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How to choose hosting for your chat application

Anton Dyachenko
21 Feb 2020
Hosting for your chat application

There are various things to consider when developing an innovative chat app, not least of which is where you will run your application and store data. Choosing the right hosting solution is critical; concerns about compliance and security, data back-up and storage, performance and cost, all come into play.

Hosting requirements can vary tremendously. The amount of users you expect for your app, the geographical location of your user base, whether your industry requires certain compliance regulations, and at what stage you are in the app’s development are factors that can help to determine the most appropriate hosting environment.

It’s important to choose a CPaaS provider (communication-platform-as-service) that will support your unique needs. QuickBlox offers feature-rich chat APIs and SDKs that allow you to seamlessly add real-time communication to your app. We also provide flexible hosting options that cater to a variety of different industry requirements.

In this article we outline three distinct hosting environments for your chat app, and highlight key factors to consider when choosing the optimal hosting infrastructure.

Shared, Dedicated, or On-Premises

To start, it is useful to have a general understanding of distinct hosting environments. These can be primarily categorized as shared, dedicated, and on-premises.

Shared

A shared hosting environment is a single hosting environment used by multiple tenants, each of whom access the resources and computing power of the hosting environment. The cloud hosting infrastructure, including hardware and software, is owned and maintained by another party and a standard set of available cloud services are available for quick setup. Customers share access to the software and computing resources such as CPU, memory, and storage, while their data is segmented and invisible to others. This is an ideal set-up for those starting out, looking to test a POC, or are on a limited budget. It’s a great way to develop and trial a new chat app without investing a great deal of financial resources.

Dedicated

With a dedicated instance set up, you are still utilizing space from a cloud provider but your single organization enjoys exclusive access to the communication software and computing resources within your own dedicated cloud account. This grants your organization significant advantages. Notably, single-tenant cloud hosting usually means improved performance over multi-tenant hosting precisely because you’re not sharing resources. And because you have a dedicated instance of the software in your own cloud account you have greater flexibility for customization, security, scalability, and other enhancements, including specifying maintenance schedules with your providers while benefiting from a managed service.

On-Premises

An on-premises infrastructure (also known as self-hosted), offers the highest level of security for your chat application. In this hosting model, software is deployed on dedicated servers and/or a private cloud owned and maintained by your organization and located within your own data center. This set-up has fixed costs as customers need both the physical hardware and DevOps team who are responsible for server management. However for large corporations, particularly financial institutions and government agencies, business operations may require a private network with high security with minimal or no access to the cloud. Increasingly on-premises deployment is used alongside cloud hosting in hybrid deployment models.

5 Factors to Consider when Choosing the best Hosting Environment for your Chat App

When choosing the most suitable hosting environment for your application there are several factors you need to consider:

  1. Compliance & Regulatory Requirements
  2. Do you have particular chat compliance requirements? For example, if you have a healthcare app you may need to demonstrate that you are HIPAA compliant. Or are you required by law to store customer data within your own country? For example, since the European court of Justice ruled the EU-US privacy shield as incompatible with GDPR, developers of German healthcare applications are now prohibited by law from storing data pertaining to German citizens outside the EU. Since a multi-tenant (shared) environment relies on the hosting provider to ensure services are GDPR and HIPAA compliant, this is not always the safest option. Be clear about what regulatory compliance issues affect your business so that you can ensure your hosting infrastructure meets your requirements.

  3. Data security
  4. Your hosting service will also partially determine the available level of data security. Although cloud hosting is generally considered to be secure, there are nonetheless important differences you need to be aware of.

    If you set up an account directly with the cloud provider, your organization enjoys greater control and access to all your data. With most CPaaS providers, however, you will be obliged to host your application within the CPasS provider’s cloud account (usually set up with Amazon Web Services), which means they (and not you) have a direct relationship with their public cloud service and in this regard ultimately still exercise ‘control’ of data within their account. For this reason, a dedicated cloud account is better suited for enterprises needing root control over their data.

    It is also worth pointing out that if data security is a major concern you have more options to include security enhancements with a dedicated instance.

    Hosting dedicated software and customer data on your dedicated cloud account offers a high level of security — especially in comparison to a multi-tenant environment– but ultimately, on premises hosting offers the highest level of all. Many finance institutions and government agencies prefer to host data on their own physical servers to remove third parties from having access to their chat and user data.

    With QuickBlox, our customers are able to host wherever they want, and because data remains on their servers, they can be sure of optimal security standards. We are experienced in offering GDPR and HIPAA compliant solutions and offer full encryption of databases and a range of additional security enhancements that can be configured in your software instance.

  5. Performance and reliability
  6. There are several factors around the hosting of software that can affect the performance and availability of your app. Geographic location, usage and server load can impact upon the speed and availability of services. When selecting a server configuration these items should be considered. Let’s break this down. Location of the servers or VM can impact response time. The closer the server or VM is to your target audience, the better user experience and response time your customers are going to have. Cloud providers offer different availability zones, so pay attention. For example, if you are creating a chat app for a predominantly Chinese audience then you may wish to consider a hosting provider with a strong presence in this market, such as AlibabaCloud, to avoid performance issues with local firewalls. Or if services are global you may want to distribute your infrastructure across different availability zones of cloud providers so you can serve customers around the world. You don’t want to be offering communication for your customers in the US from India.

    The same considerations come into play when thinking about server load and usage. Is the service ‘peaky’ in that you expect higher volumes of users at certain times of the day or around certain events? Or is load evenly distributed? Is your app going to be heavily marketed or featured in an app store? These factors can impact your user experience and create delays in the ability to connect. What happens if usage grows rapidly and you see large volumes in growth of traffic – are you or your communications provider ready for your success?

    If using a shared cloud with the same hosting resources, other traffic can potentially impact individual services. Shared hosting provides cost savings and there are times when 24/7 high performance doesn’t matter as much as cost. For a bootstrapped start-up with a limited number of users, hosting on a shared cloud makes sense.

    If however, you are a mature company with experience of these factors then you will understand the value of a dedicated hosting environment. For instance, if communication is a key component you will want SLAs and uptime guarantees. Healthcare companies often depend on seamless communication between doctors and their patients via chat app, with minimal downtime, SLA, and HIPAA compliance – optimally they should consider a dedicated infrastructure to host their app.

    QuickBlox supports customer’ requirements in all these considerations. Services can be hosted in specific geographies and availability zones according to customer needs and can be High Availability (HA) for 24×7 availability even if a VM goes down. Communication services can be deployed globally. We also have solutions for traffic peaks with Kubernetes and software scalability options.

  7. Backup and storage
  8. If you have significant requirements for Disaster Recovery (DR) and around data retention, backup, and storage of data, then shared hosting may not be the best option. To keep costs down on their shared / multi-tenant clouds, many CPaaS providers enforce strict usage on data retention, traffic, memory, and data storage limits. Some apps will generate an enormous amount of highly confidential customer data. You want to choose a hosting solution that will store this data securely and to back it up for your business continuity. In these cases choosing a cloud environment that supports high availability / disaster recovery (HA/DR) is a must.

    QuickBlox offers full backup management including a HA/DR solution.

  9. Cost Efficiency & Pricing Models
  10. Budgetary constraints will also play a role in determining which cloud hosting infrastructure you choose for your chat application. We all want our applications to run with optimum performance and security, but depending on the options chosen for set up – this impacts the overall solution cost.

    Hosting costs for CPaaS providers are often bundled into monthly subscription charges and this means it might not always be clear exactly what you are paying for. If you set up a dedicated account with a cloud provider, you have more transparency over exactly what fees are for CPaaS services and what are your hosting costs, and you have more flexibility over which additional services you add (note many CPaaS providers require the use of their hosting environment). Also each CPaaS cloud provider offers their own pricing models, some charging per chat, per video or voice call minute, per month, or based on usage which can result in bill shock. Find a pricing model that suits your particular needs, budget, and usage requirements.

Hosting the QuickBlox Way

Clearly there’s much to consider when determining the best hosting option for your chat application. QuickBlox works to provide our customers with a variety of options to meet their needs rather than a generalizing solution. QuickBlox chat SDK and chat API software can be utilized via a range of hosting environments. For a run-down of our comprehensive hosting options see QuickBlox Hosting: Shared Server Account, Enterprise Cloud Hosting, and On-Premises.

  1. We offer subscription plans on our shared multi-tenant cloud with no additional hosting cost.
  2. We offer enterprise instances of our software in a QuickBlox cloud exclusive to your enterprise.
  3. We offer enterprise instances of our software in your cloud account with the provider of your choice. Choose from Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Oracle Cloud, Digital Ocean, Alibaba Cloud,Hetzner and many others. We provide full management of your communication infrastructure with 24/7 support and a SLA.
  4. For those requiring the highest level of security we offer on-premises deployment.
  5. We can also support a hybrid approach to software deployment utilizing cloud and dedicated servers.

To ensure the optimal performance of your chat application speak to one of our integration engineers. We would be happy to discuss your specific business requirements around hosting needs. Contact us now.

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