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Cloud-based vs self-hosted: what rich text editor solution works best?

February 14th, 2022

5 min read

Choosing from cloud based or web based text editing vs self-hosted or server based wysiwyg.

Written by

Joe Robinson


Product-Led Growth

If you’re reading this sentence on a phone, you’ve just used a number of cloud-based applications on your way to look at this text. Most applications developed for phones are cloud-based and cloud-based applications work like this:

  • The bulk of the application’s code lives on a remote server
  • It has a presentable interface (UI) available on devices
  • Some more code works under the interface, and connects back to the server

Here’s another example: when TinyMCE is added to a website with the TinyMCE init script, that website accesses the rich text editor through Tiny Cloud.

However, not everyone’s surrounded by cloud-based apps. Email self hosting is one example, where you can purchase your own server space or hardware, and store the mail application there.

When it comes to a business, the choice of cloud-based or web-based applications represents a conundrum. Let’s delve into both options, and outline what to look for when selecting a rich text editor solution.

What is self-hosted?

In a cloud-business model, most of the app code is external. In a self hosted model that’s in a business context, the application code lives entirely on business premises. There’s an initial installation phase, followed by testing, and then moving the app to production for use. Ongoing maintenance of the app is also required.

What about web-based?

Web-based hosting is another name for the cloud-based hosting of applications, but with one key distinction, and that is web-based applications require constant internet connection, wheras it can vary for a cloud-based application – some processing and storage is local, and some is remote to the device the app resides on.

The simplest way to remember the difference between cloud and self-hosted, is that cloud-based applications link to external code, while self-hosted applications contain all their libraries, asset files, and code on a server’s physical hard drive.

The positives and negatives of cloud-based and self-hosted solutions

There are four categories that make it easier to evaluate the benefits (and problems) of both cloud-based and self hosted solutions:

  1. Scale
  2. Internet connection
  3. Security
  4. Maintenance

1. Scale

Cloud-based applications scale more easily than self-hosted. 

Therefore, if you need your application to expand rapidly, handing over control of the steps to scale to a server (for memory space or computing powerI it’s easier in a cloud-based model.

2. Internet Connection

Self-hosted applications are more beneficial if you require the application to be available offline.

While some cloud-based applications can offer this ability, self-hosted applications can readily provide it to users. 

3. Security

Self-hosted applications can provide more control over security. 

You can install software behind a firewall, so it’s only accessible by your own staff. Are you in a regulated industry, or in a branch of government? Then self-hosting may be the best choice. That said, cloud-based applications can offer effective encryption strategies,  which may offer an advantage over the workload and planning required for managing your own security.

4. Maintenance

The complexity of maintenance represents one big difference between self-hosted and web-hosted models. 

To help you decide, consider the following:

  • Weigh up you or your team’s technical experience.
  • If you do not rate your technical experience as being commensurate with maintaining a server over time, consider a web-hosted or cloud-hosted model, which can offer the benefit of taking care of the maintenance for you.
  • If your team has the technical expertise, or has sufficient technical expertise to work alongside a customer support crew, then self-hosting offers the most benefit.

But which is really better for me?

To decide which is best, it’s worth taking the time to weigh up the different angles mentioned above in the previous section. Consider the positives and negatives of each one and in particular, look at the technical complexity involved. And don’t forget your budget – cloud-based models can offer a more cost-effective solution.

Choosing cloud-based or self-hosted for your rich text editor

When it comes to rich text editors, first look at the size and scope of the website, app, or project you're combining with the editor. Software projects come in different sizes – with size defined by numbers of libraries and binaries, scope of dependencies, and other factors like lines of code and visual assets. 

Server size

Larger software projects, that require more room on a server to host, would benefit from any savings on maintenance. A larger project represents a potential opportunity for installing a cloud based rich text editor, which involves fewer hours of maintenance compared to a self-hosted option.

Updates and maintenance

If the editor is open source, you can look to their public repository to see how often the project receives an update. Regularly updated projects provide more future proofing with maintenance and new features for better quality of life.

If it's not open source, consider the skill and knowledge that’s required for your team to configure a self-hosted rich text editor. Not all rich text editors are deemed equal in their self-hosting setup-up difficulty level – some require many configuration and testing steps, others only require a few steps. For instance, TinyMCE self-hosted only requires two steps to setup the editor, and two steps to add a plugin.

If you want to try a self-hosted solution, download the TinyMCE files (SDK) and reference the rich text editor in your project: 

If you only need tinymce plugins from the cloud, and are self hosting, combine a self hosted and web-based approach with the following script tags:
<script src="https://cdn.tiny.cloud/1/no-api-key/tinymce/6/plugins.min.js" referrerpolicy="origin"></script>
<script src="path/to/files/tinymce/6/tinymce.min.js" referrerpolicy="origin"></script>

The CDN link connects only to the plugins.js file, and not the editor file. Depending on the approach and configuration you choose, the update and maintenace cost can change.

Some thoughts on hosting and rich text editors

Maintenance and speed are really the essential questions. Think through these points:

  • Is self-hosting a rich text editor within your project going to be an issue for any ongoing maintenance?
  • Do you need to get setup quickly with a rich text editor?

If you answered yes to both, or are unsure, it may be likely that the cloud-hosted option presents the most benefit for you. Maintenance becomes less of a burden on you or your team, and it prevents your app from experiencing a glitch that leads to your customers uninstalling the app. At least 71% of users uninstall a new app within the first 90 days, so you don’t want to contribute to that number through lack of maintenance work.

If you’d like to try out TinyMCE in the cloud, there are detailed instructions available for setting it up. All you need is a FREE API key to get started.

Tiny CloudSelf Hosting
byJoe Robinson

Technical and creative writer, editor, and a TinyMCE advocate. An enthusiast for teamwork, open source software projects, and baking. Can often be found puzzling over obscure history, cryptic words, and lucid writing.

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