Rich technical documentation, Easy and quick set-up, In-built database, JSON storage data, No custom code, Backup upload directly to Google cloud storage… phew... There is more to the list of what Firebase has to offer to the developers. It is a tool widely used to build, improve, and grow the app. If you are a backend engineer, you probably fear the emerging Firebase popularity that eases out an ample amount of development tasks. However, don’t rush into decisions, Firebase understands the importance of backend development and assists you in the process of development. Having said that, there is always another side to the story. Firebase if not advisable for many app development scenarios. This blog shares important information about firebase services, benefits of using firebase, and also about the scenarios when you shouldn’t go for Firebase.
Firebase is Google’s power pact tool consisting of 17 individual products in a suite that helps developers build scalable applications. Firebase services help mobile app development teams around the world at all stages of the development lifecycle and improve upon the quality. It renders services and modules which a developer would have to rather build by themselves.
However, by using Firebase they can concentrate more on enhancing the app experience. Hence, the mobile application is quickly delivered with no need for reinventing the component’s wheel or creating the modules. The Firebase services include things like analytics, databases, authentication, configuration, push messages, file storage, and more.
With just a little effort, a scalable product can be launched in the market using Firebase. Coming from a Google family, the Firebase services are hosted in the cloud which means it is controlled and maintained by Google. Isn’t that great news? Well, definitely it is.
But there are times when Firebase services can fall completely wrong and are not advisable for development. This blog’s main objective is to highlight the key interesting features of Firebase and also guide developers about when should they opt for Firebase and when they shouldn’t?
Key Features of Firebase:
Firebase is a complete package of services that makes the app development process quite different from the traditional process. The traditional process involved working on both, frontend and backend development. But when you use Firebase, the backend process is almost bypassed and you deliver mainly on the client-side.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say, Firebase helps any type of app literally. There may be limitations when it comes to the platform but not with the type of app. The Firebase SDK can be used for Android and iOS, and the support is extended to the web, Flutter, C++, and Unity. Along with the SDKs, a developer gets acquainted with the FirebaseUI library, which makes the development process easier than ever before.
So are you ready to have a blast while developing your application? If yes, find out how will Firebase be useful at various stages?
Firebase takes care of the secure logins. It keeps a track and identifies the user who logged in and who logged out from the app. Without Firebase, it would have been difficult to implement the process securely and seamlessly.
Firebase provides various methods to login with Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Yahoo, and yet stores into a single account in Firebase Authentication. It is recommended strongly to use Firebase authentication to secure the data in the first place.
Real-time database & Firestore:
Cloud Firestore is highly scalable for mobile, web, and server development. The Firebase SDK added into the mobile app, allows accessing the data directly without the need of the middle component. It keeps the data in sync throughout the application irrespective of the internet connection.
You can use it alone, or together with Real-time database services. Real-time database service is responsible for updating the data in real-time. You can set up client-side SDK, and observe the changes made in the data. This feature helps a lot in maintaining the track of data as soon as it changes and displays fresh feed every time.
This feature launches a dynamic link of your app for customized user experience. It is different from the concept of “Deep-link”. Deep links worked only when the user has downloaded the app, but not that great when the user has not installed the app.
On the contrary, dynamic links give customized experience across all the platforms, if the app is installed. And if not, it redirects to an appropriate marketplace page for app installation.
The user-generated content like photos and videos is stored directly into the cloud-storage SDKs. The client SDK installed in the app allows them to upload or download the file directly from the cloud location and share it across the app.
Firebase cloud messaging facilitates developers to provide push notifications and acknowledge them about something interesting on your app. You can do this in two different ways. First, you write down the code in the backend and get a ping on the app every time when something is updated. Or, you can frame a message using the firebase console and ping users with the information.
Since you would be able to target a particular audience who would be interested in the app, you can engage them moreover the app. Isn’t it better to target your message specially to the people who are interested in using the app?
You will be surprised to know that there are around 1.5 million apps using a firebase mobile app. The names that top the list are Duolingo, The New York Times, Trivago, and alibaba.com.
The figures and the names suggest that it is already trusted by big giants who constantly look out for updates or news about Firebase. This helps them in growing them together and also being the helping hand to find the solution.
Firebase automatic scaling:
Firebase is designed in a way that it automatically syncs every data that comes to the feed. This constant synchronization helps in calculating the minimum set of updates required to update every time. This way, the application remains scalable and effective all the time.
It is like a cherry on the cake that you get a secure, global web hosting Content Delivery Network. Firebase Hosting is popular for delivering static content (HTML, CSS, JS) using servers. Additionally, the whole process takes place through Cloud Functions. When the user types an HTTP request, you can proxy it via Cloud Functions.
There are N-number of features and benefits of firebase, but this one is surely a game-changer. If you wish to grow your business, you need to know who your users are. And Firebase analytics can help you with that.
Before you initiate the process of app development, you may have defined your target audience, but wait! You may fall completely out of place when you actually launch the app in the market. That’s where the Analytics comes into the picture.
Firebase Analytics helps you in analyzing all such behaviors and gives you in-depth insight about where your app should actually belong. It keeps the “audience” in mind and facilitates you with data that helps in delivering the right content to the right audience.
Let’s shift our focus and know about the benefits of using Firebase.
One of the primary answers to the question, “Why choose Firebase” is its support for NoSQL. It is known to all of us that NoSQL is better than any relational database in terms of storing a large chunk of data and yet providing better performance. Firebase uses Firestore in which all the data is stored in collections and documents.
Coming from Google’s family, it is an expected benefit that an app developed using Firebase works faster than any other. The cloud service works flawlessly with the backend servers and others too. Cloud service leads to faster fetching and displaying of data on the screens.
You can easily log in to the Firebase services using your Google account. You can explore the plans and select the one that best fits your budget. The services are available in 3 different plans.
Spark: It is a free plan where you can try each of the services within the free limits. Hence, for the starters you can easily book yourself for the Spark plan where you get advantages like 1 GB data storage in Firestore and many such others!
Flame: This plan is suggestable for the apps that already receive traction from the audience. This plan starts at around $25 per month.
Blaze: This plan allows you to calculate the average cost of using the Firebase services as you upscale all apps.
An app development process passes through a lot of steps and needs server, hosting, crafting, and maintenance of database and services. Which means, you need many developers, frontend and backend developers, who depend on each other for work completion. This dependency may lead to the creation of bugs and mistakes during the process. But with Firebase services, many front end development tasks are maintained, which further saves a large amount of time. Build not only for mobile:
Firebase no doubt is used majorly for mobile apps development, but we also know that it is backed by Google’s Cloud services. Google’s cloud platform is an open platform for use. Hence, you can easily build a Firebase backend and use it for mobile and web applications both.
What are the disadvantages of using Firebase?
The data authority is not yours:
With Firebase, the whole data is hosted on servers that you don’t own. Hence, this makes it impossible for you to export emails, user accounts, and hundreds of megabytes of data without contacting the Firebase team.
Data migration problem:
It is extremely difficult to manage data migration using Firebase because it uses JSON. Therefore, to manage large amounts of structured data, you need to write powerful queries in SQL.
Firebase can not handle complex query structures. It limits you to combine query options. Because of this limitation, you need to arrange the documents by date or filter them using a search query.
Security is a major point of concern for Firebase users. The structure and the rules of Firebase are designed to serve faster app development, but it is less on security. This is one such drawback why an enterprise-level app should not use Firebase.
Now let’s hop on to the next question,
When should you prefer using Firebase as backend services?
There have been a lot of discussions on whether to choose firebase for app backend or not. In the next section, we have mentioned a list of circumstances where using Firebase services is always a good choice.
1. Firebase services are best to use when you wish to share the application across multiple clients. The data storage functionality is secure and efficient to be easily shared with the clients.
2. Firebase performance is the major reason for choosing it as a service. The automatic scaling feature and the capability to handle 1 million concurrent connections compel developers to use firebase services.
3. If your application needs a minimal level of integration with legacy or third-party services, then you should opt for Firebase services. Also, when your application doesn’t require to process heavy data or handle any complex user authentication needs, then Firebase is a good choice.
4. Firebase has a strong and dynamic database. Hence, if you are planning to build a new app or rewrite code for a new one, Firebase services are definitely your choice.
5. For adding real-time features without disturbing the code, go for Firebase services. The reason being, Firebase’s connectivity can easily be set up while you keep the client connected with the existing server. Also, the real-time push notifications and in-app chat feature update the user with real-time data.
6. If you are tight on the project timeline, then you should go for Firebase services. Firebase services make it easy for you to handle the front-end and back-end components in many ways, which thereby reduces the app development time.
When shouldn’t you prefer using Firebase as backend services?
Firebase comes with some limitations. These limitations don’t make it a good choice for app development. Have a look at the following situations.
1. Firebase is not capable of handling complex queries. So if your android app intends to perform reverse ordering of elements, then Firebase should not be used as a backend service.
2. Firebase services work offline, but the concurrency often leads to inconsistent performance.
3. Firebase services allow you to share real-time data across multiple clients. And for the apps where you do not want to share the data to the third-party, Firebase services should not be used.
4. Firebase database caches data in memory which makes the whole process slow. Hence, Firebase services should not be integrated with microservices.
5. Business Intelligence tools are not supported by Firebase. Hence, if you intend to integrate these BI tools, Firebase should not be used.
Pheww... You have just reached the end of the discussion. Again repeating, Firebase is a power package of services and modules. It has a lot of stuff in it. However, the foremost thing that you need to do before you think of apps built with Firebase is to analyze the functionalities of your application.
Analyze the scalability of the app, types, and the number of queries to be handled, frequency of data update, and more. Firebase is not suitable for complex projects.
Remember, it is not necessary to fit into someone’s shoes if it doesn’t meet our requirements. Scrutinize every possible corner of app development, check with your hired mobile app developers and then make the final call.
If you are stuck in a midway of development and need any guidance over Firebase usage, talk to our experts.
Principal Mobile App Developer