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codal insights

What is a technology stack?

Gibson Toombs
September 1st, 2021
6 MINUTE READ

“Tech stack” is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days. But unless you work in software development, you may not be familiar with its true meaning. As a non-technical professional, understanding tech stacks—along with how to choose the right one—can help increase productivity, facilitate better customer experiences, and improve strategies and operations for your business. So what are tech stacks? 

A technology stack—also referred to as a solutions stack—is a collection of software services that power application development. These distinct, yet cooperative solutions are strategically “stacked” on top of each other to build websites, web applications, and mobile apps. Think of it like a sandwich, where each ingredient represents a different software solution. Whether it be the turkey, lettuce, cheese, or pickles, each ingredient plays its own role in making the sandwich tasty, nutritious, and presentable for the consumer.  

All tech stacks consist of two equally important components: The client-side and the server-side. The client-side—or front end—refers to anything that the end-user interacts with. Front-end developers are responsible for building smooth and engaging user experiences (UX) and user interfaces (UI) and therefore focus on things like page design, formatting, site navigation, and so on. The two main principles of a front-end stack are:

  • Hypertext markup language (HTML): This is a basic markup language used to design and display web pages. 
  • Cascading style sheets (CSS): A site or app’s HTML elements—such as its font styles, layouts, and colors—are defined and organized using CSS files. 

The server-side—or back end of the stack—consists of various elements that users never see or interact with, but are crucial to a site or app’s functionality. Back-end developers work with these “behind-the-scenes” solutions to ensure that business operations run smoothly and effectively. Here are the main elements of a back-end stack:

  • Operating systems (OS): The OS powers and manages all of a computer’s software and hardware functions. While Microsoft and Apple are the two most familiar examples among consumers, many back-end developers prefer Linux—a family of open-source operating systems that anyone can customize and distribute.  
  • Programming languages: These are used to write the logic for sites and apps. JavaScript, Python, and PHP are the most popular programming languages. 
  • Frameworks: Programming language frameworks such as Ruby on Rails, Django, and Laravel help back-end developers produce results faster by providing ready-made components. 
  • Servers: Any action performed on a site or app is managed via some kind of server. Servers allow files to be collected, stored, sent, and received across a network. 
  • Database: This is a digital space where data is stored and accessed, such as customer records. 

Types of tech stacks

As a starting point, developers often use proven tech stack models. Many businesses rely on these models, so there’s a lot of knowledge around them on online development forums. Let’s take a look at the two most popular tech stack examples.

LAMP

  • Linux (OS)
  • Apache (server)
  • MySQL (database)
  • PHP (programming language)

This tech stack is known for its simplicity, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. Each solution is free and open-source and can be easily modified to fit your business’ particular needs. For example, you could use Python as the programming language instead of PHP, or Microsoft Windows as the OS instead of Linux. 

MEAN

  • MongoDB (database)
  • Express.js (back-end framework)
  • Angular.js (front-end framework)
  • NodeJS (server)

All components of the MEAN stack—on both the server-side and the client side—are written in a single programming language, JavaScript. Known for its scalability, speed, and efficiency, this solutions stack is leveraged by developers to build all kinds of sites and interactive apps. 

Importance of tech stacks

Before getting started on your desktop site, web app, or mobile app, it’s crucial that you choose the right tech stack for the job. If you realize that a different stack model might be more fitting halfway through the project, making that transition will cost you significant time, money, and effort. This is why it’s so important to partner with web development experts—like the team here at Codal—when taking on complex software application projects.  

It’s also important to note that your chosen tech stack will play a huge role in the types of engineers you end up hiring. There are many different technologies out there, so developers tend to specialize in specific areas. These technical areas of focus include desktop sites, mobile apps, graphics, databases, quality assurance, CRM, and others. 

Simply put, a well-chosen, well-built tech stack helps ensure long-term efficiency and scalability for your growing business. 

What to consider when choosing a tech stack

With so many available options, figuring out how to evaluate tech stacks can be tough. But with the right software development team behind you, your business can adopt a mix of solutions that aligns perfectly with the project goals and requirements. Before making this critical decision, these are the most important factors to keep in mind: 

  • Size and scope of the project: Smaller sites and apps can be developed with a simpler tech stack, while larger ones require more complex technologies. It’s important to understand every single feature and capability of the final product before you start building. 
  • Scalability: There are two types of scalability when it comes to tech stacks: vertical and horizontal. Vertical scaling refers to how easy it is to integrate new solutions into the stack, while horizontal scaling is concerned with how prepared the stack is to accommodate user growth. 
  • Budget and timeline: There are many costs associated with building a tech stack, including developer salaries, hosting fees, maintenance fees, and technology licensing costs. It’s also important to give you and your team a realistic project deadline. 
  • Security: Will your site, web app, or mobile app manage private data, such as payment credentials or personal medical information? If so, you’ll need to adopt solutions with advanced security features. 
  • Maintenance: Ongoing maintenance is crucial for any software application. Having a reliable development team standing by for support will help prevent bugs and other system errors as your business scales.  
  • Developer experience: Again, your tech stack will determine what kind of developers you hire over time. For instance, depending on the application and how it evolves, you may need more developers on the front end than the back end, or vice versa. 

Getting started

Building a cost-effective, scalable, and secure technology stack requires high-level knowledge of various complex technologies, from servers to databases, to programming languages and frameworks. But as long as you understand the objectives and demands of the final product, a good web development partner can guide the process, allowing you to focus on running your business. 

Codal has over a decade of experience building and updating tech stacks for organizations across all industries. We’ve designed and developed websites, web applications, mobile apps, internal business portals, and many other digital products—each with its own custom-made solutions stack. Once we understand the problems your business is looking to solve, we’ll determine the right tech stack for the project, then integrate the applicable technologies, perform tests, conduct any necessary training with your staff, and put together a plan for ongoing maintenance. 

Ready to get started? Get in touch with Codal today!

Gibson Toombs
AUTHOR

Gibson Toombs

Gibson Toombs is a Technical Content Writer at Codal. His writing career began in 2015 after graduating from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Since then, he has worked on many projects, covering a wide range of technical topics, from solar energy to cybersecurity. When he’s not taking complex ideas and turning them into easily-digestible pieces of content, Gibson can be found playing guitar and writing songs at his apartment in Chicago.

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