As Userplane’s account manager, I speak with publishers on a daily basis. And let me tell you, there are a lot of misconceptions and myths to dispell about pricing for hosted chat solutions. For example: when is it okay for a solution to charge extra for video chat (with unlimited bandwidth)? (Hint: never) Or for enterprise service, how great is the supposed inherent value of purchasing dedicated server(s)?
So what’s a true value-add, and what’s simply smoke and mirrors from a cost standpoint? Let’s dispel some of these misconceptions and myths, shall we?
Myth #1: It’s reasonable to expect to pay extra for hosted chat with A/V.
As a hosted chat provider, you can imagine that the primary cost consideration in pricing our services is hardware-related. The more connections we need to handle, the more hardware we need. Did you catch that? “The more connections we need to handle…” Hardware concerns are largely a connection volume consideration, not a bandwidth volume consideration. If your hosted chat provider is asking you to pay a premium for A/V, you need to ask and understand why.
Myth #2: IM and group chat should be priced separately to save me money.
Based on debunking Myth #1, we established that your primary cost concern is the number of connections. So why should a hosted chat provider charge you MORE if you want to use more than one application? While providing your users with multiple formats for chat may increase their adoption rate and drive connection numbers higher, that hardly justifies an ADDITIONAL premium for implementing more than one application.
Myth #3: I’m getting a great deal with the ability to pay for a year up front.
Every publisher out there starts a site because they have an idea to either (1) fill a community need where none exists, or (2) create what they feel is a better community than what is available. While lower year-in-advance pricing may be enticing in anticipation of becoming the next Facebook, consider how vast the internet is. Additionally, consider that the adoption rate for chat in a community may be slow at first. Why not choose a provider who will scale with you—from your very beginning stages to no matter how big your site becomes?
Myth #3: Getting a dedicated server from my chat hosting company is a big value-add.
And here’s the Moby Dick-sized myth. Dedicated servers are so Y2K. That’s why we moved our new Userplane SDK off flash-based servers to XMPP. Sure, your dedicated server won’t get taken down by any other site’s traffic. But because it’s YOUR server, what happens when it DOES go down? Your entire community is without your site’s most engaging feature, that’s what. Uptime for chat is such an important consideration. Whether you’re evaluating hosted chat solutions or an in-house IM or group chat, dedicated chat servers sound good in theory—but that’s about it.
Hosted chat for the enterprise is all about scaling. And a solution that truly scales should not require you to purchase additional hardware as your community grows (the number of connections a server can handle is finite, after all). So if not dedicated servers for high volume, then what?
Well, the Userplane SDK solves the myth about value in publisher-dedicated chat servers by rethinking how we structure our platform. We’ve built our SDK out in such a way that connections get distributed to our network of servers through a load balancer. Our load balancer and connection management tiers then do exactly what they sound like. In simple terms, they ensure that our connection servers aren’t over-burdened and can intelligently distribute connections to our fault-tolerant infrastructure. If a server goes down? Not the end of the world. The infrastructure just moves those connections to the other servers while we solve the problem—it’s seamless.
Our philosophy here at Userplane regarding our applications is to make them open and flexible. And openness is a word that also describes our customer relationships. If you’re considering a hosted chat solution for your community, contact us and chat with me. I’m committed to being open with you in describing our platform and our applications and encouraging you to evaluate all your options to make sure you’re comfortable with the decision you make for your site. It’s a big decision, and there are a lot of myths out there.