Node.js vs. PHP: Which technology is better for your project?

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Today, chief technology officers (CTOs) cope with the challenges of digital transformation by assembling IT infrastructures that align with rapidly evolving business requirements. The choice of software development technologies significantly impacts project and market successes. What is the importance of Node.js and PHP in this case?

Creating a stable and reliable server side is the main component in application development. That’s why choosing the right technology that meets all your needs is crucial. Web technology refers to the client and server side, which is invisible to users. It includes the backend language, database, and server. Node.js and PHP support the web because they are the most widely used server-side technologies. Both can run applications of any complexity.

We’ll now delve a little deeper into comparing the two technologies, so you can decide which one to use in your projects.

What is PHP, and what is it responsible for?

PHP, short for Personal Home Page Tools, stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. It is an open-source, server-side scripting language created in 1994 by Rasmus Lerdorf. Since its inception, it has been an enormous success. A recent survey showed that approximately 77.4% of websites worldwide use PHP. It has become one of the most widely used open-source scripting languages to create dynamic websites and applications.

You can read more about the importance and use of the PHP language in the article below

Advantages and disadvantages of PHP

Advantages of PHP

  • It works on nearly all servers and platforms.
  • It supports countless CMS systems, including WordPress, the most widely used CMS in the world.
  • The development environment and process are very straightforward.
  • You don’t need a virtual server with SSH access to run PHP.
  • There is a strong community of web developers who contribute to developing the language, support software, and training materials.
  • It is effortless to learn and quick to code.
  • The code has a neat syntax making it easy to write lines of code quickly.
  • Many hosting providers support it.

Disadvantages of PHP

  • It is interpreted. Not a compiled code, which is slower because it processes line by line, executing the following function only after the previous one.
  • PHP is web-oriented and only runs on the backend of your site
  • It lacks efficiency in detecting, filtering, and fixing code errors.
  • Obsolescence from older versions can create chaos.

What is Node.js, and how does it work?

Node.js is a JavaScript runtime environment. Ryan Dahl developed it in 2009 to create scalable and faster applications. It is rapidly gaining popularity in the developer community.

Using the V8 JS engine, Node.js delivers high-performance and stable applications. Node.js executes JavaScript code outside web browsers, working directly with the operating system. Hence, using JavaScript, we can access the operating system’s APIs, including the file system, system libraries, or running processes (such as HTTP servers). The technology provides access to several asynchronous operations, making applications more responsive. Node.js aims to standardize the development of web applications using only JavaScript.

Advantages and disadvantages of Node.js

Advantages of Node.js

  • Ability to process multiple functions and events in parallel. Node.js is best suited for asynchronous applications, e.g., RTA (real-time) and IoT applications.
  • It is excellent for building any custom solution.
  • It uses JavaScript, so a single language is used throughout the application (backend and frontend), making code operations very accessible.
  • JavaScript’s asynchronous processing allows you to create highly scalable server-side solutions while maximizing CPU and memory usage.
  • Its service calls are lighter than PHP calls.
  • Enables a real-time client-server connection.
  • It provides ease of working with JSON.

Disadvantages of Node.js

  • The module ecosystem is still immature. As such, it is unsuitable for managing large files.
  • Content Management Systems do not provide it.
  • Node.js is a relatively inefficient solution for web applications that render sophisticated graphics and cause a high CPU load.

php vs node.js comparison

PHP vs. Node.js? Comparing some of the most important aspects.

It is impossible to determine whether it is better to choose Node.js or PHP. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. As such, the most important thing is to match the technical specification to the type and needs of the project. Below, we will discuss the main features required of a given technology and compare which technology stack performs better in a given area.

1. Encoding speed

The coding speed is primarily affected by the language’s syntax. The more straightforward and better designed, the less code is required to execute the program.

Node.js requires writing many more lines of code to perform the same functionality as PHP. In contrast, PHP runs with fewer lines of code, but requires learning the LAMP stack to write applications. Still, in terms of coding speed, PHP is the clear winner.

Winner: PHP – simpler syntax and less code to write.

2. Speed of execution and handling of requests

High execution speed means a faster development process and more profitable projects. Node.js is asynchronous, giving it an advantage over other languages – being asynchronous means loading the next one before a module executes successfully. This execution reduces the downtime of a web application and provides a seamless user experience.

On the other hand, PHP is synchronous, meaning that the code is executed line by line, with new code not being processed until the last line is successfully executed. PHP offers slower code execution procedures, meaning all modules or functions are processed in a specific order. Asynchronous code allows code to execute simultaneously without waiting for previous lines. This distinction is crucial and makes Node.js fast.

Winner: Node.js because it reduces wait times and provides real-time data effectively and efficiently. Hence, enabling the use of Node.js in high-stress projects.

3. Performance

Performance is one of the most important indicators for evaluating an application. It affects the user experience, including operation smoothness and the speed at which pages load.
As mentioned earlier, Node.js runs asynchronously and uses the Chrome V8 engine to speed up command execution. Although performance is also largely the result of the skill and experience of the development team, Node.js has several advantages that differentiate it from PHP:

➡️ Less dependence

Every request to a PHP project must be routed to a web server that runs a PHP interpreter, parses the code, and handles it. In comparison, Node.js does not require as many dependencies. It is lightweight and manages various aspects of the application.

➡️ No translator

Google has contributed considerably to the performance of the V8 JavaScript engine. This makes Node.js more agile and faster as a compiled language because it is not interpreted like PHP. The compiled code can be executed seamlessly by the computer’s processor, meaning that the executable code is specified in the processor’s native language.

On the other hand, interpreted code must be translated from its original format during execution into machine instructions of the processor by the interpreter—this translation results in slower performance of the translated language.

➡️ Event-driven, non-blocking input/output stream

Most server-side languages, including PHP, use a locking model. When you request information from the database, the request is executed. It terminates the process before moving on to the next instruction. With Node.js, you can create callback functions that listen to processes and run them simultaneously.

Although PHP performs slower than Node.js, it is possible to speed up specific actions using a Facebook-developed Hack (object-oriented programming language) that is compatible with PHP. The hack is designed to speed up existing PHP code. PHP can be used with HHVM, an open-source virtual machine designed to execute programs written in Hack. The HHVM uses a just-in-time (JIT) compilation approach to achieve a high-performance runtime environment while maintaining programming flexibility to increase productivity.

Winner: Node.js. If the performance issue is a priority, then the winner is Node.js. It offers incredible speed and a smoother experience for the developer and the end user.

4. Extensions and database linkage

The technology’s ability to connect to the correct type of database, conventional or relational, makes it easier to choose the right technology.

What is the difference in database types?

Conventional databases store data hierarchically, while relational databases store data using tables, making them a convenient format for discovering relationships. There are also non-relational NoSQL databases that store data in formats such as documents, charts, key pairs, and so on. They provide flexibility and scale with large amounts of data or user loads.

PHP is typically used in collaboration with relational and traditional databases, such as

  • MariaDB.
  • PostgreSQL.
  • MySQL.

PHP allows connection to almost all database management systems, such as MySQL, SQLite, etc. PHP can also be used with Redis, MongoDB, ElasticSearch, and other non-relational databases. As a result, web developers can use more than just a specific database and choose the optimal one for the project.

Therefore, PHP can be used if you want access to more database management system options. However, if you integrate with NoSQL, it is a longer and more tedious process as the configuration with PHP is complicated.

In contrast, Node.js works seamlessly and perfectly with

  • SQL databases.
  • NoSQL databases (such as CouchDB and MongoDB).
  • Graphical database systems (such as Neo4j).
  • NPM Packages.

Node.js is flexible and smoothly supports many databases, including NoSQL ones such as MongoDB. Moreover, Node works well with conventional, relational, and graph databases.

Winner: Node.js. If you intend to develop a scalable web project that consistently and seamlessly pulls data from relational, conventional, or NoSQL databases, it’s worth opting for Node.js.

5. Functionality and development

PHP is a pure backend programming language that restricts its applications. To test, manage, and design a functional web application, you need to be sufficiently proficient in the configuration and approach of various systems, along with using CSS and HTML.

Despite the above issues, PHP is rapidly evolving, and developers constantly work on new features for improvements. For most professionals, coding in PHP is a faster option because there not a requirement for converters or compilers. It allows you to connect to a SQL database without hosting restrictions.

However, there is a trade-off – PHP projects run slower than those developed in Node.js. Node.js bundles some of the required functionality into a single package without fragmenting functionality – a distinct advantage over PHP. With Node.js, you can create integral backend models, but they still require

  • A reverse proxy server, such as Nginx or Apache.
  • HTTP framework, such as Express.js.
  • Databases, such as MySQL.

With Node.js, deploying frameworks and applications seems much more complicated. However, this environment runs smoother and faster because it provides a low server load.

Winner: Node.js and PHP tie. Node.js package management system (NPM) is an advantage, but its attributes are similar to PHP’s. So while coding in PHP is a great option when you need a quick solution, if you need a more complex, sustainable, and efficient output, choose Node.js.

6. Popularity and application

Node.js is typically used in multi-threaded applications, web applications, browsers, or games. The technology is ideal for creating dynamic, single-page, real-time, data-intensive applications.

Examples of using Node.js technology in popular applications:

  • Streaming services (Netflix).
  • Instant messaging (Slack).
  • Online education (Coursera).
  • Social networks (Twitter).
  • Fintech applications (PayPal).
  • Project management tools (Trello, Asana).
  • Gaming applications.
  • Live chats.
  • Data-intensive IoT devices and applications.

PHP is widely used in web applications. Since it is built as a backend-centered language, it can seamlessly integrate with servers, databases, and HTML. Furthermore, it is also the best for LAMP stack projects such as Apache, MySQL, and Linux.

PHP is often used:

  • When dealing with CMS systems (Joomla or WordPress), which allow you to configure your web project very quickly.
  • For building eCommerce markets.
  • For effective websites.
  • For e-mail marketing platforms.
  • For business or personal blogs.

The most notable PHP projects are MailChimp, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Tumblr, and Flickr. These projects achieve outstanding results by combining PHP and a centralized server.

Winner: Node.js & PHP tie. The result is equal because the practical applications of these technologies differ depending on the project you want to develop.

7. Community and ecosystem

Since 1994, PHP has proven to be a reliable and successful technology with a much larger community. It contributes to creating libraries and finding solutions giving the technology a competitive edge. Moreover, a loyal and passionate community makes discussions on GitHub and other tech sites. Thanks to WordPress, which serves millions of websites and uses PHP as a backend, the technology has become wildly popular.

Node.js was launched in 2009, so it is a relatively new technology. Although Node is a very popular backend development tool and is gaining popularity, the community is smaller. At the same time, Node projects are newer and more appropriate for current developers. The way the community develops solutions in Node.js makes it easier to realize the development of existing projects. In practice, the community focuses on adding unique functionality to Node.js rather than serving as a library for importing features from other languages.

Winner: Node.js & PHP tie. Undoubtedly, the number of projects is greater in PHP than in Node.js. However, newer projects are more likely to use Node.js. The solutions used by the community can be applied to both existing PHP projects and those completed in Node.js.

8. Development cost and hosting

The cost-effectiveness of hosting is determined by analyzing the extent of compatibility with which a particular technology shares or provides different options. This is because the number of available alternatives directly affects the hosting cost. When choosing hosting, you must also consider the security and speed of the web application.

In the case of Node.js, you have several alternatives to help the technology perform competitively. The organization that maintains Node.js (Joyent) provides SmartOS, which improves performance and makes deployment and debugging easier.

PHP currently serves approximately 79% of all websites in the world. Due to its vast scope, the technology is designed to be compatible with all major hosting providers. It allows it to meet the needs of multiple servers. However, LAMP is not recommended as the most secure hosting technology.

Winner: Node.js & PHP tie. PHP has broad compatibility with hosting providers. However, Node.js offers the same. So if you don’t have high requirements for ensuring security, it makes little difference which technology you choose.

php pros and cons

Node js. pros and consNode.js vs. PHP in projects

Node.js is ideal for building dynamic single-page applications using Angular, React, and JQuery for the frontend. Node is part of the MEAN stack (MongoDB, Express.js, Angular, and Node.js), so its use makes sense if your stack contains these tools.

Node.js can independently support IoT devices such as fitness trackers, drones, robots, and streaming platforms.

On the other hand, PHP is an excellent choice for dynamic site content and is mainly used for web development. It is especially popular to use PHP for blogs and eCommerce sites, which require lots of integration. PHP is part of the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache or Nginx, MySQL, and PHP), so including it in your technology stack is an advantage, especially when your project requires allocating an application to a specific centralized server that doesn’t scale to multiple servers. In addition, PHP has been around longer and has a larger community and support base, which is excellent for any technology.

Get a team working with the technology of your choice.

In conclusion, both Node.js and PHP have pros and cons. There are no golden solutions here that will solve all technical problems. The primary criterion for determining our project’s architecture is the scope of functional requirements. A well-designed, well-thought-out architecture will allow us to answer key elements of the project that may be problematic. After this analysis, we should be able to match the technology to our needs.

In addition to the importance of technology, it is essential to work with specialists with expertise and experience. If it needs further clarification on when to use Node.JS or PHP, contact us to get answers to any questions you may have about technology challenges. Our experts are experienced in building backend applications and will be happy to discuss your project.

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