Here at Anant, I have been using Netlify for the better part of the last 2 years or so. It has allowed us to get projects up and running fast and efficiently without much hassle on our end. To my surprise, I don’t hear or see much buzz about Netlify among the companies and professionals I interact with on a daily basis. In this blog post, I’m going to go over the Netlify features I find essential in my day to day routine. I feel like it would be greatly beneficial towards small and big companies alike.
What is Netlify?
Netlify is a PaaS that offers next-generation web hosting and automation. It is a place where you can get your project exposed to the web in a matter of seconds. All you need to do is connect your code repository to your Netlify account and you are good to go. Netlify promises reliability, availability, security, and scalability for your websites and in my experience so far this has held true. Netlify is also built on top of JAMstack, which is a newer architecture that supercharges all of Netlify’s existing processes.
Things I Enjoy About Netlify
It’s free. Netlify has a free tier that gives you access to several of the features I’m going to explore in this blog post. The paid plan gives you access to more add-ons and capacity that is demanding of bigger organizations. Also, there is no limit to how many sites you can set up on your account. If you already have external programs collecting data like analytics and maintaining your resources, you may not need the paid versions unless you wish to consolidate those processes. You can view the paid plans here:
Continuous Integration Continuous Delivery is a practice that every technology company, actually every company, should adopt and exhibit. It is the practice of publishing every and all changes to every production property that an organization owns online and it is a seamless feature with Netlify. Whenever there is a change to your repository, Netlify detects this change then rebuilds your website using the updated code. You’ll know when a new deploy is being built because you see the following on your account:
Especially being on the development side of this process, not having to worry about making sure your code is being deployed online goes a long way.
Let’s say you’ve decided to add a new feature to your code but you’re not quite convinced that it belongs on your website or what if that feature is working at first then a couple days later you notice an issue. How do you go about dealing with these scenarios? Luckily for us, Netlify has 2 features that can help us here. The first is called deploy previews. Essentially Netlify allows you to view what your website will look like, with the new code, before officially publishing to your production environment. This gives you and your team a clear view of what your audience will see before you make the changes final and can help you avoid any disasters.
The other feature, snapshots, helps you out after you have published to production. Netlify takes the deploy previews after every successful build process and saves them as snapshots which are instances of your website at a particular point in time. Say you add a new calendar feature to your production but later on you notice that the dates are wrong, snapshots allow you to quickly rollback to a previous deployment when everything was working properly.
As you can see from the picture above, my build failed 5 times. While I was working on a fix, I was able to publish old deployment which was saved as a snapshot. This feature has helped me rewind unsatisfactory mishaps on several occasions. It is also helpful when a new build fails because this ensures that you can have an old production live while you work to fix your latest build error.
Another awesome feature that Netlify offers is status badges for each production you have. These badges tell you when a production is building, when the build was a success and when the build failed. We created a single-page application that has a status badge for each of our Netlify sites:
As you can see, right now we have a successful build for all of our production environments which is great. Some of the projects pull in data using GraphQL which adds a few minutes to the deployment process so instead of having to log into Netlify we can just monitor these badges to see when the build process is done. If the build fails then we’ll go in and take care of things but these badges serve as quick monitoring service.
3rd Party Integrations
You can integrate your Netlify account with a variety of outside products and services with my favorite being Slack and Zapier. You can set up webhooks that send a message to specified slack channels alerting you about your deploys. This provides you with another avenue to receive updates when your builds pass or fail. With Zapier, I set up a zap to trigger a deploy on Netlify every day at 4 am.
One of our sites, Cassandra.link, is a knowledge database for resources on Apache Cassandra. It pulls in data from an API on a daily basis. So to make sure that new content is published on our site, a new deploy must be initiated but having to do that manually would be tedious. Zapier alone has hundreds of connections with other platforms so this opens the door wide open for integration with Netlify.
Custom Domain & DNS
The last two features that I feel are worth mentioning are that A) Netlify allows you to set custom domains and B) Netlify has their own DNS services. For domains, this allows you to have domains that you have already bought and registered with their DNS services your site’s connection will be secure simply by adding Netlify’s name servers to your domain registry website.
Netlify still has a cabinet of other features such as Functions, Identity, Forms, Large Media, Split Testing, and Analytics. I do not use these features as frequently as the others but they are just as developed and resourceful. Like I mentioned before, the core of these features is available on the free tier. I would definitely recommend Netlify to be your new or next website hosting platform as I feel it brings a lot of value to small and big companies alike.
If you would like to know more about Netlify or our company and what we do, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.