What Does a Backend Developer Do? 

Picture the Internet without interactivity. Websites would just display content and users could do nothing more than just read it. We’d have a bunch of online bulletin boards. Even worse — boards where only the owners could post. 

This is exactly how the backend-free Internet would look like. Certainly, since front-end technologies give us a variety of UI and UX elements, the websites would still look good! But could they do more than just display information? Not really. Backend development makes web pages come to life.

What is a Backend Developer?

Backend developers are specialists who code the server-side part of the software (aka behind-the-scene activities that make the app work). Backend developers mainly focus on databases, scripting, and website architecture. 

With the help of backend code, the frontend part of the web app can communicate with databases, enabling users to store, change, delete, and interact with their information (e.g. login, write comments, order products, delete an email, etc).

Backend development is multi-faceted and it usually includes several sub-specialties such as:

  • Backend software engineers/architects design the structure of the application and set up general patterns and approaches for others to use during development.
  • Database engineers design, monitor, and optimize complex databases. 
  • Security engineers implement security controls and codify best practices. 
  • Automation test engineers write unit and integration tests.
  • API developerscreate public or private interfaces for exchanging information between applications.
  • Search engine engineers analyze the search processes presented in the application and optimize the results.
  • Integration engineers plan, design, and implement the integration of third-party services. 

It is common for backend developers to have competencies or even experience in all of these areas. However, it makes sense to hire a different person for each of these roles, particularly if the project is large and complex.

Backend Engineer Responsibilities 

Backend engineers are generally responsible for the creation, maintenance, testing, and debugging of the entire server-side part of the application. Therefore, everything from application logic and databases to APIs and third-party integrations falls to back-end specialists. 

Basically, their responsibilities are as follows: 

  • Writing code
  • Creating unit tests
  • Managing databases
  • Handling API integration
  • Building prototypes
  • Solving application-related issues
  • Profiling and analyzing bottlenecks
  • Improving the quality, security, and performance of the product
  • Recognizing and addressing technical debt
  • Troubleshooting and debugging
  • Implementing user-facing elements in conjunction with server-side logic in collaboration with front-end developers
  • Generating performance reports and analytics for stakeholders

Backend engineers influence the project the most during the development and architecture design stages of the SDLC process because their core task is to create the app’s logic and code. However, they can also be engaged in the early stages, helping to elicit and detail tech requirements, for example. 

Essential and In-Demand Backend Development Skills 

To fulfill the responsibilities outlined above, backend developers need both technical and soft skills. But how do they acquire them? 

Globally, more than 65% of developers (not only backend) hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, colleges and universities are not the only places where software engineers learn their craft. Many working professionals use online competitive coding platforms (53%), YouTube tutorials (56%), certification courses (48%), reference books (32%), and boot camps (9%) per the latest Hacker Earth survey.

The following expertise is necessary for a backend developer:

  • Server-side programming languages (e.g. Python, PHP, Java, Ruby, C#)
  • Frameworks and libraries (e.g. ASP.NET, Spring, Django, Symfony)
  • Database structures and caches (e.g. MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, Elasticsearch, MariaDB)
  • Servers (e.g. NGINX, Apache, Windows Server) 
  • Runtime environments (e.g. Node.js, V8, and JVM)
  • API integration (e.g. REST, SOAP, JSON-RPC, and XML-RPC)
  • Unit testing 
  • Algorithms and data structures
  • Security vulnerabilities and ways of handling them
  • Cloud platforms (e.g. AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud)
  • CMS, CRM, and ERP systems
  • Development workflows (e.g. GitHub, Jira, Docker)

Backend developers may not be proficient in all the technologies listed above as examples. Typically, a professional picks a server-side language and then layers on additional technologies and frameworks.

Often, language selection depends on the learning curve, development speed, performance, and its relevance to the market. Here’s the rating of the most popular programming languages: 

Top programming languages
Note: JavaScript is used by both backend and frontend developers.

Source: The State of Developer Ecosystem 2021

Although backend engineer is one of the most tech-focused roles in software development, they also need soft skills that ensure the timely and efficient delivery of results. These skills include teamwork, communication, inquisitiveness, creativity, and problem-solving. 

Why Backend Developer Roles are Important in IT Outsourcing Projects 

Companies lose $85 billion a year because of ‘bad code’, according to a Stripe report. So it makes sense that you’d want to hire the most competent people for your project. After all, it is the backend engineers who create highly critical code elements that power your application performance. 

The work of a backend developer varies by project type. For example, they can develop a functional website from scratch, integrate payment methods into an existing solution, modernize legacy code, move the app to the cloud, optimize search, etc. 

By doing their work, backend engineers add great value to projects, such as:

  • Meet strategic goals by translating business requirements into usable code
  • Improve user satisfaction by creating high-performing functionality
  • Simplify front-end development by reducing business logic 
  • Save costs by introducing best practices for development and automation tools

It is evident that backend specialists are critical to both in-house and outsourcing projects. However, finding software engineers doesn’t come easy in 2021 due to the heating IT hiring market. For instance, the demand for Python developers has increased by 137% in 2021, the Robert Half report states.

If you limit the search for backend engineers to your region in an attempt to fill in in-house vacancies, the problem of closing the talent gap will become even more acute. So what other measures can you take? 

Opting for  IT staff augmentation is a viable alternative. More than half of leaders anticipate spending the same amount or more on IT augmentation this year. So although there is fierce competition in the talent market worldwide, you can still try and extend your search for skilled backend specialists with the help of outsourcing.

To Conclude 

The backend engineering role is the second most important role that companies are looking forward to filling in (after full-stack). No wonder: proper backend is critical for infusing delightful interactivity into every product. However, the greatest results come from teamwork and joint efforts. So the value of backend developers increases when they are a part of cross-functional teams

Sizing up IT staff augmentation services or looking for a managed backend development team? Edvantis would be delighted to help you. Contact us!

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