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Node JS vs PHP: Which Backend Language to Choose for Your Project?

by Pranisha Rai
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NodeJS and PHP are the two backend technologies commonly used in web development. PHP has been around for more than a decade now, and NodeJS is relatively younger than PHP. Both technologies are best in their own way. This article will explore the differences between these two languages and help you decide which one to choose for your project. 

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What is NodeJS?

NodeJS is an open-source programming language that operates on the Google V8 JavaScript runtime engine. It is created by combining C, C++, and JavaScript. This trio contributes to NodeJS’s versatility. It is used for both the server side and the client side. Using NodeJS, you can build a fast and scalable real-time application. 

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Why should you consider NodeJS?

One of the major advantages of NodeJS is that we can write code on the client and server sides in Javascript. Its simplicity and ease of learning give language extra perks. The following are some of the reasons to consider NodeJS: 

  • Robust Backend Connection: Traits of C and C++ in NodeJS helped establish a robust connection with the server.
  • Non-Blocking Code: This feature improves the responsiveness of the server. With I/O wait time, it can smoothly handle other requests simultaneously. 
  • IoT Protocol: It supports the Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) protocol, due to which integrating with independent and third-party devices at the backend level is super easy. 
  • Highly Scalable: NodeJS can handle multiple concurrent connections with high performance, thanks to its single-threaded nature.
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When Not to Use NodeJS?

NodeJS is a CPU-intensive application; it does not offer the same potential for a heavy computation task. Because of this, NodeJS is not the ideal option for computational tasks. Other alternatives to NodeJS can be way better supported for heavy computational tasks, and those are: 

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What are the Benefits of NodeJS over PHP?

NodeJS is one of the few languages that comes under the hood of asynchronous development, which gives it an edge over PHP. Secondly, its microservices architecture provides better support for designing modern-day apps. Besides, NodeJS has considerably low downtime, which can provide an amazing user experience. PHP, a good old 90’s technology that is adored by many today, operates on synchronicity. Other benefits of NodeJS’s non-code-blocking model and event-driven design do not let the application sleep or pause. It can handle numerous requests concurrently. Whereas PHP can only take one request at a time, while developing the backend for websites using NodeJS, developers can get full access to JavaScript features such as extensive free tools, code reusability, and high speed and performance. 

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What is PHP?

It is a server-scripting language used for web development. PHP has been around for more than a decade; thus, it has a mature, dedicated community with a vast ecosystem. To dive more into PHP, check out:  What is PHP? And What is it used for?

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What are the benefits of PHP over NodeJS?

PHP is well-known for its support for a wide range of traditional and non-relational databases. It provides great flexibility in this regard. When it comes to its load speed, PHP surpasses other technologies. This high speed is extremely beneficial for businesses with websites to increase their SEO ranking. On top of that, the Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) feature of PHP can help to maintain the spaghetti code efficiently. Therefore, these features make PHP superior to NodeJS. If you’re curious to know the relevance of PHP today, this link will provide a deeper insight into PHP, Is PHP Relevant in 2024?  

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When not to consider PHP?

  • Although PHP performance has improved a lot, it still does not make it an ideal fit for building high-traffic and real-time applications. 
  • PHP heavily relies on blocking I/O; thus, it’s less suitable for handling a task that involves numerous concurrent connections. 
  • Its inconsistent design can lead to unexpected results. 
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NodeJS vs. PHP: A closer look at their features

Speed and PerformancePHP’s synchronous code implementation approach makes the language slower. Its performance can improve using HHVM Virtual. Still, it cannot outperform NodeJS.With features like a lightweight, efficient, event-driven, and non-blocking I/O model, it surpasses PHP in speed and performance.
Extensibility and ModulesIt provides core extensions, bundled extensions, and entirely external extensions.Isolated units of code are modules; they can be either groupings of several files or folders or a single file.
Request HandlingPHP can handle one request at a time, but using a PHP library, it can take multiple requests. However, it does not stand up to the level of NodeJS in this regard.Its event-driven architecture enables it to take multiple requests from clients and queue them in EventQueue. By using the cluster module, or worker_threads, the system can handle multiple requests simultaneously.
Community SupportIt has a mature community brimming with tons of training material. One can get help via Github, StackOverflow, and several other online platforms.Active online community with many online materials along with prompt responses for any queries through Google Groups, IRC, or GitHub issue queues.
Database IntegrationPHP integrates seamlessly with traditional and relational databases that include MySQL, MariaDB, Db2, MongoDB, Oracle, PostgreSQL, and SQLite.Node.js is suitable for all kinds of databases; developers can choose databases as per the programming complexity and objectives. Examples of databases are MongoDB, CouchDB, and Neo4j.
SecurityTo stay away from common attacks like SQL injection attacks, cross-site scripting (XSS), session hijacking, and directory traversal in PHP, developers can encrypt the string using the OpenSSL function extension and implement Language-Based Security (LBS) to secure the applications.It offers authentication tools such as Okta, Firebase, OAuth, OWASP Dependency Check, and Acutinex,
Learning CurveEasy to learn but quite challenging to master.NodeJS is easy to grasp.
FrameworksLaravel, CodeIgniter, Symfony, CakePHP, and Phalcon.Meteor, Derby, Express, Koa, Nest, and Sails.
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NodeJS vs PHP: Which should you choose for backend development?

Both languages offer tons of amazing features that would make your development effortless. But the best language depends on your project requirements. Instead of randomly choosing one language based on others’ opinions, it’s best to analyze requirements first according to your project’s end goals and then select the one language that aligns best with your projects. 

You can go for PHP if you’re building content-heavy websites that need lots of server-side processing. Some of the examples are Wikipedia and Facebook.  

  • Flexible and Dynamic: You can choose PHP if you’re going to develop a dynamic web application or any e-commerce site. To make your application secure with PHP, you can encrypt it using the OpenSSL function extension and implement language-based security (LBS) to secure the applications. 
  • Excellent Server Connectivity: PHP is extremely portable. It supports Apache, Nginx, Microsoft IIS, and many more. In addition, its compatibility with hosting providers and versatility make it an ideal choice for projects where server compatibility is crucial.

You can choose Node.js if your project requires high scalability with numerous concurrent connections. Apart from this, take a closer look at the following: 

  • Real-Time Data: Node.js is relatively new to PHP. Its microservice architecture allows agile development. Apart from that, its frameworks and excellent libraries let you be creative with development. Its non-blocking architecture is efficient at synchronizing real-time data. If your project requires synchronization of real-time data, you should choose NodeJS. 
  • Fullstack development: NodeJS gives the luxury of writing code on the server side as well as in client-side development without any hassle. If you want to stay away from the burden of using two technologies for developing your project, pick NodeJS. 
  • Speed and performance: NodeJS has the upper hand in speed and performance. Its applications have proven to be high-performance with great stability. If your project needs to handle multiple requests simultaneously, then look no further than NodeJS.

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Frequently Asked Questions

PHP is a server-side scripting language designed for building server-side websites, while Node.js is a JavaScript runtime environment that can be used for server-side and client-side development.

Both PHP and Node.js are best for server-side web development. Node.js, with its event-driven, non-blocking architecture, is ideal for real-time web applications. PHP is the preferred option for traditional server-side rendering of web pages.

Node.js is being built on Google’s V8 JavaScript engine, and several other factors, such as event-driven and non-blocking architecture, can easily handle large-scale projects better than PHP. 

Node.js’ non-blocking architecture provides a higher degree of performance and scalability than PHP.

Managing asynchronous code using callbacks can be hard to read and maintain. And, if you’re someone who’s not familiar with JavaScript, learning node.js may take longer.

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