Vercel, formerly called Zeit, is a cloud platform for static sites and serverless functions. It enables developers to host websites and web services that deploy instantly, scale automatically, and require little supervision in a setting that needs little configuration. This sounds like a dream come true, but do the facts add up?
We don’t think so. Since Vercel has become synonymous with the Jamstack approach, many CTOs have rushed to implement Vercel to host their sites only to find out later that things weren't exactly as advertised.
This is not to say that Vercel isn't worth trying. On the contrary, serverless computing offers some advantages over traditional cloud-based infrastructure, but these advantages are often offset by the complexity they bring to your operations. To leverage the platform to its full potential, you need developers with specific technical skills that aren't a dime a dozen. That puts companies in a developer lock-in and opens you to potential issues when your developers are not around.
As the Jamstack ecosystem grows and more enterprises get sucked into the hype, it's important to draw a line on when both the Jamstack and platforms like Vercel fit your use case and operations. In this article, we dissect Vercel and outline some considerations that enterprise companies need to take into account before enlisting Vercel.
An Overview of Vercel
Founded in 2015 by Guillermo Rauch, Vercel is a serverless platform for static and hybrid applications built to integrate with a headless content management system, eCommerce engine, or database. Vercel makes it easy for frontend developers to develop, preview, and ship blazing-fast digital experiences. With it, developers can push code to Github and get a site running in minutes. In addition, the platform is backed by a smart CDN that helps static sites perform well and ensures that sites are always live.
While this sounds great for developers, it isn't as great for business users. Marketers and non-technical people to leverage Vercel to its fullest due to the platform’s needed knowledge base.
Here are some pros and cons of Vercel before we dive deeper into the subject:
Easily scalable websites and cloud services
Seamless integration with Github
Faster website development compared to other options
Lack of solid documentation, even for developers
Made for apps, not for websites
Its primary support is for Next.js
Potential for misconfiguration if you don't have an IT team
Many moving parts
Now let's take a look at some of the not-so-often talked about drawbacks of Vercel for enterprise companies.
3 Considerations Before Buying Vercel
While Vercel comes with a series of solid business advantages, not everything is rosy for enterprise companies with specific development needs and IT infrastructure.
You Need Developers with Higher Skill Levels
Just like we stated at the beginning of this article, Vercel isn't a platform made for business users. It's a developer-centric platform that caters to developers. It offers a series of cutting-edge features that only developers with specific skills can make sense of, which places enterprises in a sort of developer lock where you're stuck with one savvy developer —or agency— and you're never entirely in control of your tech stack.
You'll probably have to increase your IT team or find an agency to help you use the platform. Platforms like Vercel, while great from a technology perspective, create an overdependence on developers that alienates business users and increases operative complications.
Vercel was Created for Apps, Not Websites
Vercel was created to deploy web apps, not websites. Using it to deploy a website is too much of an overkill and would mean treating your website like an app, prompting users to build websites with an overly complicated website infrastructure that most companies don't need and that only benefit the developers that created it in the first place. While its support for apps is great, deploying a website in Vercel — no matter how big or small— might end up eating away more resources than what you originally allotted for that.
Vercel Doesn't Automate Developer Workflows
Workflow automation uses rule-based logic to launch a series of tasks that run on their own without human intervention. Workflow automation enables developers to deploy new digital experiences with ease automatically. Vercel, despite all its benefits, doesn't do that for you and requires that developers manually host code and the CDN workflows required to deploy global-scale websites or application endpoints. Not having the option to automate workflows means that developers will need to do all of that manually, preventing them from doing higher-value tasks.
When is Vercel a Good Choice?
Despite all of these drawbacks for enterprise users, Vercel isn't worthless. The platform has the possibility to deliver solid business gains if you use it for what it does best.
Here are some of the use cases where Vercel truly shines:
Building web applications
Deploying digital experiences using Git
The Alternative to Vercel: Zesty.io + WebEngine
WebEngine is Zesty.io's tool that builds, renders, and delivers web pages at 99.99% uptime. Zesty.io —in addition to providing all of the benefits of a headless CMS— offers a unique hybrid approach that handles the complete content delivery process from database to destination, but why is WebEngine an alternative to Vercel?
WebEngine Comes Integrated with Every Zesty.io Instance
WebEngine helps users to render views for any page or page group created in Zesty.io. We handle everything on the backend to serve web pages optimized for search engines that load fast. The best thing about WebEngine is that you don't have to worry about the infrastructure as you would with other PaaS-based CMSs.
With WebEngine, the Developer has Fewer Moving Parts to Worry About
With fewer moving parts to worry about, developers can focus on other, higher-value tasks. Similarly, you don't need developers with specialized knowledge as you would with Vercel, which reduces IT-associated costs and makes it easier for the company to hire and retain talented developers.
No Need to Build a Developer Pipeline
Another important point that sets WebEngine apart is that your team doesn't have to build a workflow or developer pipeline, reducing the need for extra tools and enabling enterprises to do more with fewer tools. WebEngine automates all the workflows needed to deploy new content. It also automates the code hosting and CDN workflows.
How a Multimillion-dollar Fintech Used Zesty to Build its Digital Presence
With Zesty.io's headless delivery and content API, an American fintech company was able to ensure that all of the teams who have a hand inside the CMS are able to use it to accomplish their goals quickly. Using Zesty's WebEngine, the company has scaled its digital presence without scaling its IT headcount or increasing server or infrastructure costs.
With WebEngine, the company can publish content and digital experiences across several platforms and channels without the need for extensive infrastructure. It all gets done within Zesty without the need for a Git repository.