Would you use Firebase for your startup?

It’s a little app for little minds. Any weak little Google app will hold you back.

If you want to grow, use your own methods the way smart guys do. Grow your business like a pro. Think of your business as a large corporation all the time, everyday, every week, every month, every year. Never stop thinking that way.

Now grow your business into what you imagine it to be.

Any app from Google is “too simple”. Simple is, what simple does. If you want simple, you will have a hobby business that makes very little. “Busy-work”.

To be honest, probably not. The lack of potential scalability (financially) makes it a dangerous choice. Maybe for a small app, but certainly not for a startup.

First, when talking about databases in the Firebase suite, I’m only going to talk about Firestore, and not RTDB (Realtime Database, which was traditionally known as just Firebase). Firebase now refers to an entire suite of services, which includes Firestore, RTDB, file storage, authentication, etc. RTDB is most likely going to be phased out and Google is clearly putting their effort behind Firestore.

Second, there is no manual sharding in Firestore, like there was in RTDB. Sharding is handled automatically by Firestore, so ignore the other answers about that.

Third, you, the customer, own the da

First, when talking about databases in the Firebase suite, I’m only going to talk about Firestore, and not RTDB (Realtime Database, which was traditionally known as just Firebase). Firebase now refers to an entire suite of services, which includes Firestore, RTDB, file storage, authentication, etc. RTDB is most likely going to be phased out and Google is clearly putting their effort behind Firestore.

Second, there is no manual sharding in Firestore, like there was in RTDB. Sharding is handled automatically by Firestore, so ignore the other answers about that.

Third, you, the customer, own the data in your Firestore database, not Google, so ignore the other answers about that also. If Google, and not the customer, owned that data, Firebase would have virtually no users. And, also contrary to the other answers, you can export data from Firestore. If customers weren’t allowed to export their data, who would ever use it?

Fourth, the suggestion to use SQL technology on your own physical servers (ones that you physically own) is not something that I think belongs in an answer to this question. SQL vs NoSQL and cloud vs in-house are decisions that you should have already made if you’re asking about a specific serverless provider. Clearly (at least apparently), you’ve decided on serverless NoSQL, which is definitely the most popular choice today. And between the two most popular providers, AWS and Firebase, they are designed to handle virtually any workload you throw at it. The most highly-trafficked applications in the world run on NoSQL serverless, like the Amazon marketplace, for example (AWS, obviously). If AWS can handle it, Firebase can handle it too. Google would never design its NoSQL serverless to max out at a certain number of users or level of traffic; it’s designed to scale virtually infinitely.

The only caveat to Firestore (and NoSQL serverless in general, really) is dollar cost—right now in 2019, anyway. Firestore was considerably more expensive only a year ago than it is today, think about that. I think NoSQL serverless will undoubtedly continue to become cheaper, including Firestore. But, right now, with a relatively large userbase, NoSQL serverless, like Firestore, can get expensive. But so can doing it all in-house. An in-house solution still comes with bandwidth cost, in addition to hardware and human cost. Hiring qualified backend engineers to build and maintain an in-house setup is not cheap (hundreds of thousands of dollars a year). Firestore (and DynamoDB) have excellent price calculators to help you predict your costs and you may be surprised to see how cheap it is with a modestly-sized userbase, even with 100k users.

This is a question I get from a lot of clients as many of our products rely heavily on Firebase. The answer is very dependant on your application but in almost all cases this will never be a problem.

Where do the costs occur?

If you look at the Firebase pricing plan you can see that data is the main constraint for the pricing brackets. When you move up a tier you get various increases in data allowances as well as more database operations. This means you need to look at what your app does to see the impact of more users.

What does my app do?

This is the next question you need to ask yourself. Many

This is a question I get from a lot of clients as many of our products rely heavily on Firebase. The answer is very dependant on your application but in almost all cases this will never be a problem.

Where do the costs occur?

If you look at the Firebase pricing plan you can see that data is the main constraint for the pricing brackets. When you move up a tier you get various increases in data allowances as well as more database operations. This means you need to look at what your app does to see the impact of more users.

What does my app do?

This is the next question you need to ask yourself. Many apps will be dealing only in text strings meaning the data amount is very small. Images would be a step up from this and videos another jump in data usage. You need to think about how often your app stores this data. It might be that you only upload a single image for each user or it could be that you send multiple images while using. In both these cases the data usage will vary hugely.

Before worrying about how you will cope with 1M users think about how the app will fare with 1–10k users. In Firebase’s case you will probably be on the free tier (as long as you are not guzzling data) up to 100k users.

Think about this for a moment. You will have 100k users on your app. Even if you only add advertising you should be able to make the $25 a month to cover the Firebase FLAME costs.

The motto I use with my clients is this:

By the time you need to start worrying about backend costs for your app you can stop worrying about backend costs for your app

Once you reach the amount of users to requiring you to start payment you will have a successful app with a big user base which can be leveraged to start paying you back.

Should I use Firebase?

This is the final question you should ask yourself. Up until now this question could have been about one of the many different backends on offer.

If you are unsure I would be inclined to say: YES use Firebase!!

They are a great company and offer a fantastic product. Being owned by Google and having recently updated all their code they are unlikely to close down (RIP Parse). They also provide extensive and clear documentation and great support. There is a huge online community meaning sites like this and Stackoverflow have a huge number of questions to help you.

It is worth looking at your app though. Firebase does have some disadvantages:

  1. There is no easy way of querying data
  2. There is no way of executing code on the server

This is what should be researched when looking at whether Firebase is the right backend for you and even these can be mainly mitigated by using a separate server to control these tasks.

Conclusion: Unless your app is very data intensive then you won’t meet any of the data caps. Firebase will help you get your app online quickly and cheaply before scaling excellently once the users start pushing the upper limits.

NOTE: I would never recommend someone building their own backend when starting a new app. It might be that you have the skills to do it but in the long run it will cost you more (in your valuable time) than using another provider. Once your app is a great success and you are paying monthly fees to a backend then you can invest the money in creating a custom backend which suits your data type. Creating it yourself also requires a huge amount of invested time. If your app fails then this time is completely wasted.

Please don’t listen to the “proprietary blabla”. This is bs.

Imho MBaaS is the biggest failure ever made. No one ever will make money (long term) out of it. Their biggest failure, as you see in this post is, they don’t understand people like you. They think you will be a paying customer at some time. (This is never going to happen)

Now, let’s solve your problem. You’ve got that great idea and want to get going quickly. You seem like passionate about it. You want to focus on front end, not backend, means you focus and know your weaknesses. Very good point to start at!

So, why is Firebase your perf

Please don’t listen to the “proprietary blabla”. This is bs.

Imho MBaaS is the biggest failure ever made. No one ever will make money (long term) out of it. Their biggest failure, as you see in this post is, they don’t understand people like you. They think you will be a paying customer at some time. (This is never going to happen)

Now, let’s solve your problem. You’ve got that great idea and want to get going quickly. You seem like passionate about it. You want to focus on front end, not backend, means you focus and know your weaknesses. Very good point to start at!

So, why is Firebase your perfect solution? It’s supported by google. It’s super super easy to use. It’s well documented. Any more questions?

You can build whatever app (prototype) with Firebase in no time. It might not scale, but this is not what’s it about. You just want to master front-end stuff, don’t you? Right.

Eventually your MVP might get traction. What are you going to do? Well, if it’s going to get “a lot” of traction, you can pay someone to build a scalable backend for you. If not, scalability will never be an issue. You just don’t have to care about it!

Build whatever you like. Focus on the things you love to do. Firebase let’s you do exactly this. Keep it going, cheers.

Hi,

I would like to answer this by sharing a real life experience. We created an IoT platform in my company named 700 Dollar Startups. It allows users to control home appliances using their smartphone. The platform also collects temperature and air parameters at your home.

We settled to use the following stack:

  • Firebase - for backend
  • Angular JS - FrontEnd
  • NodeJS - to run IoT code in raspberry
  • Ionic - for the mobile app

Below is our platform architecture.

Here are the advantages based on our experience:

  1. Three way binding - Firebase API solves the problem of raise condition in database. A client browser,

Hi,

I would like to answer this by sharing a real life experience. We created an IoT platform in my company named 700 Dollar Startups. It allows users to control home appliances using their smartphone. The platform also collects temperature and air parameters at your home.

We settled to use the following stack:

  • Firebase - for backend
  • Angular JS - FrontEnd
  • NodeJS - to run IoT code in raspberry
  • Ionic - for the mobile app

Below is our platform architecture.

Here are the advantages based on our experience:

  1. Three way binding - Firebase API solves the problem of raise condition in database. A client browser, back-office, and mobile consumer can update a data simultaneously without the problem of synchronization. As soon as data is updated, added, inserted, or deleted all update are automatically pushed to the client via API.
  2. Speed of Development - Google Firebase Database is NoSQL database with out of the box API connectors and wrappers for query purposes. As a result, rather than building REST API just like the traditional way of connecting thin client to database, with Firebase, a company can simply use their SDK to do the same purpose. As a result, business would be able to cut their development time by removing the API development component. Less scope, means less development cost as well.
  3. Realtime update - The old ways of doing things is that a client connected to database need batch update to get new sets of data. It is an inefficient architecture, imagine a program has to read 1 million records every fifteen (15) minutes with or without update. With Google Firebase Database, a client can be automatically triggered for refresh via Callback as soon as an update is made in the database. With thus technology, developers are assured to only get a new sets of data as needed basis. Here is the actual demo of realtime database update (See video below). As soon as data is changed in database, the LED’s state connected to Raspberry devices instantaneously changes status.
  4. Free- Developers and business owners can create two projects in Firebase for free. This means organization need not to buy premium license during R&D stage. It gives developers and decision makers enough time to learn and evaluate the technology.
  5. Authentication - It comes with a builtin authentication module. Supports gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and basic username and password login support. Integrating this module in your app is easy through their SDK.
  6. Rich API Document - The Firebase SDK is well documented and has lots of example over the web. On our case, we were able to try the SDK for NodeJS. Other Platform supported are IOS, Android, Java, and JS.

As for the Disadvantage

  1. No Data Explorer - This issue is more for developers. The Firebase Database does not provide an online tool to allow developers search for a data inside a node. It has a manual tree like data explorer but becomes complicated or difficult to traverse as dataset goes bigger.
  2. No built-in Authorization - One of Firebase strong point is it’s authentication module. However; it could had been better if it is shipped with a pre-created framework for authorization. To date, developers has to secure data and forms by manually coding the roles for a specific users.

Firebase is, essentially, a key-value store that you can use to quickly prototype and run a simple application, either native mobile or in-browser javascript.

They include all the authentication stuff and website hosting, so it takes away a lot of the pain of getting started and allows you to get something up and running really quickly. I haven’t played with it very much, but from what I’ve seen and heard it is a fantastic product!

What Firebase will not do for you, however, is any business logic on your stored data. You would have to incorporate that into the front-end application, which for co

Firebase is, essentially, a key-value store that you can use to quickly prototype and run a simple application, either native mobile or in-browser javascript.

They include all the authentication stuff and website hosting, so it takes away a lot of the pain of getting started and allows you to get something up and running really quickly. I haven’t played with it very much, but from what I’ve seen and heard it is a fantastic product!

What Firebase will not do for you, however, is any business logic on your stored data. You would have to incorporate that into the front-end application, which for complex stuff is simply not a viable option.

If you’re making something cool that just needs a fast, reliable database, user authentication and usage tracking, then Firebase is a great way to go. If you’re building something that has complex back-end business rules then you’re going to run into difficulties.

You can totally combine it with a custom application of course, store your data in Firebase and have a middleware layer that does the business logic, but for most business cases this isn’t really a good compromise.

It’s a great solution for authentication, including multi-factor. The real-time database combined with a React or similar app is a great user experience. The functions and other services, now with ML, make it a very rich toolset.

Be sure you know how to model data and follow their recommendations in the docs (using object instead of arrays). Use the bulk update whenever possible and if over a hundred writes per second, chunk the updates.

Be sure to watch the video on the security rules and validation features. If you study and leverage these it will minimize code you have to write for input vali

It’s a great solution for authentication, including multi-factor. The real-time database combined with a React or similar app is a great user experience. The functions and other services, now with ML, make it a very rich toolset.

Be sure you know how to model data and follow their recommendations in the docs (using object instead of arrays). Use the bulk update whenever possible and if over a hundred writes per second, chunk the updates.

Be sure to watch the video on the security rules and validation features. If you study and leverage these it will minimize code you have to write for input validation and authorization.

Use the push syntax to generate unique, sequential IDs.


Dont force using NoSQL however. Some use cases are best served with ACID compliant DBs (I.e. banking, accounting, users).

What’s the point of setting up Firebase? Well I found it very quick and simple to set up, and use, and there are a whole bunch of capabilities and integrations, that would have taken me a long while to emulate.

What’s the point if your app becomes popular? Well Firebase used properly can scale, supporting your app as it grows.

What’s the point if it’s costly? Well then you have to think what you want from your app. You could monetise at a greater rate than the costs increase – making you money. Look at how you are using it to ensure you are being efficient with the Firebase resources you are usi

What’s the point of setting up Firebase? Well I found it very quick and simple to set up, and use, and there are a whole bunch of capabilities and integrations, that would have taken me a long while to emulate.

What’s the point if your app becomes popular? Well Firebase used properly can scale, supporting your app as it grows.

What’s the point if it’s costly? Well then you have to think what you want from your app. You could monetise at a greater rate than the costs increase – making you money. Look at how you are using it to ensure you are being efficient with the Firebase resources you are using, so you are minimising your costs. Or look at restricting you app so you make it less popular and don’t incur costs .

One potentially serious issue is if Firebase change their charging model, so make sure you have the headroom to cope or an alternative lined up.

Personally I’d choose the making money route of the options above, so it’s back to looking for that idea…

I have been using firebase when it was just launched. At first, I was very impressed with its speed and real time syncing capabilities.

What stopped me from using it for production is that it lacks a client tool to manage and manipulate the data, something like MySQL workbench for MySQL. You will need to write your own codes in order to query the data, and the query flexibility is quite limited. For example, it is not simple to apply a where condition with order by certain attributes.

Another limitation (or perhaps strength) is that the data structure is more towards horizontal. As a result, you

I have been using firebase when it was just launched. At first, I was very impressed with its speed and real time syncing capabilities.

What stopped me from using it for production is that it lacks a client tool to manage and manipulate the data, something like MySQL workbench for MySQL. You will need to write your own codes in order to query the data, and the query flexibility is quite limited. For example, it is not simple to apply a where condition with order by certain attributes.

Another limitation (or perhaps strength) is that the data structure is more towards horizontal. As a result, you will need to store duplicated data under separate nodes. While this is good when retrieving the data, maintaining it would be a nightmare when the database grows big.

You can read the whole functionality of real time databases like Meteor, RethinkDB, Firebase etc from the following link:

A Real-Time Database Survey: The Architecture of Meteor, RethinkDB, Parse & Firebase

You will get the idea of basic working of some popular real-time databases from the above article. Developing a real-time database is not too lengthy. You can actually design it by using languages like C++, Go, JS or Python.

An answer to this question can literally be found on the Firebase home page[1].

Footnotes