6 min read

The profession of a back end web developer is ringing out loud and companies seek to get a qualified server-side developer to their team. The fact that the back-end specialist has comprehensive set of knowledge and skills helps them realize their potential in versatile web development projects.

Before diving into what it takes to succeed at back end development as a profession, let’s look at what it’s about. In simple words, the back end is that invisible part of any application that activates all its internal elements. If the front-end answers the question of “how does it look”, then the back end or server-side web development deals with “how does it work”.

A back end developer is the one who deals with the administrative part of the web application, the internal content of the system, and server-side technologies such as database, architecture and software logic. If you intend to become a professional server-side developer then there are few basic steps which will ease out your journey.

In this article we have listed down five aspects of server-side development: servers, databases, networks, queues and frameworks, which you must master to become a successful server side web developer.

Servers and databases:

At the heart of server-side development are servers which are nothing but the hardware and storage devices connected to a local computer with working internet connection. So everytime you ask your browser to load a web page, the data stored in the servers are accessed and sent to the browser in a certain format. The bigger the application, the larger the amount of data stored in the server-side. The larger the data, the higher possibility of lag and slow performance.

Databases are the particular file formats in which the data is stored. There are two different types of databases – Relational and Non- Relational. Both have their own pros and cons. Some of the popular databases which you can learn to take your skills up to the next level are NoSQL, SQL Server, MySQL, MongoDB, DynamoDB etc.

Static and Dynamic servers:

Static servers are physical hard drives where application data, CSS and HTML files, pictures and images are stored. Dynamic servers actually signify another layer between the server and the browser. They are often known as application servers. The primary function of these application servers is to process the data and format it as per the web page when the data fetching operation is initiated from the browser. This makes saving data much easier and process of data loading becomes much faster.

For example, Wikipedia servers are filled with huge amounts of data, but they are not stored as HTML pages, rather they are stored as raw data. When they are queried by the browser, the application browser processes the data and formats it into the HTML format and then sends it to the browser. This makes the process a whole lot faster and space saving for the physical data storage.

If you want to go a step ahead and think futuristic, then the latest trend is moving your servers on the cloud. This means the server-side tasks are performed by different cloud based services like Amazon AWS, and Microsoft Azure. This makes your task much simpler as a back end developer, since you simply need to decide which services you would require to best run your application and the rest is taken care off by the cloud service providers.

Another aspect of server side development that’s generating a lot of interest among developer is is serverless development. This is based on the concept that the cloud service providers will allocate server space depending on your need and you don’t have to take care of backend resources and requirements. In a way the name Serverless is a misnomer, because the servers are there, just that they are in the cloud and you don’t have to bother about it.

The primary role of a backend developer in a serverless system would be to figure out the best possible services and optimize the running cost on the cloud, deploy and monitor the system for non-stop robust performance.

The communication protocol:

The protocol which defines the data transfer between client side and server side is called HyperTextTransfer Protocol (HTTP). When a search request is typed in the browser, an HTTP request with a URL is sent to the server and the server then sends a response message with either request succeeded or web page not found.

When an HTML page is returned for a search query, it is rendered by the web browser. While processing the response, the browser may discover links to other resources (e.g. an HTML page usually references JavaScript and CSS pages), and send separate HTTP Requests to download these files. Both static and dynamic websites use exactly the same communication protocol/patterns.

As we have progressed quite a long way from the initial communication protocols, newer technologies like SSL, TLS, IPv6 have taken over the web communication domain. Transport Layer Security (TLS) – and its predecessor, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which is now deprecated by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) – are cryptographic protocols that provide communications security over a computer network. The primary reason these protocols were introduced was to protect user data and provide increased security.

Similarly newer protocols had to be introduced around late 90’s to cater to the increasing number of internet users. Protocols are basically unique identification pointers that determine the IP address of the server. The initial protocol used was IPv4 which is currently being substituted by IPv6 which has the capability to provide 2^128 or 3.4×1038 addresses.

Message Queuing:

This is one of the most important aspects of creating fast and dynamic web applications. Message Queuing is the stage where data is queued as per the different responses and then delivered to the browser. This process is asynchronous which means that the server and the browser need not interact with the message queue at the same time. There are some popular message queuing tools like RabbitMQ, MQTT, ActiveMQ which provide real time message queuing functionality.

Server-side frameworks and languages:

Now comes the last but one of the most important pointers. If you are a developer with a particular choice of language in mind, you can use a language based framework to add functionalities to your application easily. Also this makes it more efficient. Some of the popular server-side frameworks are Node.js for JavaScript, Django for Python, Laravel for PHP, Spring for Java and so on. But using these frameworks will need some amount of experience in respective languages.

Now that you have a broad understanding of what server-side web development is, and what are the components, you can jump right into server-side development, databases and protocols management to progress into a successful professional back-end web developer.

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