
- Providing scalability for a large number of customers. It is very important to design the system so that it can support a significantly larger number of users than you anticipate. . Do not design the system for a certain number of users or data; you should agree on a plan for scaling the system and prepare the development team to increase the amount of processed information in the back-end before starting work.
- Integration with the front-end. Without proper integration with the front-end, the back-end will remain a thing in itself. Pay attention to how you plan to organize work between front-end and back-end developers. Correctly set up the coordination of tasks and stages for the front-end and back-end. If you synchronize work from these two directions, everything will turn out properly.
- Data security. In the back-end, it is important to ensure data security by immediately determining the class of information protection and studying this issue before starting work. Please note that the development team can work with test data, and real data will only be used in the production version of the system.
- API design and support. Modern back-end systems immediately build the correct API for the operation of the information system. API can be used by both mobile clients and other systems for integration. API should be simple and effective. Formulate the correct requirements for building an API, and you will ease your task of supporting the system.
- Integration of new functionality. History shows us that many systems were very well built but lacked the flexibility to add new functionality. This meant that such systems could not adapt to new requirements and were replaced by new solutions. Consider future expansion options. Many people will be grateful for such planning.
- Project documentation. An undocumented project has very little chance of surviving in the future. With any expansion of the team, analysis of the possibility of building new functionality, increasing the throughput of working with data, and good documentation will save a lot of time and money.
- Back-end support and administration. It makes no sense to build a back-end if you do not embed a support and administration plan in it. The back-end itself will work in the short term, but if you do not support it and do not administer the system part, the chance of it working in the future is reduced. Testing (verification and validation) of the back-end. Back-end development is only part of the project work. Testing and test automation occupy a decent part of the project resources. No system is created so well that testing is not required. Put a double margin of safety at the stage of testing in the project.
- Choose the right project development methodology. In modern conditions, this will surely be an agile model. Most likely it will be a scrum. So far, nothing has been invented to better develop the back-end. It is important to tailor the agile and scrum specifically for your project and for your development team.
Main popular back-end frameworks
To successfully complete your project, you need to choose the right team to work with the framework. Your outsourcing team should know this framework very, very well.
Make sure that the team to whom you will transfer the project has already carried out projects similar in scale on this framework. Also, a team of experts can tell you which framework will be better suited for writing a particular task for the back-end. In this case, invest in the project time and budget for the analysis of the project and the development of pre-project documentation.
Let's see what kind of framework there is for the back-end of your project for outsourcing. Here is a list of the main frameworks that are currently being selected for development. This list is not complete; if your favorite back-end framework did not make this list, you can choose it r development.
Fig. 3. Modern web development frameworks
Node.js and Express
Symfony is a free PHP framework that uses the Model-View-Controller pattern. Symfony offers fast development and management of web applications and makes it easy to solve the routine tasks of a web programmer. It only works with PHP 5 and above. It includes support for many databases (MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite or any other PDO-compatible DBMS). Information about the relational database in the project should be related to the object model. This can be done using the ORM tool. Symfony comes with two of them: Propel and Doctrine. As a template engine for processing HTML templates to create ready-to-use pages, Symfony uses Twig by default. Symfony is free and published under the MIT license.
Laravel is a free open-source web framework designed for development using the MVC architectural model (Model View Controller). Key features underlying the Laravel architecture: Packages allow you to create and connect modules in Composer format to your Laravel application; Eloquent ORM is an implementation of the ActiveRecord PHP design pattern. It allows you to strictly define the relationship between database objects; Application logic in Laravel implemented as part of the application being developed declared either with the help of controllers or routes. Also, REST controllers are an additional layer help to separate the HTTP request processing logic. As a template engine, Laravel uses Blade (In this regard it is more flexible. It allows you to write PHP code in a template, and it can be easily and infinitely expanded.). Laravel is released under the MIT license.
Ruby on Rails (RoR), a framework written in the Ruby programming language, implements the Model-View-Controller architectural template for web applications, as well as their integration with a web server and database server. RoR is based on maximizing the use of reuse mechanisms to minimize code duplication in applications (Don’t repeat yourself principle). By default, configuration conventions typical for most applications are used (the principle of Convention over configuration) - an explicit specification of the configuration is required only in non-standard cases.
Django is a free Python web application framework using the MVC design pattern. The project is supported by the Django Software Foundation. A site on Django is built from one or more applications that are recommended to be alienated and plug-in. This is one of the significant architectural differences of this framework from some others (for example, Ruby on Rails). One of the main principles of the framework is DRY (Don't repeat yourself). Also, unlike other frameworks, URL handlers in Django are explicitly configured using regular expressions. To work with a database, Django uses its own ORM, in which the data model is described by Python classes, and a database schema is generated from it.
Spring Framework is an open-source software framework and Java inversion control containers. The basic features of Spring Framework can be used by any Java application, but there are extensions to create web applications on the Java EE platform. Despite this, the Spring Framework does not impose any particular programming model. The Spring Framework has become popular in the Java community as an alternative, or even a complement, to the Enterprise JavaBean (EJB) model. Spring provides greater freedom for Java developers to design; in addition, it provides well-documented and easy-to-use tools for solving problems that arise when creating enterprise-scale applications.
The .NET Framework is a software platform released by Microsoft that is suitable for different programming languages. ASP.NET is a technology for creating web applications and web services from Microsoft. It is an integral part of the Microsoft .NET platform and the development of older Microsoft ASP technology. The ASP.NET Core platform is a technology from Microsoft designed to create various kinds of web applications: from small websites to large web portals and web services. On the one hand, ASP.NET Core is a continuation of the development of the ASP.NET platform. But from another point of view, ASP.NET Core actually means a revolution of the entire platform, its a qualitative change. ASP.NET Core includes an MVC framework that combines the functionality of MVC, Web API, and Web Pages. In previous versions of the platform, these technologies were implemented separately and therefore contained a lot of duplicate functionality.
Solutions for better outsourcing back-end
Let's see how you can do the work on designing and developing the back-end better. There are no universal recipes. But some points can be discussed and not repeat mistakes of previous projects and take advantage of the experience of colleagues and associates in the industry.
- Choose the right back-end contractor. The development team should not be large and not small. Sometimes for your task, you can consider 2-3 options for building a team. It is important that the development team thoroughly knows the technical means of developing back-end and has experience working on similar projects. Otherwise, no time or budget savings will help you, the project will simply be executed incorrectly or not on time. Communicate with each developer on the team to see if you are making the right choice for the future.
- Specify the task correctly. Clearly state the range of tasks that the back-end should solve. You can’t write one back-end to solve all problems at once since each back-end is built for a specific information system. Do not immediately try to make a huge ideal system for everything. Remember, any building is built of bricks.
- Choose the technology stack correctly. An important step is not to make a mistake with the choice of technical means. Consult with experts. Do not try to greatly complicate the technological part of the project. Simple systems work reliably and efficiently. It is not worth overloading the back-end with technical means, it will only interfere with the support of the system.
- Organize the knowledge transfer process correctly. The transfer of knowledge is one of the most important stages in working on information systems, and in particular on the back-end. Try to document the knowledge base of your project by all available means. Use written documentation, graphics, sketches, etc.
- Correctly set up the communication between all the teams in the project - back-end, front-end, testers. Plan the communication scheme between all the players in the team. Develop the right alert and reporting system for each component of your project. Do not get involved in micromanagement.
- Pay attention to back-end testing automation. Nothing helps out in search of problems in the back-end, like testing automation. Each automated test saves hundreds and hundreds of hours in the future. Error localization is already half its solution. Without testing automation, no real project will survive in modern conditions, or inconceivable means and time will be spent on it. Automate testing in the early stages of back-end development.
Our company has built many back-ends. There is a lot to confirm the idea that back-end outsourcing can and should be effective. We offer our customers not only back-end development but also support and integration with the front-end, as well as a full-stack and mobile development.
There are many pros and cons for transferring a back-end for development to other companies. And everyone who defends his point of view will be right in his own way. There is no universal recipe. Sometimes it’s important for you to keep the entire in-house development and keep the entire development team directly in your future. In other cases, you can quickly start development with the help of a contractor team and build the right mutually beneficial long-term relationship with them. The choice always exists and in this article, the moments that you should pay attention to when making your decision have been described.
A properly planned project and high-quality testing make it possible to make a back-end (the main component of the project) at a high level, and not have further problems with the support and implementation of new functionality. Good luck with your projects and brilliant ideas.
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