Meta consistently continues expanding WhatsApp into the business market.
In 2022, one of the biggest developments was the May launch of WhatsApp Cloud API for all businesses worldwide. It made quite a splash and is, indeed, an important addition to the WhatsApp ecosystem.
However, it’s understandable that if you are interested in leveraging WhatsApp automation but unfamiliar with the WhatsApp ecosystem making a choice between the Сloud API and WhatsApp Business API might be a bit tricky. To put your doubts to rest, we put together this guide!
WhatsApp Business API: An Overview
WhatsApp Business API is designed for medium to large companies that want to use the messaging app to communicate with their customers at scale. The API is more complex and more powerful than the basic WhatsApp Business App. Unlike the Business App, WhatsApp API has no app or front-end interface and must be integrated into your business software.
The Cloud and On-Premise API represent WhatsApp’s two hosting options.
WhatsApp API Hosting Options
If you are looking to use the API, you have two hosting options: On-Premises and Cloud API.
The Cloud makes for a newer addition to the ecosystem as it was only introduced into beta testing in November and officially launched in May 2022. This developer tool is simply a cloud-based version of the existing on-premise WhatsApp Business API.
While WhatsApp Cloud API can be acquired directly from Meta, WhatsApp On-premises API is usually acquired through third-party services called Business Solution Providers (BSPs)
Key Differences between On-premise & WhatsApp Cloud API
You are probably wondering which one is better. The answer is… it wholly depends on your use case. However, it is important to note that the differences between Cloud and On-premises API do not affect end-users. The only thing your customers may notice is in the system messages, which are different for each hosting type.
When you choose to use a BSP partner or use Facebook’s Cloud API, the system messages will be as follow:
If you decide to do the hosting yourself (using On-Premise without BSP) the message again will be a little different:
All in all, the biggest impact of going with the Cloud vs On-Premise API is on your business.
To help you make the call, below are several major differences between on-premise WhatsApp Business API & WhatsApp Cloud API.
For On-Premises API, your businesses and/or a selected BSP needs to host the API software on your/their own servers and in data centers. In the case of the Cloud API, Meta hosts the API on their servers. This affects several different factors, including access, pricing, maintenance, etc.
In the case of WhatsApp Cloud API, Facebook offers direct access to the Cloud API in a matter of minutes. On the other hand, with WhatsApp Business API, it's usually the BSPs who act as intermediaries to help businesses get approved for WhatsApp Business API service.
Meta's initial business model required businesses to go solo or through a BSP to get WhatsApp API. However, this could be time-consuming as well as financially difficult for many businesses so Meta decided to offer WhatsApp Cloud API as a quicker and more cost-effective way to get WhatsApp API.
With Cloud API, all the software upgrades are performed by Meta. In other words, the new features and security updates will be available automatically without any action necessary on your part. Developers don’t need to do setup, maintenance, or scaling work and also, the code changes required to adapt to longer-term API changes will be minimal.
As for the On-Premises API, here, the individual businesses and/or their BSPs need to perform API software upgrades periodically.
In On-Premises WhatsApp Business API, businesses themselves or their chosen BSPs need to pay the costs of setting up and maintaining their servers as well as pay per message sent or per conversation, following WhatsApp’s API pricing rules.
In the case of the Cloud API, Meta pays for the cost of hosting, a business will only need to pay per message sent or conversation. This makes the Cloud option more attractive to smaller or medium businesses.
The points above include the biggest contrasts between the two options. Other differences include more technical aspects such as API protocols, message throughput, certificate management, etc., which you can review in WhatsApp official documentation.
On-Premises API or Cloud API: Which is Right for You?
When deciding which solution, Cloud API or On-Premises API with a BSP, to choose for your business, you should consider your own needs and limitations.
Primarily, WhatsApp Cloud API is perfect for your business if you want to have your WhatsApp API account under full management control and have both the API and hosting from a single provider (Meta). Beware that while setting up Cloud API might be quicker and more cost-effective, it might require greater technical expertise, and the Cloud API offers no interface.
WhatsApp On-Premisses API is great if you need additional support to set it all up and get personalized support for WhatsApp API-related issues. Also, it’s important to point out that many BSPs, like Landbot, offer additional services beyond hosting and account management, such as the otherwise missing code-free interface that allows you easily create and manage WhatsApp campaigns and build Whatsapp bots.
Whichever way you decide to go, growing your business with WhatsApp is already a step in the right direction.