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To Host Or Outsource Your Infrastructure

Updated: May 12, 2023

We've written about how the world is just a collection of lego blocks we call microservies that can be used to build fantastic castles and spaceships, which many call Software as a Service, or SaaS application. These can be insanely complex because they build on the shoulders of giants. Developers get powerful cryptography, math, machine learning, and even layout libraries "for free." But the rub is that software developers who import these libraries often can't redistribute them without paying a royalty or at least acknowledging whose work they used.

It's also complicated to build installers. There are a lot of artifacts to be gathered into an installer. The walled garden we build software in might not be the same ecoystem our customers have in their environments. Firewalls, proxies, SSL pinning, and other aspects of the environment lead to more troubleshooting - and that means vendors who allow customers to host their own infrastructure become fewer and fewer each year.

Organizations often don't feel like they can trust startups with their infrastructure. The industry responded with certifications like SOC2, but it's still a concern - especially for companies who haven't landed an A or B round of investment. Whether they're compliant, they might not survive.

Then there are practical considerations to take into account when deciding whether to host your own infrastructure or use a SaaS platform. Here is a brief overview of the pros and cons of each:

Hosting Your Own Infrastructure

  • Pros:

    • More control over your environment

    • Ability to customize your infrastructure to your specific needs

    • Potential cost savings

  • Cons:

    • Requires more time and resources to manage

    • Can be more complex and difficult to set up

    • May not be as scalable as a SaaS platform

Using a SaaS Platform

  • Pros:

    • Easy to set up and manage

    • Scalable and reliable

    • Usually more affordable than hosting your own infrastructure

  • Cons:

    • Less control over your environment

    • May not be as customizable as hosting your own infrastructure

    • May not be the best option for businesses with specific needs

The best decision for most organizations will depend on your specific needs and requirements. If you need more control over your environment and are willing to put in the time and resources to manage it, then hosting your own infrastructure may be the best option for you. However, if you are looking for an easy and affordable way to get started, then using a SaaS platform may be a better choice.

Here are some additional things to consider when making your decision:

  • Your budget: Hosting your own infrastructure can be more expensive than using a SaaS platform, especially if you need a lot of resources.

  • Your technical expertise: If you are not comfortable managing your own infrastructure, then using a SaaS platform may be a better option.

  • Your specific needs: If you have specific requirements for your infrastructure, such as security or compliance, then you may need to host your own infrastructure.

We face this constantly at Secret Chest. Maybe it's something as simple as logs - do we pipe those off to a service who might charge us by the gig to host them or build a quick and easy logstash type of system. It extends to code, do we rewrite and thus own a library or use one that does something but not as optimally for our use case as we might want. For some these are case by case decisions; for others they're holistic. Sometimes, there's no decision to be made, there just aren't any options to host your own for entire categories of software now.

One increasingly popular option is a decentralized solution. Let's take how we handle shard storage in Secret Chest. Customers can opt to use our cloud to store a shard for any secret they create. If there are three and it requires two shards, this allows for any device, with the credentials and pin to unlock the cloud shards, to unlock a secret (or re-created it in the event that a customer triggers a lost device flow). However, customers can also use a home iMac or some other device instead - thus none of their data ever resides on our systems. Sure, some still passes through us, like if they sign in, but we only retain that data for a short period of time before it's anonymized (long-term we still use it for machine learning).

If you're interested in seeing how all this plays out on devices and how we've tried to keep the interface to manage distributed secrets in a decentralized world, sign up for our private beta!

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