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Retool Self Hosted Exploration

The need for capable internal tools has never been more pressing than in today's agility and efficiency oriented business battlefield. However, traditional software development processes can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, often overburdening engineering teams. 


Retool recently announced the public beta of self-hosted options for their Free and Startup plans, opening up a new world of possibilities for companies seeking greater control and flexibility over their internal tool development.


  • Retool's self-hosted options allow businesses to deploy the platform on their own infrastructure, granting them superior control over their data, security, and compliance measures. This is particularly beneficial for companies operating in regulated industries or those with strict data privacy requirements.

  • By hosting Retool internally, businesses can ensure that sensitive data never leaves their secure environment, mitigating the risk of potential breaches or unauthorized access. This level of control is crucial for companies handling sensitive information, such as personally identifiable information (PII) or healthcare data governed by HIPAA regulations.

  • Self-hosted Retool enables businesses to seamlessly integrate with their existing infrastructure and connect to data sources within their private networks or locally, eliminating the need for complex data transfers or third-party integrations.


It's important to note the key differences between Retool's Enterprise and Self-Hosted plans:

  • The Enterprise plan is a fully-managed solution provided by Retool, where the platform is hosted and maintained by Retool's team. This option is ideal for businesses that prefer a hands-off approach and want to focus solely on application development.

  • In contrast, the Self-Hosted plan puts the responsibility of hosting and maintaining the platform on the business itself. This option offers greater control and customization but requires more technical expertise and resources from the company's side.


By offering self-hosted options, Retool enables businesses to strike the perfect balance between the convenience of low-code development and the security and control required by their unique operational and regulatory environments.



Key Features of Self-Hosted Retool


Key Features of Self-Hosted Retool

Retool's self-hosted offering packs a powerful punch with a comprehensive suite of features tailored to meet the diverse needs of modern businesses. Here are some key highlights:


  • Building Blocks: Self-hosted Retool supports a wide array of building blocks, enabling developers to create rich and interactive applications effortlessly. From intuitive tables to visually stunning charts, the platform provides a robust toolkit to bring ideas to life.

  • Deployment Flexibility: Retool's self-hosted solution offers superior deployment flexibility. Businesses can choose to deploy it as a Docker container, leveraging the power of containerization for seamless portability and scalability. Alternatively, organizations can opt for a Kubernetes deployment using Helm, allowing for efficient management and orchestration of Retool instances across multiple clusters.

  • Identity Management and Version Control: Ensuring secure access and collaborative development is a breeze with Retool's self-hosted offering. It supports robust identity management solutions, allowing businesses to control and manage user access effectively. Additionally, version control with Git integration enables teams to collaborate seamlessly, track changes, and maintain a comprehensive audit trail of their application development efforts.

  • Multi-Environment Deployments: Retool recognizes the importance of segregating development, staging, and production environments. With self-hosted Retool, businesses can easily deploy applications across multiple environments, streamlining the development lifecycle and ensuring proper testing and validation before pushing changes to production.

  • Enterprise-Grade Security: Addressing the security concerns of modern enterprises, self-hosted Retool offers Active Directory (AD) integration through SAML SSO and two-factor authentication (2FA). This robust security feature ensures that only authorized personnel can access sensitive applications and data, providing an additional layer of protection against potential threats.


By embracing self-hosted Retool, businesses gain access to a powerful low-code platform that combines ease of development with enterprise-grade features and uncompromising security. Whether deploying on Docker or Kubernetes, managing identities with Git, or leveraging AD integration for enhanced security, Retool allows organizations to build custom applications tailored to their unique requirements.


Now, let's take a closer look at some of the challenges and limitations you should keep in mind.


Challenges and Limitations


  • Requires coding knowledge, potentially less accessible for teams without developers

  • Can be expensive due to user-based pricing

  • Lacks an integrated debug suite

  • User interface elements may not always meet complex application requirements


While self-hosted Retool offers numerous advantages, it's crucial to weigh the challenges and limitations.

 

Toolpioneers understands these considerations and works closely with clients to ensure a smooth transition to self-hosted Retool, providing expert guidance and support every step of the way!


Comparison with Alternatives



While Retool's self-hosted offering presents an attractive solution for businesses seeking control and flexibility, it's essential to understand how it compares to other alternatives in the market. Here's a closer look at some of the key players and how they stack up against Retool's self-hosted capabilities:


1. Jet Admin

Designed with non-technical users in mind, Jet Admin is a low-code platform that simplifies the creation of admin panels and internal tools. However, it lacks support for JavaScript, which can limit its functionality for more complex applications.


2. DronaHQ

This platform offers a broader range of UI controls compared to Retool, providing developers with more options for creating intricate user interfaces. However, it requires a higher level of app development knowledge, potentially making it less accessible for teams without extensive coding expertise.


3. Forest Admin

Tailored specifically for creating admin panels, Forest Admin is an excellent choice for businesses with high-security standards. Its focus on compliance and data protection make it well-suited for industries with stringent regulations, such as finance or healthcare.


4. Internal.io

The recent shutdown of Internal.io, a platform similar to Retool, signals a potential market consolidation in the low-code space. This development highlights the importance of choosing a reliable and well-established solution like Retool to ensure long-term support and stability.


5. UI Bakery

UI Bakery offers a straightforward no-code solution that is particularly well-suited for users without extensive technical skills. While it provides a user-friendly environment for quickly creating web applications, it may not offer the same level of depth in customization and programming flexibility that Retool does. UI Bakery's focus on ease of use and speed of deployment makes it an excellent choice for simpler applications. However, businesses requiring more complex integrations and customized functionality might find Retool’s self-hosted options more aligned with their needs, especially where detailed control over the application and its data is crucial.


6. Budibase


Budibase positions itself as a versatile low-code platform with a strong emphasis on customization and control, much like Retool. It appeals particularly to those with some technical know-how, given its open-source nature and the ability to modify the source code. Compared to Retool, Budibase may offer similar flexibility but differs in its community-driven development approach and broader customization options through direct code edits. For companies that value extensive customization and have the capability to manage and tweak the platform’s core, Budibase is a strong contender, though Retool’s structured support and established user base might offer more reassurance for enterprises looking for stability.


7. Appsmith

Appsmith is another powerful alternative, offering a developer-centric approach with its open-source framework that allows for extensive customization and integration. Like Retool, it supports a wide array of data sources and provides robust capabilities for building complex internal tools. Appsmith may require a steeper learning curve due to its emphasis on allowing JavaScript customization across the application, which can be a double-edged sword: it's powerful but might be intimidating for less technical users. For businesses that need deep control over their applications and are comfortable managing more complex development environments, Appsmith is an excellent option, though Retool’s more managed self-hosting solution might be preferable for those looking for a balance between control and convenience.


Toolpioneers' expertise in the low-code domain enables them to provide comprehensive guidance to businesses, helping them navigate the landscape of alternatives and choose the solution that best aligns with their unique requirements!


Speaking of staying informed, understanding the release channels for self-hosted Retool is next on our agenda.



Release Channels for Self-Hosted Retool


Retool's self-hosted offering comes with a flexible release cadence, allowing businesses to choose the update schedule that best suits their needs. Here's a closer look at the available release channels and the process of updating to newer versions:


1. Stable Release Channel

For businesses that prioritize stability and predictability, Retool offers a Stable Release Channel. This channel receives quarterly updates, ensuring that new features and enhancements are thoroughly tested before deployment. Each release in this channel is supported with patches and bug fixes for six months, providing ample time for businesses to plan and execute their upgrade cycles.


2. Edge Release Channel

Catering to businesses that thrive on cutting-edge features and the latest innovations, the Edge Release Channel delivers weekly updates. This channel is ideal for organizations that value staying ahead of the curve and want to leverage the newest Retool capabilities as soon as they become available.


3. Legacy Releases

To support businesses with older deployments, Retool provides a well-defined support and deprecation policy for legacy releases prior to February 27, 2024. This approach ensures that organizations have ample time to plan and execute their migration strategies, minimizing disruptions to their operations.


Updating to a Newer Release


Recommendations for upgrading within the same release channel

Retool strongly recommends upgrading within the same release channel to ensure a smooth transition and minimize potential compatibility issues. For instance, businesses on the Stable Release Channel should upgrade to the latest version within that channel, rather than attempting to switch to the Edge Release Channel.


Warnings against cross-channel upgrades

While cross-channel upgrades are technically possible, they are not recommended due to the potential for compatibility issues and unexpected behavior. Retool's release channels are designed to maintain stability and consistency within their respective update cycles.


Procedure for upgrading legacy deployments

For businesses running legacy deployments prior to February 27, 2024, Retool provides detailed guidelines and support to ensure a seamless migration to the latest version. This process typically involves backing up existing data, performing any necessary data migrations, and deploying the new version while adhering to best practices.


Toolpioneers’ expertise in Retool's self-hosted offering extends to providing comprehensive guidance and support throughout the upgrade process. Their team of experts can assist businesses in navigating the release channels, understanding the implications of each update, and executing seamless upgrades with minimal disruption to operations!


By leveraging Retool's flexible release cadence and following best practices for upgrades, businesses can strike the right balance between staying current with the latest features and maintaining a stable and secure environment for their mission-critical applications.


Deploying and Managing Self-Hosted Retool

Retool's self-hosted offering provides businesses with a seamless deployment experience, backed by robust management capabilities. Here's a closer look at the key aspects of deploying and managing self-hosted Retool:


Deploying Retool on Render with one-click deployment options

Retool has partnered with Render, a leading cloud platform, to offer one-click deployment options for self-hosted instances. This streamlined approach simplifies the deployment process, allowing businesses to quickly spin up Retool instances without the hassle of manual configuration.


Getting and applying a license key

To unlock the full potential of self-hosted Retool, businesses need to obtain a license key. This key can be easily acquired through Retool's licensing portal and applied to the self-hosted instance, granting access to the complete feature set.


Setting up a PostgreSQL database for Retool metadata

Retool's self-hosted offering requires a PostgreSQL database to store metadata related to applications, users, and configurations. Businesses can either leverage an existing PostgreSQL instance or provision a new one, ensuring that critical application data is securely stored and managed.


Adding Google Login functionality

For enhanced security and user experience, self-hosted Retool supports integration with Google Login. This feature allows users to authenticate with their Google accounts, streamlining the login process and leveraging the robust security measures provided by Google.


Customizing via GitHub repository fork

Retool's self-hosted offering is built on an open-source codebase, enabling businesses to fork the GitHub repository and customize the platform to meet their specific requirements. This level of customization empowers organizations to tailor Retool's functionality, user interface, and integrations to align with their unique business needs.


Security and Control


One of the key advantages of self-hosted Retool is the enhanced security and control it provides to businesses. Here are some notable benefits:


Enhanced security and control by hosting Retool privately

By hosting Retool on their own infrastructure, businesses gain complete control over the security posture of the platform. They can implement robust security measures, such as network segmentation, access controls, and advanced monitoring, to ensure the highest levels of protection for their applications and data.


Compliance with PII and HIPAA requirements without storing data externally

For organizations operating in regulated industries or handling sensitive data, self-hosted Retool offers a compelling solution. By keeping all data within their private environment, businesses can comply with stringent regulations governing personally identifiable information (PII) and healthcare data (HIPAA) without the need to store data externally.


Connecting to data sources within private networks or locally

Self-hosted Retool allows businesses to seamlessly connect to data sources within their private networks or locally hosted databases. This capability eliminates the need for complex data transfers or third-party integrations, further enhancing security and control over sensitive information.


Toolpioneers' expertise in deploying and managing self-hosted Retool ensures that businesses can leverage the full potential of this powerful platform while maintaining the highest standards of security and compliance!



Target Audience and Deployment Reasons


Self-hosted Retool caters to a diverse range of businesses with varying operational and regulatory requirements. Here are the key target audiences and deployment reasons:


  1. Developers at operationally-intensive companies: Companies that rely heavily on internal tools and automation to streamline their operations can greatly benefit from self-hosted Retool. Developers at these organizations can leverage Retool's low-code capabilities to rapidly build and deploy custom applications, minimizing the strain on engineering resources and accelerating time-to-market.

  2. Companies operating in regulated industries requiring private deployment: Businesses operating in regulated industries, such as finance, healthcare, or government sectors, often face stringent data privacy and security regulations. Self-hosted Retool provides these companies with a secure and compliant solution for building internal tools, ensuring that sensitive data remains within their private infrastructure and adheres to industry-specific regulations.


Deployment Reasons

  1. Companies operating in regulated industries requiring private deployment: For organizations subject to strict data privacy and security regulations, such as those governing personally identifiable information (PII) or healthcare data (HIPAA), self-hosted Retool offers a compelling solution. By deploying Retool within their own private infrastructure, these companies can maintain complete control over sensitive data, ensuring compliance without the need to store information externally.

  2. Preferences for hosting in own VPC or locally due to regulatory or security reasons: Some businesses may have a preference or requirement to host applications within their own Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) or on-premises infrastructure due to regulatory or security reasons. Self-hosted Retool caters to these preferences, allowing companies to leverage the power of low-code development while maintaining full control over their data and infrastructure.

  3. Operationally-intensive companies seeking to reduce engineering overhead: Companies with complex and operationally-intensive processes often rely heavily on internal tools and automation. By adopting self-hosted Retool, these organizations can empower their developers to build custom applications rapidly, minimizing the burden on engineering teams and accelerating the delivery of critical tools.



Conclusion

As companies strive to remain competitive in today's digital landscape, the need for agile and efficient internal tool development has never been more pressing. 

Whether you're a developer at an operationally-intensive company, a business operating in a regulated industry, or an organization with a preference for hosting in your own VPC or locally, Toolpioneers is your trusted partner in exploring the new self-hosted Retool capabilities.


Embracing the flexibility and power of self-hosted Retool, Toolpioneers is redefining the way businesses approach internal tool development, enabling them to stay ahead of the curve and unlock new levels of efficiency and productivity. To learn more about the company and its services, schedule your consultation now!

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