PHP vs Nodejs: What To Choose in 2021

Krunal Shah

Feb 01, 2021

10 min readLast Updated Jul 15, 2021

php vs node js

Both Nodejs and PHP have long been powerful options for back-end development. As in the case of any other technology, the dev community is divided when it comes to PHP vs Nodejs. On one hand, we have PHP which has remained one of the most popular technologies of all time. On the other, we have a relatively newer, much newer technology Nodejs that made it possible to use JavaScript for back-end development too. So which one of the two is better? How do you decide whether to use Nodejs or PHP for the server-side development of your next project? Let’s find out!

Table of Content

What is Nodejs? An Overview

node js

NodeJS is a cross-platform, runtime environment that executes JavaScript code outside a web browser. Ryan Dahl created it in 2009 and it is used for building fast and scalable applications. It uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model.

It’s climbing the popularity ladder among developers pretty fast and some notable companies have already leveraged the power of Nodejs.

Why Is Node.Js So Popular?

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What is PHP? An Overview


Hypertext Preprocessor or popularly known as PHP is an open-source server-side scripting language. It was developed in 1994, one and a half-decade before by Rasmus Lerdorf. Since then, it has been a huge success.

A survey by W3Tech revealed that almost 79%  of the websites in their data are made using PHP. Further, the ever-increasing popularity of content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, WooCommerce, and Shopify portraits how PHP has covered the backend under its wings.

Pros of using Nodejs in an application

Pros of using Nodejs

Non-blocking code

Nodejs is completely event-driven and the majority of the code runs basing on callbacks. This approach helps the application not to pause or sleep, but to become available for other requests.

Nodejs facilitates the faster performance of the web application

As I mentioned above, it has a non-blocking, even driven I/O model. So that makes the request processing part very fast.

Additionally, Nodejs is based on Google’s V8 engine. Written in C++, Chrome’s V8 is used to compile functions written in JavaScript into machine code. Now, V8 does it at an impressively fast speed and Nodejs gets the performance benefit out of it.

Best Node.js Frameworks For Efficient Web Development

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Access to a full-stack like technology resources

Using  for backend, you automatically get all the pros of full-stack JavaScript development, such as:

  • better efficiency and overall developer productivity
  • code sharing and reuse
  • speed and performance
  • easy knowledge sharing within a team
  • a huge number of free tools

Consequently, your team is a lot more flexible and the development is less time-consuming.

Developers trained in frontend JavaScript can start programming the server-side with minimum effort. With the same language on both sides, you can reuse code on the front end and the backend by wrapping it into modules and creating new levels of abstraction.

Microservices architecture and its scalability benefits

Microservice architecture

Since it’s a lightweight technology tool, used for microservices architecture is a great choice.

Microservices architecture is an approach to developing a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP resource API.

Accordingly, you break the application logic into smaller modules, microservices, instead of creating a single, large monolithic core. In this way, you enable better flexibility and lay the groundwork for further growth.

It is much easier to add more microservices on top of the existing ones than to integrate additional features with the basic app functionality.

Additionally, each microservice communicates with the database directly through streams. Such architecture allows for better performance and speed of application. A match made in heaven is supported by two frameworks widely used for microservice architecture - Express and Restify.

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Limitations of Nodejs as a back-end technology

Risks of callbacks hell

nodejs as a back end technology

Due to its asynchronous nature,  relies heavily on callbacks, the functions that run after each task in the queue is finished. Keeping a number of queued tasks in the background, each with its callback, might result in the so-called callback hell, which directly impacts the quality of code.

Simply put, it’s a situation where callbacks are nested within other callbacks several levels deep, potentially making it difficult to understand and maintain the code.

Can be too complex in case of heavy computation tasks

A non-blocking input/output model means that answers the client’s call to start a request. It then processes the task during the time it shoots callback, as the task is ready. While processing tasks asynchronously, Node executes JS code on its single thread on an event basis. That is called an event loop.

The problem occurs when receives a CPU-bound task: Whenever a heavy request comes to the event loop,  sets all the CPU available to process it first. It then answers other requests queued, one by one.

This results in slow processing and overall delay in the event loop. Therefore,  is not recommended for heavy computation.

Pros of using PHP in a web application

php in a web application

A wide range of choice of databases

PHP allows connection to almost any type of database. The most common choice is MySQL, mainly because it is free, effective, and popular among developers. Other solid options of database management systems compatible with PHP are mSQL, MS-SQL, SQLite, PostgreSQL, etc.

Besides, PHP can be equally well used with ElasticSearch, Redis, MongoDB, and other non-relational databases. This way, the developers are not limited to using a particular database and may select the most optimal one for a future app, taking all relevant factors into consideration.

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Higher page load speed

The use of PHP makes website pages load faster as compared to many other web development technologies. For example, currently, PHP is about three times faster than Python for most use scenarios.

In its turn, lower loading time is an important SEO ranking factor that helps further promote a website by bringing competitive advantages. A higher application speed keeps customers satisfied and, in combination with other advantages, helps build and retain the client base.

Efficient Object-Oriented Programming (OOP)

PHP lets you use OOP to manage the spaghetti code easily. It has four principles: Encapsulation, Abstraction, Inheritance, and Polymorphism, all of which are dealing with properties and methods.

  • Encapsulation is a process of grouping similar variables and functions into a single unit which is called object;
  • Abstraction is when you hide some parts of the object to make its perception easier. Also, it allows reducing the influence of changes;
  • The inheritance includes the cutback of redundant code. Instead of redefining all methods and properties all right through, you can define it once in the generic object and have other objects adopt them;
  • Polymorphism is a process of reducing the occurrence of switch-and-case statements.

When working with OOP, you declutter your code, have fewer parameters, hire redundant methods and properties, and, altogether – make the usage of PHP more seamless.

Limitations of using PHP as a back-end technology

Flexibility but at the cost of consistency

The other side of PHP’s flexibility is its inconsistency. The lack of structure and strict architecture allows devs to choose the way of coding that is convenient to them. It means the codes of different PHP devs may look different.

Also, one of the issues with the code’s structure is something the IT community likes to call Spaghetti code, which is a poorly-structured application with difficult to understand and maintain code.

Security vulnerabilities

The reason for PHP having a bad reputation regarding its security is the low entry barrier for novice programmers. As a result, a number of websites and apps are developed by inexperienced coders, trainees, or even hobbyists.

The shoddy results of their work contribute to the rumors and facts regarding the overall bad security and performance of PHP.

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PHP vs Nodejs: Execution speed

Nodejs is among very few asynchronous development environments. This, being a major differentiator, gives an edge over other languages.

Being asynchronous means that it need not wait for a module to be successfully executed before loading the next one. Such execution drastically reduces the downtime for the web app and makes for a seamless user experience.

Like most languages and technologies from the 90s era, PHP operates on synchronicity. That means every module and function is executed in the code-specified order. If one function or module is not executed, the consequential ones will not start until it’s completed.

So, if you are looking for a back-end technology that makes your app faster, go for Nodejs.

7 Unbeatable Reasons to Use NodeJS For Enterprise Apps

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PHP vs Nodejs: Database

Since Nodejs has grown with the advent of NoSQL databases, it’s well-synchronized with all forms of databases.

With Javascript Object Notation- a unique format of data used while interacting with databases-  can work swimmingly with NoSQL databases like MongoDB and CouchDB. It also supports graph databases and has substantial libraries to access SQL databases.

Being the older technology, PHP is designed to work with relational and conventional databases like MySQL and MariaDB. While it’s possible to import libraries to work with NoSQL databases, the process is tedious and eats up a large chunk of processing time.

In short, if you plan to have a scalable web application that will frequently pull data from conventional, relational, or NoSQL databases, Nodejs is what you’re looking for.

PHP vs Nodejs: Hosting

Nodejs has a range of alternatives that help it perform competitively. Joyent, the company that maintains, provides a SmartOS system. This is great for debugging, performance enhancement, and ease of deployment. With Heroku and Nodejitsu, it is easy to use Nodejs in a Platform-as-a-Service setup.

PHP is, directly and indirectly, powering almost 79% of the internet. Due to its majestic reach, it’s designed for compatibility with all major hosting service providers. With its LAMP stack, it meets the needs of many servers. However, LAMP isn’t considered the most secure technology stack for hosting.

To summarize, PHP clearly has wider compatibility with hosting service providers. However, if security is not a major concern, you could freely choose either platform for your web-app development project.

PHP vs Nodejs: Ecosystem

The Nodejs ecosystem has a wide range of libraries and frameworks, but they lag way behind PHP’s numbers. Although Nodejs lacks in quantity, it makes up for its variety of projects.

Since it’s used for both server-side and backend programming, the types of projects available range freely fitting into a larger number of use cases.

WordPress has been a major contribution to the PHP ecosystem. The company is directly responsible for running a large percentage of total websites on the internet, and nothing else shows PHP’s godlike reach quite like this.

Moreover, the PHP community has developed a ton of training material and supporting technology over the years to bring new developers on board.

Note that PHP has a larger ecosystem while Nodejs has a richer one with a greater variety for projects, frameworks, and modules.

When to use Nodejs and when to use PHP?

So the final answer on what to choose between PHP vs Nodejs lies in understanding the features your web project requires.

With its performance and ease of development advantages, it’s best to use Nodejs to build:

  • Real-time applications such as instant messengers
  • A dynamic single page application
  • You are using front end technologies like – React and Angular

On the other hand, PHP is ideal for:

  • A blog or e-commerce website with CMS
  • With LAMP stack (Linux Apache, MySQL, PHP)
  • When you need to prioritize ease of deployment and integration

We are a team of expert developers, testers and business consultants who strive to deliver nothing but the best. Planning to build a completely secure and efficient NodeJS app? 'Hire NodeJS Developers'.

The Bottom Line

It’s impossible to choose one from PHP vs Nodejs. Both PHP and Nodejs have their own pros and cons. It’s impossible for me or anyone to give a final verdict on which one outperforms the other. However, what you do need to determine is which one will be the best fit for your project.

So jot down the project specifications and compare how both PHP and Nodejs will fare for your project. Also, an important consideration is the kind of team you have. If your developers are better at working with PHP, you might want to go with that and vice versa.

In order to avoid compromising the app performance in the absence of in-house experts, it’s best to hire dedicated developers from a reliable software development agency. The costs of hiring dedicated developers will never be as high as the cost of building an inefficient app for your business.

Want to build a web app using NodeJS?

Our experts can guide you on all the important aspects of NodeJS app development, specific to your industry.

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Krunal Shah

Krunal Shah is the CTO and Co-founder at Third Rock Techkno. With extensive experience gained over a decade, Krunal helps his clients build software solutions that stand out in the industry and are lighter on the pocket.

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