Feature Flag Services Under $300
A few weeks ago, I set out to find the best feature flag service to fit my $300 budget. Like most software developers, I turned to Google and searched for 'Best feature flag services under $300'. While the search results provided a few intriguing options, During my search, I came across three companies that appeared promising when it comes to feature flags.
I want to share these companies with you to help you choose the one that might be the best fit for your specific needs.
Companies that stood out to me
Rather than making a decision solely based on my $300 budget, I wanted to take this exercise further to investigate each provider:
To make the best decision possible, I'll evaluate each provider based on the following:
Pricing - Does the service fit my budget well?
Supported platforms - Can the service integrate with my tech stack?
Ease of use - Does the provider offer a simple management interface?
Permission and team management - Can I assign permission roles for controlling access?
Enterprise-level features - What benefits do I get at an enterprise level?
Support - is a support team available to assist with difficulties or obstacles?
With the above in mind, let's see what each provider offers.
The first thing I like to do for any new online service is to get a hands-on feel of the sign-up process.
Signing up for ConfigCat
Signing up for a free ConfigCat account was easy. I signed up using my Google account, and it took me straight to the dashboard, which I found intuitive and user-friendly.
Signing up for Azure App Configuration
Azure is a platform that includes various Microsoft services. You can sign up using a Microsoft or GitHub account. Afterward, you'll need to search for and create a resource for 'App Configuration' before setting up your feature flags.
Signing up for LaunchDarkly
After a quick sign-up, I received a confirmation email to finalize the sign-up process. During my first login, a popup wizard assisted me with navigation tips. Here is what the dashboard looks like:
Most of the time, pricing can be the primary decision factor. Let's look at how each company ranks.
To my surprise, ConfigCat's price list includes a free account option. What's even more amazing about this company is that they allow an unlimited number of team members, which, in my opinion, is remarkable.
Azure App Configuration
Azure comes as an entire package. They offer 12 months of free services with $200 in credit for the first 30 days to attract customers. However, beyond that period, you'd have to switch to a paid subscription to continue. Whether this poses a problem or not for you depends on your specific needs.
LaunchDarkly does not offer a free plan. After signing up, users are auto-enrolled in a 14-day free trial of their pro version, priced at $200 per month. After the trial period was over, I was restricted to reader-only access.
Ease of use
Apart from the price tag, ease of use is another factor to consider in making a decision. How the UI looks for a particular provider will often be a matter of preference and vary between users. But most importantly, How easy is it for a user to log in and complete a task without hassle?
The first thing I noticed about ConfigCat's UI is its simplicity. I can create a feature flag by clicking the "Add Feature Flag" button, which triggers a centered popup form with just four input fields.
The experience seems intentionally designed to be user-friendly and straightforward. From what I see, ConfigCat wants to make things as simple as possible for users. The configuration options are self-explanatory, so you won't find yourself scratching your head too often.
UX: Azure App Configuration
My first impression of Azure's interface was that it was not straightforward and took extra effort to navigate and get things done. The UI can seem overwhelming due to the multitude of options available, making it easy to feel lost even if you're familiar with the product. This sort of overload may be a common challenge. Opinions may differ, but in the end, it comes down to personal preference and finding the provider that works best for you.
Other than that, I find Azure useful. It has its place, but as a beginner, you might need to invest time learning to navigate.
The interface appears to be forthright for creating a feature flag. To summarize, here are the steps you can follow to add a feature flag:
Log in to the app.
Select the Feature Flag menu item from the left sidebar.
Click the Create flag button, which opens a right sidebar.
In the right sidebar, enter the details to create your feature flag.
Both developers and non-technical users can easily follow the above steps. However, when compared to ConfigCat, it may not be as clear.
Permission and team management
Permission is about authorizing people to do certain things. In this section, we'll explore how each provider offers this capability.
ConfigCat provides the capability to manage users and teams. When new users get invited to ConfigCat, they get assigned to the default administrator group. It is worth noting that LaunchDarkly offers more granular control during the invitation process. They allow you to set specific permissions, such as general read, write, or admin privileges to invited users. But this may not be necessary for first-time users to wrap their heads around.
Azure App Configuration
App Configuration relies on another service in the Azure ecosystem called Azure Active Directory to manage permissions across users and groups. I am not familiar with using it, but I'll provide a link to it here in case you want to check it out.
LaunchDarkly provides team management functionality, allowing teams to manage themselves. However, it's worth noting that this feature is available exclusively on their enterprise plan. In this plan, you can manage, create, and assign members to specific roles. To utilize the enterprise plan, you must make direct contact with LaunchDarkly.
You can add and manage up to 10 members with their professional plan. More than ten seats can incur additional costs.
In some cases, an organization might demand complete control of its infrastructure. Since I don't have first-hand experience using enterprise-level features, here are some helpful links to learn more:
When assigning the appropriate rights to user accounts in a Windows environment, you can choose a feature flag provider that supports Microsoft Active Directory. So, if you want to avoid the complications of Azure's user interface, it may be worth considering ConfigCat. They provide a documentation guide on how to succeed in this aspect, which can be found here
While the features provided by these services are fantastic, it is crucial to ensure the security and confidentiality of your feature flag settings. While setting a username and password is a good start, you can use additional measures to protect against password breaches. Hence, choose a provider with support for Two-factor authentication (2FA).
Fortunately, The mentioned providers support Two-factor authentication, enabling an extra layer of security to protect your account and feature flag settings.
Support and Team
Having a good support team is like having superheroes on standby. For me, a prompt and reachable support team saves the day. If you're facing trouble or have a question about how something works, you should be able to reach out and get the help you need.
Microsoft App configuration
Seeking help with customer support issues involves creating a support ticket. For support, you'll have to be subscribed to a support plan. You can find more information about the available support plans here.
LaunchDarkly provides the ability to request support by filling out a support request ticket here, but they do not offer direct chat access to their support team.
While pricing can be one of the main factors to consider when deciding which feature flag provider to go with, it may not be wise. It is possible that a cheap price will not offer you the quality of service you need, and an expensive price may exceed your budget. It is better to strike a balance somewhere in the middle.
When experimenting with different providers, I tend to lean towards the one with a wide range of features available, as with ConfigCat.
So, who's the clear winner? The answer to this question depends on your specific plans and expectations from a feature flag provider. Nevertheless, here's my answer:
The decision between LaunchDarkly and ConfigCat has been a long one for me. Finally, I chose ConfigCat mainly because it allows me to invite unlimited users.
Additionally, ConfigCat provides various communication channels, including Slack, live chat, and email for interacting with customers. They also consider working hours and time zones to prevent gaps in their customer support. An interesting aspect is that customers have direct access to developers instead of first-level support or a call center. However, navigating through complex documents can be challenging and time-consuming. Nonetheless, ConfigCat stands out by providing a high-quality service offering precise instructions for implementing specific tasks, contributing to a smoother workflow.
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