Setting up a backend service from scratch is hard. Firebase makes it easy, but it’s not the only option you have. In this article, we’ll explore alternative backend solutions for your web and mobile apps.
What is Backend?
The backend is the software that handles the data of a web or mobile application. It contains all the logic to access and manage the data, which ordinary users can’t access. The backend is also responsible for handling web requests and web responses.
It is usually known as the part of an app that can’t be seen by the user, and it works intrinsically with the frontend to deliver the final product.
To build a custom backend solution, you require decent skills with some of the programming languages mentioned before, but more importantly, a lot of time.
If you want to skip this process and focus on getting your project out as soon as possible, you can use a ready-to-use backend solution, or if you prefer the fancy term backend-as-a-service (Baas).
The most popular service is Firebase, a consolidated product backed by Google, but it has some drawbacks:
- Limited data migration
- Limited data storage
- Android first (Big improvements on iOS in the last months)
- Core service isn’t open source
- You rely on an external service to store and manage your app’s data
Don’t get me wrong, Firebase is an excellent product, especially if you’re just getting started, but it’s essential to know some alternatives. Let’s see some of them.
Appwrite is a complete backend solution for almost every web or mobile app you would dream of building. It is open-source, has zero dependencies, and integrates easily (via SDK) with some of the most popular tools and languages.
Appwrite is a self-hosted backend server packaged as a set of Docker containers. This means you can install it in any OS that supports Docker CLI.
This cross-platform functionality allows us to either run Appwrite on our local desktop or any cloud provider.
Appwrite comes with an integrated panel that lets you manage your apps as projects. Each project can integrate directly with your web or mobile app.
Other interesting features Appwrite has are:
- Great documentation
- Zero-dependencies (except for Docker)
Supabase is the open-source Firebase alternative that does the repetitive CRUD endpoints and lets you focus on your product.
Aside from including a self-hosting option just like Appwrite, Supabase is a hosted platform. It provides all the backend services you need to build a product. Some of the services offered by this platform are:
- Postgres database
- File storage
- Auto-generated APIs
You can create an account with GitHub, choose the free plan, and create your app in minutes.
It comes with a dashboard that includes a table editor (similar to a spreadsheet), a built-in SQL editor, and user management.
Check out the official (and extensive) documentation to start using this platform and quickstart your app development.
Parse Platform is the complete application stack. Its main product is the Parse server, an open-source and self-hosted backend that can be deployed in any infrastructure capable of running Node.js.
Parse Server uses MongoDB or Postgres as a database and lets you use your own infrastructure to deploy your backend. If you want to develop your app locally, you can do it using Node.
ParseplatformIt has several open-source SDKs that allow you to integrate almost every existing web or mobile app in a few steps.
The exciting thing about Parse is the outstanding community. They have produced many projects to expand Parse functionality, like a MySQL adapter or a Live Query for .Net.
With this solution, you don’t have to worry about data integrity, implementing common features like search functionality or user authentication. Everything is on one platform, so you save a lot of time and invest in developing your app.
The main drawback: it is neither open-source nor free. You need to choose a plan before using it. If you’re developing an MVP or a small app, take a look at the basic plan for $93 /mo.
It is another option if you want to delegate the deployment and infrastructure of your app to an established company.
Do you want to use a modern backend to build modern apps?
If so, Nhost is your way to go. Inspired by Firebase, it is a production-ready backend that includes a Postgres database, Hasura, GraphQL, built-in authentication, and storage.
It is open-source, but it offers a hosted version you can start using for free and pick a plan after you’ve tried its features. The best part about Nhost is that you have full access to your data (opposite to Firebase), and you can export it at any time.
Nhost is just getting started, and you can look at its features on this page. This service will increase considerably in the next couple of months.
To Sum Up
Backend-as-a-service (Baas) lets you depend on third-party infrastructure and standard CRUD endpoints in a third party so you can focus on building the best project you can in the least amount of time.
We’ve explored some Firebase alternatives, self-hosted or hosted, open-source or closed-source. It’s time to decide which one fits the best for your project. Whatever you choose, don’t forget to get a reliable hosting platform to host a self-hosted solution.
Remember, what matters the most is what you built, and not how you built it. Happy coding!