Blockchain technology is rapidly gaining adoption, with estimates showing over 4,000 decentralized applications (dapps) attracting millions in daily transaction volume. With Web3 going mainstream, the industry is attractive to developers wanting to build the next big play-to-earn (P2E) game or DeFi application.
However, there are challenges to building in Web3—primary of them being the difficulty of managing blockchain infrastructure. Unlike regular databases, operating a blockchain node requires a different set of skills and investments.
For this reason, blockchain developers may find it better to outsource the task of running infrastructure to a blockchain node provider. In this article, we share tips on how to select a blockchain node provider.
What is a blockchain node provider?
A node is a computer device connected to the peer-to-peer (P2P) network responsible for managing the blockchain—we can think of a node as both a “client” and a “server”. Without connecting to a blockchain node, you (and your application’s users) cannot read blockchain data or write data (via transactions) to the blockchain.
Infura was one of the first blockchain-as-a-service providers and API solutions ever created for Ethereum. Before Infura, accessing the Ethereum blockchain required spinning up a node yourself. This approach (mostly) worked in the early days of Ethereum because network activity was minimal and self-hosted infrastructure could handle the load. However, the explosion in the number of blockchain users means running your own node today is more difficult.
Fortunately, there are blockchain node providers, like Infura, that help with operating and maintaining node infrastructure on your behalf. A blockchain node provider (also called a “node-as-a-service” provider) is an entity that lets you access blockchain without worrying about setting up in-house infrastructure.
Blockchain node providers take on the responsibility of keeping node infrastructure operational and reliable. With a node provider, all you need to interact with the blockchain is an API key–which can be set up in minutes. This eliminates the need to spend valuable engineering time on keeping blockchain nodes functional.
What to consider when choosing a blockchain node provider
While there are many blockchain node providers today, not every product offering will fit your needs. We have curated some factors to consider before selecting a blockchain node provider:
One common pitfall of using on-site node infrastructure is dealing with reliability issues (e.g., nodes desynchronizing or crashing at random). This affects the overall user experience (UX) for individuals interacting with your blockchain application, making it difficult to build a strong customer base.
Therefore, if you intend to switch to a hosted node service, make sure using it won’t bring up the same reliability problems. A good blockchain node provider should transparently publish service issues and downtimes, to give you a sense of the availability of the service. The provider should also implement optimizations that keep deployed nodes running optimally even under intense load. With better blockchain infrastructure, users can have a better experience using your dapp.
Keeping one node functional most of the time is possible, but things get problematic when you start spinning up more nodes. Expanding in-house node equipment is usually necessary to handle increasing levels of user interaction with an application. But this often translates to more maintenance work, with issues like nodes going out of sync, forcing developers to spend time troubleshooting problems.
A blockchain node provider should offer robust infrastructure that can scale to meet your blockchain application’s growing needs. You want a node service that can handle an increase in application usage without any perceptible difference in average response times and overall user experience.
Another reason running a node on-site may be non-ideal for some developer teams is the upfront costs involved. For instance, setting up an Ethereum full node requires investing in high-spec hardware and paying expensive bandwidth costs. Running an archive node (a type of node that stores all blocks from genesis) is even more expensive, as syncing is more resource-intensive.
Using a blockchain node provider is generally lower than setting up a node yourself. That said, the more important factor to consider when evaluating prices of node services is flexibility.
You want a node provider that offers flexible pricing (including a free tier) and permits scaling up or down depending on your business needs This allows your application to scale as you find product-market fit, and adjust what you pay as your dapp is adopted.
Support for multiple blockchains and decentralized storage
Blockchain interoperability is becoming a hot topic, with many predicting a “multi-chain future”, where applications (and users) move seamlessly between blockchains. Interoperability is good news for Web3 developers because it expands the reach of an application to users on other networks. Also, support for decentralized storage allows for you to rely on the provider for endpoints that can allow for the storage data and metadata—which is important if you are running an NFT marketplace or metaverse application.
Exploiting the gains of blockchain interoperability starts with choosing a blockchain node provider that supports multiple chains that will be useful for your dapp. This makes it easier to deploy dapps on other compatible blockchains and simplifies your development stack. With the capacity to manage user interactions on different blockchain platforms, and to store and retrieve data, future expansion becomes a more achievable goal.
This goes without saying, but using a node service that offers professional support is critical. Even the best systems experience issues, and without expert help, solving your infrastructure-related problems can be difficult.
The ideal blockchain node service will have dedicated communication channels for customers that need help. This could be anything from getting answers to technical questions to troubleshooting issues encountered while using the product. A responsive developer support system will make life easier for your team and give assurance that the node provider is dependable.
Ease of use
A well-designed product is no good if using it imposes high requirements on end-users, such as needing high technical expertise. One way of knowing the ease of use among node providers is by checking the availability of user-centric product resources. This includes how-to guides, feature walkthroughs, developer documentation, FAQs, and more.
More importantly, using the product itself should be hassle-free—easy to set up and does not get in the way of you writing the code needed to make your idea a reality. Most blockchain node providers offer a “control panel” of sorts for tracking interactions with your dapp and performing data analytics and monitoring.
Deciding to use a blockchain node service instead of running a node in-house means relying on the company for security. Blockchain technology may be new, but it faces the same security issues as centralized technologies. You should ensure that your choice node service has invested in the best information security practices before hosting your application on the platform.
Access to developer tooling
Blockchain nodes are but one part of the Web3 development—blockchain developers will need access to other tools to build quality dapps for users. Blockchain node providers that offer a robust product suite simplify development and improve go-to-market (GTM) times.
Experience and track record
Sometimes, even analyzing all the factors described previously doesn’t make selecting a node provider any easier—especially with rivals offering similar product offerings. A good rule of thumb to follow in such cases is to look at the company’s track record. How long have they been in the business of supporting blockchain developers and what do people say about the service?
It is good to select a blockchain node provider with a history of consistent performance and reliability. Previous or current association with high-profile blockchain projects is another useful metric for evaluating node providers—a provider with experience supporting high-volume dapps will often have better infrastructure.
Why choose Infura as a blockchain node provider?
Infura is a node-as-a-service provider and platform that provides developers with a powerful suite of blockchain APIs and tooling. Infura’s best-in-class node infrastructure powers some of the biggest projects today, including Coinbase, Compound Protocol, and MakerDAO. But what exactly makes Infura the right platform to build your next dapp?
1. Reliability and scalability: Developers building dapps on Infura enjoy reliability, with Infura’s tried-and-tested architecture providing excellent uptime and 10x faster response times than self-hosted nodes or other node services. We’re also transparent about issues affecting uptime and publish regular reports on our status page.
More importantly, Infura lets you scale up your infrastructure to cope with higher levels of user interaction with your application. This means you can focus on improving your Web3 product and consolidating user bases, not managing engineering problems.
2. Flexible pricing: Infura’s flexible pricing schedule lets you start for free and move to a paid tier when your dapp is ready to launch. Our pricing is designed to fit the needs of your project at every stage, and you’re not forced to pay any costs upfront.
3. Multi-chain support: The Infura Web3 API suite enables you to connect to more than seven blockchains and is constantly adding support for new chains. This includes Layer one chains, like Ethereum, NEAR, and Avalanche, as well as Layer 2 scaling solutions, such as StarkNet, Arbitrum, Polygon, and Optimism.
4. Professional support: All Infura pricing packages (excluding the Core subscription) come with direct customer support, with the opportunity to enter into custom Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Besides, Infura is a product made by developers for developers; hence, you will always have access to help from team members and those in the wider Infura developer community.
5. Ease of use: Infura’s multi-featured product suite can be accessed from the same dashboard, which also exposes useful insights about user interactions and application health. You’ll also benefit from a robust suite of developer documentation, product guides, and tutorials to accelerate your journey in building dapps on the Infura platform.
6. Security: Infura is part of ConsenSys, a blockchain company that operates an Information Security Management System (ISMS) aligned with the ISO/IEC 27001 and ISO/IEC 27001:13 standards. These are internationally accepted standards designed to improve information security in organizations and measure a company’s capacity to secure user information and mitigate security threats.
7. Developer tooling: Apart from blockchain APIs, Infura offers decentralized storage for developers through its IPFS API, transaction management and gas processing, NFT API, and more. Also, building your dapp on Infura means you have access to the ConsenSys’ product suite that includes several industry-leading tools, including Truffle, MetaMask, and many more.
8. Track record: As a crypto-native company, Infura has a long track record of helping blockchain developers build, launch, and manage Web3 applications successfully. You can read our case studies to see how notable projects, including Aragon DAO, Uniswap, and PoolTogether, use Infura to optimize their blockchain infrastructure.
Get in touch
Want to learn more about Infura’s product suite and how you can integrate it into your development workflow? Get in touch with our team. You can also start your development journey immediately by signing up for a free Infura account today.