What Is Django?
Django is an open-source web framework for Python. It helps you use the programming language to write web applications.
In case you’re not familiar with frameworks, essentially, they are code libraries on steroids. Instead of writing an entire program (in this case, a web app) from scratch, you can retrieve commonly used pieces of code from a framework.
The steroid part comes from additional functionalities like the inversion of control and pluggability (particularly noticeable in Django).
In practice, it takes much less time to develop and deploy a Django app than if you were simply using Python. Django even takes this a bit further than most high-level frameworks. Instead of covering only the basics, it includes quite a few advanced—but commonly used—features, out of the box, which I’ll get into a bit later.
The framework can be used for building a wide variety of systems. You’re really not constrained to one type of web application, so Django can be used for a variety of projects.
To give you an idea, Django-based backends can support communication systems, mobile apps, CMSs, social media websites, and much more. If you have something database-driven in mind, chances are Django already has the tools to support it.
Those are the basics. Now, let’s get into what Django can and can’t do, specifically.
When to Use Django
For starters, Django is excellent for new developers.
Python is widely considered the ideal programming language for beginners. This is because it features readable syntax, an extensive library, and tools like the interactive console.
Django builds on this.
The framework encourages creating readable, DRY code. Beginners can also take advantage of awesome documentation, as well as a bunch of community-created resources.
Plus, the high-level framework comes with a development server, meaning you can test applications on the go. Just keep in mind you should set up a different web server app on your Django production server—Apache or Nginx are both popular choices.
If you’re interested in using Python in the back end, Django is likely the best framework to start with.
As for working on actual projects, Django has more than a few benefits.
The framework adopts Python’s “batteries included” philosophy. You can use lots of advanced modules out of the box, including an admin UI, caching, authentication and security tools, URL routing, sitemap generation, and much more.
If you need something not included by default, Django sports thousands of downloadable packages. These take a few minutes to set up, which beats writing the code yourself by quite some margin.
It encourages code reusability as well, so you don’t have to write everything twice. This results in swift development and rather lean apps. You can get a relatively large project up and running in a matter of days and even benefit with surprisingly cheap Django hosting.
To give you an idea, the creators of Instagram built and deployed the first version of the service in just about two weeks.
The Python-based framework allows some pretty insane scaling. Using the same example, the photo-sharing service grew from zero to five million users in just eight months without any problems.
In short, if you want to quickly and easily deploy a complex dynamic application, Django is for you.
When Not to use Django
Django has many merits, but it is not a silver bullet.
For starters, the web framework is quite monolithic. If you want to replace some of the modules available out of the box, it might end up taking a lot of effort before you can publish a Django website. It pays off to see if the tools will work for you before starting a project.
Another instance where Django isn’t ideal is with extremely small projects. Something simple, like a non-database-driven website, won’t need all of Django’s internal modules. In such scenarios, running Django would just impede the site’s performance.
If this is the case, it’s likely more convenient to use a micro web framework like Flask instead.
On the opposite end, there are extremely large projects. If your application turns into a massive, enterprise-grade project, it might be more worthwhile to switch to a microservice architecture and keep using Django for some services. Such segmentation would just make it easier to maintain the behemoth, compared to a massive monolithic application.
The last few cases we mentioned are just the outliers. Most web applications nowadays are dynamic and database-driven, which is precisely where Django excels.
If your project falls into this category, Django will probably do the job well. The Python-based framework is both platform-agnostic and flexible, so it fits a lot of use cases. Plus, Python is an awesome multi-purpose language, so you can even add functionality like machine learning.
How to Choose the Right Django Host?
There are a few factors to consider when looking for a Django web hosting provider. Not all hosts offer the same features, and no plan works for everyone. Here’s what to look out for.
Managed vs. Unmanaged
This one depends on your preference.
Unmanaged providers leave most of the server management to you. You may get some features like an easy OS or stack setup. Still, you’d have to handle most of the updates, security patches, and other maintenance.
With managed hosting, the provider takes over some maintenance, like implementing patches, running backups, installing technologies, etc. Plenty of PaaS providers out there not only manage Django servers but provide a bunch of tools useful for Django developers.
It really comes down to what your needs and requirements are. Unmanaged hosting is usually more affordable, but it takes more effort to set everything up.
Managed hosting, on the other hand, can save you, or your team, some time running everything. Since fast deployment is one of the main benefits of Django, saving even more time can really pay off.
Shared, VPS, Cloud, or Dedicated Django Hosting?
This, too, depends on what you need.
Root access is usually a benefit, but not all providers offer it. This lets you make custom changes to the server configuration, which can be a great help.
Some hosts, especially managed ones, may provide an installation service or tools that let you easily deploy Django. This is always a plus, as it saves time, though users who want to minmax everything will like root access as well.
This means shared hosting can be kind of restrictive. Some providers, like A2, do offer shared Django hosting, but this tends to be somewhat restrictive. If you do decide on a shared platform, check which technologies are supported by default, as you will not be able to change them after the fact.
VPS hosting is an awesome starting platform for Django developers. You can get a small VPS for a low price and have all the benefits of owning a server.
Cloud hosting is similar, but it comes with additional benefits of both easy horizontal and vertical scaling. Django can achieve awesome scalability, so this ensures smooth sailing if your app blows up in popularity.
Dedicated hosting is more of a specialty case. It’s usually the go-to option after outgrowing a smaller solution. If you do expect lots of users to rush in right away, though—for instance, if you’re building a wiki for a larger company—dedicated hosting is worth considering too.
Features that Help with Django
Any features that make it easier to build and deploy a Django app are a help, including any developer-friendly features.
This includes things like support for the databases you need, Git support, cronjobs, deploying staging environments, a monitoring system, etc. Out of the box support for Python WSGI servers like Gunicorn is also a plus.
Some hosts even preinstall generally useful Django packages. For instance, Celery (or a similar package) is essential for running multiple Threads, as Django doesn’t have this functionality by default.
Of course, you should consider what kind of app you want to build. For example, if you want to build a real-time app, you’ll need WebSockets support.