There are good reasons why many companies today prefer developing their own in-app chat solution rather than relying on third party popular messaging apps. The recent news of Facebook’s WhatsApp being fined around $270 million for violating GDPR privacy laws reminds us of the danger of storing our data with external parties. Large enterprises have traditionally relied on building their own apps from scratch with internal teams or specialist agencies. The ability to design an app for their specific use case and to be able to own and control their source code and user data is especially important to these organizations. However, when building a social networking or corporate messaging application with real-time chat / instant messaging comes with numerous challenges. It requires considerable technical know-how, capital, and resources for each major stage of real-time chat app development including planning, building, and maintenance.
The recent proliferation of ‘as-a-service’ providers offering ready-to-use communication software (in the form of APIs and SDKs) serves as an attractive alternative. The use of a third-party chat API, which can be easily integrated into an existing app or used to build standalone apps, brings many tangible benefits, not least of which is tremendous cost and time savings. However, many of these as-a service providers require you to host your application, data, and chat messages within their own cloud infrastructure, which again means your data is controlled by external third party services.
This is where QuickBlox stands out from the crowd. QuickBlox is a complete backend provider, offering voice, video and live chat via APIs and SDKs. But unlike with most other as-a-service providers, QuickBlox offers flexible hosting and perpetual licensing options. In the following we consider some of the pros and cons of both building from scratch or using third party API providers and highlight why using a service like QuickBlox makes more sense than going it alone.
A custom-built app is a software application that is either completely built from scratch, or at least modified from the source code of another software so that it suits a specific business use case. Custom apps can be built on all different types of platforms, languages, and tools to fulfil the exact requirements of the business or enterprise. This perhaps is its biggest advantage – that it can be built exactly as needed. Building from scratch also means that you have proprietary rights over the source code. This might be important for some businesses that require customizable software, or who plan to license the source code to other parties.
However, developing an in-house application is fraught with challenges for product managers due to the cost, time, and the sheer amount of planning and effort involved. Building your own messenger app is a considerable feat that will impact your company’s broader product roadmap, budget, and allocation of personnel resources.
Perhaps the biggest barrier to building chat from scratch is the financial cost. But just how expensive is it to build your own in-house chat solution? One industry leader in a 2017 survey claimed: “What we recommend is that for any type of meaningful app, you should budget between $200,000 to $500,000 from end-to-end to be successful.” The cost of chat app development varies considerably depending on a variety of factors.
App complexity – the cost of your app will be determined in part by the type, number, and complexity of features you want to add. Building a basic chat app is one thing, but if you want to enhance user engagement by adding extra features like a video solution, two-factor authentication, push notifications or more, development costs and time investment will increase.
Platform coverage – Another factor determining cost is how many platforms you want to make your in-app chat solution available on (e.g. iOS, android web). Your product teams might choose to focus on building native apps, that is an app but for a specific operating system like iOS, so if you want to make your app available on android phones that right away doubles your workload and cost. You can of course choose to build a hybrid app, which is a web app with a native framework wrapper so that it can work on multiple operating systems, but these don’t usually have the same degree of tight integration as native applications and load more slowly.
Maintenance & Hosting – Even after your app is built there are on-going maintenance costs that need to be factored in. This is especially true for any kind of real-time communication app. Your app will require dedicated technical resources from a developer responsible for updates. Also there are the hosting costs involved. You will need to choose a cloud hosting service to run your application and this will involve a subscription cost each month or else set up your own data center, which involves a significant up-front financial investment.
If you are planning to go down the custom-built route make sure that you have good reason to. It makes more sense to build on your own if:
But even if some of these criteria are requirements, it’s still worth exploring the alternative. You could incur an opportunity cost from turning down third-party API providers like QuickBlox, who can meet most of your requirements.
Chat API is ready built software that enables live chat messaging to be easily integrated into your existing mobile apps and websites. Chat SDK is a software development kit that provides an entire library of tools and documents and includes some integration of the Chat API. SDKs and APIs can be used together or independently depending on the type of chat application being built. But they are ready-made pieces of software, which can be bought or licensed from a third-party, saving the app developer significant time and effort.
Chat APIs and SDKs can be used by different types of enterprises for a range of use cases. They are ready-to-be-used without having to be developed further. They are also designed to be adopted and customized, for example, there may be certain features of chat you want to make available, or security enhancements you wish to add. These APIs and SDKs are also capable of being integrated with other platforms and tools which may already be in use by the enterprise.
Chat APIs and SDKs are typically packaged as part of service provided by a “as-a-service” company for a monthly subscription. There are several as-a-service providers that apply, including IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service), SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) and CPaaS (Communication-Platform-as-a-Service). These service providers not only license their software, but provide an entire scalable infrastructure for enterprises to utilize. Customers have access to technical support, upgrades, cloud hosting for their application, and more.
However, it is worth pointing out that there are important differences between providers. Chat APIs/SDKs vary in their complexity of features and level of customization possible, and they might not be fully compatible with every platform or development framework. Infrastructure services may not be fully scalable, or you might exceed your traffic and user limits and generate large data costs quicker than you think. Also, most as-a service providers have limited hosting options, requiring that your application, chat history, and customer data are stored and processed in their own cloud account. This poses problems if you have regulatory requirements around data protection like with healthcare and fintech.
To get around these potential limitations consider using QuickBlox. We provide all the convenience of an as-a-service provider, while still offering the flexibility to host, manage data, and customize as you want. Here is a snapshot of some of the reasons why it makes sense to build with QuickBlox.
Because the QuickBlox functionality is already built, we can considerably cut-down your time-to-market and by reserving your development resources, save you money and manpower. With SDKs, code samples, and detailed documentation we’ve made it as easy as possible to integrate our product. Your app can be ready in a number of weeks rather than months. This also means that your product team is freed up to focus their attention on the front-end client-side, developing immersive chat solutions that will delight your customers. Furthermore, as a fully managed service, you’ll save costs in the long-run as our technical team will maintain and monitor your software instance and regularly update developer tools. We do the heavy lifting so that you don’t have to.
Use full-featured chat API and SDKs to build versatile messaging solutions as engaging as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. Our developer-friendly software is both ready-to-use, but also customizable which means they can be adapted to support multiple use cases. We offer a range of chat features and functionality, including basic features like 1-on-1 messaging, private group and public group chat, online user presence, delivery & read receipts, file sharing, and much more. We also offer more advanced features like chat moderation tools, profanity filter, push notifications, two-factor authentication, as well as the option to add other communication channels with our voice and video API. But if we don’t have something you need we can help you modify our software, or build something new to get your needs met. Our professional services team is on hand to help with more complex customizations.
We offer a fully scalable infrastructure so that as the number of active users and concurrent connections increase we can scale your dedicated software instance alongside. Our software is specifically designed for multi-platforms including iOS, Android, Flutter, React Native, and Web, ensuring that your messenger app packed with our features will run with the same high performance on any device and in any browser.
To save your technical resources we offer a fully managed plan complete with a SLA with SaaS licensing. But If owning source code is important to you we offer a perpetual license option for much of our software including our white label messaging app, Q-municate, and our telehealth ready-made solution, Q-consultation.
With QuickBlox, you can choose your own server setup. We can deploy your software instance in your preferred hosting environment, whether that be in a cloud account with a cloud hosting provider of your choice, or on-premises, within your own data centre. This means data stays on your servers and within your control.
Although enterprises have the option of building custom apps from scratch to meet their specific use case requirements, the amount of cost and technical resources needed means this is often not a viable choice. Instead there are plenty of good reasons for why most enterprises should consider using as-a-service providers to meet their needs.
Build the in-app chat experience that you want with QuickBlox API and SDKs. We can support your chat app development with the following key features:
If you are building a chat app solution and why to find out more how QuickBlox can help, please, contact our team now.