Digital Communication


Digital Communication

What is a backend? Definition and explanation


The backend and the frontend correspond to the two levels, both independent and complementary, of software. Compare software to a car : The backend is the chassis, engine, electrical system and brakes, as well as other mechanical components. The front end, on the contrary, designates the passenger compartment and the steering wheel, the dashboard and other control or comfort-related functions.

In a website or appthe backend corresponds to the part in the background, invisible to users. Data storage and processing takes place in the backend.

What is a backend?

“Backend” is an English term literally meaning “rear part”, or even “substructure”. The backend can be compared to the backstage.

In common parlance, it can designate two different concepts:

  1. The software level in which data processing takes place.
  2. A admin area which ordinary users do not have access to.

Software can be compared to a machine for data processing : calculations are carried out there, and their results determine the operation of the software. Data is created and stored there, particularly using databases such as MongoDB and MySQL. Everything is done in the background.

Unlike the frontend, whose design is user-focused, a backend focuses more on technical specifications. It is associated with efficiency and performance, but also with scalability and security.

In accordance with the principle Separation of concerns (literally “Separation of Concerns”), the backend and the frontend are made as independent levels. For software to be fully functional, it must always consist of these two levels. A backend without a frontend would be like a machine without buttons.

Who works on the backend?

Two different user groups may be required to work on the backend:

  1. THE administratorswhich manage a system by connecting to the backend.
  2. THE backend developerswhich take care of creating, maintaining and developing backends.

Find out with us how exactly these two groups work on the backend.

To easily explain the work on the backend let's take the example of a well-known content management system, the WordPress CMS. By connecting to WordPress as an administrator, you can access the backend of this CMS, which is also called “ WordPress dashboard “. You then have a personalized interface in which you can create, edit and delete different content.

Use WordPress hosting offered by IONOS to enjoy a WordPress site both quickly and securely.

In addition to classic CRUD operations (for data management), WordPress admins use the backend to manage WordPress user roles and use, for example, WordPress plugins to secure the website and to carry out other administrative tasks.

The WordPress dashboard is compared to a “backend”, but it is a graphical user interface. In this case, the transition from backend to frontend is therefore extremely fluid.

Unlike administrators, **backend developers do not need to log in to the backend to work. Instead, they operate in a local development environment, which they use to write source code to run on the backend server or container.

Following tests, most often automated, they use continuous integration tools to upload code to server as deployment. Another solution is to use plugins; they then tackle the development of WordPress plugins which work in the backend, but which can also be managed by administrators.

Unlike the frontend, which runs on the client, the backend runs on the server. Generally speaking, a technology stack called a “Web stack” is used for both development and execution. LAMP and MEAN are among the most well-known software stacks, but there are many others.

A software stack has an operating system or container as a runtime environment. A server program that receives and responds to requests continuously executes within it. To do this, scripts are also executed in a Web programming language linking the server and the database:

Software stack Execution environment Server Database Language
MEAN NOTode.js Express.js MongoDB HASngular (JavaScript)

Backend developers regularly use web frameworks to facilitate data retrieval, processing and storage. Discover with us the main frameworks for the backend.

Did you know ? Programming professionals who work in both the backend and frontend are called “full stack developers.”

What are the main frameworks for the backend?

Frameworks make backend-related development work easier. In fact, they avoid having to repeat the necessary processes each time, such as user authentication or connection to a database. Often, multilingualism and a template language for creating the HTML code distributed on the frontend are also among the frameworks for the backend.

Choosing the right framework for the backend depends mainly on the environment or programming language that is used. The languages ​​most used for this purpose are PHP or Python, Ruby, as well as JavaScript and Java. Discover with us the most popular frameworks for the backend in these languages.

Symfony and Laravel: high-level frameworks for the backend in PHP

Symfony and Laravel are among the most popular frameworks for the backend. They both allow you to program ambitious web applications, without having to create them from scratch. Laravel has the reputation of being simpler and quicker to learn, while Symfony is considered more powerful and flexible.

Both systems benefit froma very popular modular construction. Thus, the Symfony framework in PHP has made it possible to create a number of Web technologies, each more useful than the other. Its direct competitor, Laravel, has also proven itself in terms of development thanks to the Blade Laravel templates.

Learn how to program your own web applications with PHP: consult our very complete PHP tutorial.

Ruby on Rails: a classic MVC framework for the backend

When it appeared, the Ruby on Rails (RoR) backend framework was immediately revolutionary and contributed greatly to the initial triumph of the Ruby scripting language. Until then, no other framework had placed so much emphasis on developer productivity and satisfaction. RoR popularized the MVC (“Model-View-Controller” or “Model-View-Controller” in French) approach, paving the way for many additional frameworks for the backend.

Django: programming in Python with this backend framework

Python is one of the most classic scripting languages ​​for the Web. With Django, you benefit from a powerful backend framework to quickly program new web applications. Django is based on the MVC model and offers its own template engine.

Discover the basics of this scripting language with our Python tutorial.

Express and Node.js: Writing Web Applications in JavaScript

A distinction previously existed between programming languages ​​for backend and frontend. Frontend languages ​​(HTML, JavaScript and CSS) were opposed to backend languages ​​(PHP, Python, Perl and Ruby). The advent of the Node.js runtime for JavaScript ended these differences. Indeed, it is now possible to use JavaScript for both the frontend and the backend.

Node.js laid the foundation for writing web applications in JavaScript. In this configuration it is usually possible to use a web framework such as Express. This combination gained all its fame during its use within the MEAN stackwith MongoDB and the Angular frontend framework.

Spring: writing web applications in Java with a framework for the backend

As such, Java is not considered a language for building modern web applications. However, the Spring framework offers a sufficiently stable basis for developing Java applications complex. Even more recent solutions, such as Quarkus, make it possible to run containers efficiently.

Learn how to create your own Java applications using the Spring framework by consulting our “Spring Boot” tutorial.

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