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Setting Up a Custom Server for Your Next.js Application

Introduction #

Next.js is a powerful framework for building React applications. It provides out-of-the-box support for server-side rendering, static site generation, and API routes, making it a go-to solution for modern web development.

In most cases, the default server provided by Next.js is more than sufficient. However, there might be instances where you need to configure a custom server to cater to specific needs, such as applying custom server-side middleware or routing.

In this post, we’ll walk through how to set up a custom server for your Next.js application. Additionally, we’ll discuss when you might need a custom server and the implications it could have on your application.

Setting Up a Custom Server #

Setting up a custom server involves creating a new server file, usually named server.js at the root of your project. Below is a simple example of a custom server setup using Express:

const express = require('express');
const next = require('next');

const dev = process.env.NODE_ENV !== 'production';
const app = next({ dev });
const handle = app.getRequestHandler();

app.prepare().then(() => {
  const server = express();

  server.all('*', (req, res) => {
    return handle(req, res);

  server.listen(3000, (err) => {
    if (err) throw err;
    console.log('> Ready on http://localhost:3000');

In your package.json, replace "start": "next start" with "start": "node server.js". Now, when you run npm run start or yarn start, it will start your custom server.

When to Use a Custom Server #

While setting up a custom server can provide you with more control over your application, it’s important to remember that this comes with its own set of trade-offs. You should only consider a custom server when:

  1. You need server-side configurations: If you need to set up server-side middleware, custom server-side routing, or other server-side configurations, you might need a custom server.

  2. You need to customize the HTTP server: If you need to customize the HTTP(S) server for reasons such as handling upgrades for WebSockets, setting custom HTTP headers, or customizing the HTTP server options.

  3. You need a server for local development: A custom server could be used for enabling SSL for local development.

Implications of a Custom Server #

  1. Performance and Scaling: A custom server could impact the scalability of your application. Next.js is built to be a serverless framework, and deploying to a platform like Vercel allows each page to scale independently as separate lambda functions.

  2. Complexity: A custom server introduces additional code that you have to maintain, thus adding another potential point of failure.

  3. SSL/TLS Management: SSL/TLS should be handled at the hosting platform or load balancer level, not at the application level. A custom server might not be the best approach to handle SSL/TLS.

Conclusion #

While a custom server for your Next.js application gives you greater control over your server-side configurations, it comes with its own set of challenges. It’s important to understand your application’s needs and the implications of introducing a custom server. Always make sure to weigh the benefits against the trade-offs to decide whether a custom server is the right choice for your application.

Before using a custom server in production, remember that Next.js was designed to operate in a serverless environment, where server-side configurations are minimal and scaling can be done effortlessly.

For most applications, the default server and the built-in customization options provided by Next.js will be more than sufficient. Only resort to a custom server if the needs of your application cannot be met otherwise.