How to Choose a Blockchain Node Provider
Blockchain node providers are an important part of the web3 technology stack because they are the gateway through which web3 developers access information from and send transactions to a blockchain.
There are two types of blockchain node providers: multichain node providers and chain-specific node providers. Multichain service providers manage nodes for multiple blockchains, whereas chain-specific service providers like this list of the best Solana RPC providers, supports a single blockchain.
Let’s look at the nine qualities that make a great web3 node providers, and then the steps for choosing the best option for your web3 project.
What qualities make a great blockchain node provider?
The important qualities of a great blockchain node provider include their ability to scale to meet unexpected demand, their reliability to stay online all the time, accurately reading data from the blockchain, offering support for multiple blockchains, providing access to full nodes and archive nodes, useful developer tools, custom APIs, and helpful support from sales, developer relations team members, and engineering staff.
Scalability is one of the most essential qualities of a node provider. You need to ensure that your node provider is ready to give you and your application the throughput you need to achieve high and sustained growth. If your node provider can't handle your applications throughput (transactions per second), or total volume, your users will have a poor experience using your application.
For example, Polygon, a popular Ethereum sidechain, uses Alchemy to sustain its hyper-growth. Since Alchemy started supporting Polygon in June 2021, Polygon has grown 95x, yet Polygon has stayed as fast as ever.
Make sure that your node provider can accommodate this kind of growth.
2. Blockchain Node Reliability
You need to make sure that your node provider is reliable in keeping your application running 24/7. While some web3 developers may look for the cheapest node provider to host their application, a few minutes of downtime can cost millions of dollars in missed transaction fees or lost customers.
0x, the global backbone for decentralized exchanges (DEX) is powered by Alchemy because of its extreme reliability. Since they started using Alchemy, 0x has experienced 99.9% uptime for its DEX.
3. Data Accuracy
Data accuracy is a little-known problem in web3, but accounts for many of the headaches suffered by users such as not receiving NFTs as expected or not seeing payments accurately reflected in their wallet. Data accuracy issues typically originate from poor architecture and the use of traditional load balancers which route traffic in ineffective ways for blockchain's complex implementation and network coordination challenges.
Ensure the node provider you decide to work with has 0 data consistency issues, a history of serving complete data, and the technical understanding to sustain this accuracy. To test the data accuracy of different blockchain node providers, use Alchemy’s benchmarking tool to see how two providers compare.
4. Chain Support
For large dApps, the best blockchain node providers support a wide variety of blockchain ecosystems. When choosing a node provider, you should consider how many different blockchains your provider supports because it simplifies your application's tech stack. Additionally, using a multichain node provider enables your dApp to scale across blockchains in the future.
For example, cross-chain bridges will run on Ethereum nodes, but they’ll also need to support the blockchains they bridge tokens to such as use Solana or Optimism. Ensure that your node provider provides the functionality of the chains you immediately need, and where you plan to expand.
5. Types of Nodes
There are three types of nodes: full, light, and archive nodes, and the best node providers are able to support full nodes and archive nodes. Because archive nodes are complicated to run, but necessary for certain types of applications where historical blockchain data is important, choosing a node provider that provides free access to Archive nodes is a good quality to look for.
For example, when users sign up for Alchemy's free tier, full archive node support is included for free, giving web3 developers full access to historical blockchain data.
6. Helpful Developer Relations Team
One of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a node provider is how helpful the developer relations team is. Even if they offer scalable and reliable node solutions, if it is difficult to get technical questions answered, it will be a challenge to work with.
You’ll want to make sure that your node provider has clear documentation, a suite of tutorials to guide you through their product, education materials, an extensive forum where other devs share answers to common problems, and an active Discord where you can interact with devs 24/7.
7. Responsive Support
Blockchain node providers have varying degrees of customer support ranging from free Discord access to Enterprise Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Because web3 is global, choosing a service provider that is responsive during emergencies and has qualified engineers to support you is a must.
Here are some things to look for with the support team of your node provider:
- Active team members in Discord
- Responsive Customer Product Engineers (CPEs)
- Shared Slack channels
- Private Telegram groups
- High customer satisfaction score
- Systems to escalate emergencies
- Proactive monitoring to flag issues before they compound
8. Web3 Developer Tooling
To create better web3 applications, developers need better tools. When evaluating a blockchain API provider, explore the supplemental tools that are available to your team to manage dApps, debug errors, test smart contracts, and visualize usage. Before signing a contract, make sure your provider offers the essential tools needed to support your growing team and application needs.
For example, here is a short list of web3 developer tools Alchemy's platform offers:
- Alchemy Composer - a debugging tool to reproduce JSON RPC calls
- Alchemy Build - a no-configuration in-house suite of dev tools to prototype, debug, and ship products faster
- Webhooks - create notifications across Ethereum, Polygon, Layer 2s, and Ethereum NFTs
- Mempool visualizer - track transactions in the mempool to identify delayed, stuck, or dropped transactions
9. Enhanced APIs and SDKs
The best node providers will also have a collection of enhanced APIs with which you can interact use to enhance your web3 application. For example, Alchemy offers an NFT API, Trace API, Websockets, an recently launched an SDK that simplifies interacting with the Core Ethereum API.
Enhanced APIs make the jobs of web3 developers easier by abstracting the complexity out of writing raw JSON RPC requests through standardized APIs and a simplified web3 Software Developer Kit.
How to Choose the Best Web3 Node Provider
There are so many web3 node providers including multichain providers and network-specific service providers, which can make it difficult to choose the right company with confidence. In addition to the qualities to look for in a great node provider, here are some additional things to consider:
- Pricing - make sure your provider meets your budget, or use their free option to test
- Roadmap - choose a node provider who's roadmap aligns with your goals (e.g. chain support, APIs, etc.)
- User Experience - test different node providers to determine which one is the easiest to use
- Centralization - centralized providers are generally more reliable, and decentralized providers may offer more competitive pricing.
- Community - because a node provider supports a lot of dApps, partner with someone willing to make introductions
- Benchmarks - determine what level of reliability, accuracy, block discovery time, and latency is acceptable
- Review - talk to current customers to understand a first-hand experience of working with a node provider
Choosing a node provider is a big decision for a scaling web3 startup because this underlying infrastructure is core to your customer's experience. If you want to work with the best node provider in web3, sign up for a free account and see how easy it is to build with Alchemy.