Action Cable vs Pusher: Comparing Real-Time WebSocket Solutions for Rails

In web applications, real-time features such as live chat, notifications, and real-time updates have become essential. Ruby on Rails developers have several tools at their disposal to implement these features, with Action Cable and Pusher being two of the most popular.

If you’re looking to hire Ruby on Rails developers, understanding the strengths and limitations of these tools will be beneficial in choosing the right team and technology for your project.

What is WebSocket?

A WebSocket is a protocol that enables bidirectional communication between a client and a server over a single, TCP-based socket connection. It allows the server and client to modify messages and keep the server-client connection in place for real-time or near-real-time communications.

This is a perfect option for web applications that need data exchange, such as interactive games or live sports streaming.

Action Cable

Action Cable is a fully supported library in Rails that facilitates the use of WebSockets with the rest of the Rails application. It helps to build real-time features by dealing with the majority of the coding required to set up a WebSocket connection and channels.

Key Features

1. Seamless Integration

As a built-in part of Rails, Action Cable works seamlessly with the Rails ecosystem, requiring minimal setup.

2. Channel-Based Organization

Allows you to create different channels for different functionalities, making the management of different real-time features organized.

3. Full Rails Support

Since it’s integrated, it has full support for Active Record and other Rails components.


  • No need for external services.
  • Complete control over the WebSocket communication.
  • Uses Rails’ rendering capabilities to send data directly to the client.


  • Adaptability can be a concern as it relies on the same Ruby process as the rest of your Rails app.
  • Learners must be familiar with Rails and its conventions.


Pusher is a cloud communication solution that delivers real-time interactions between web clients and servers. It takes care of the complexities that arise from handling WebSocket connections for scalable real-time apps.

Key Features

1. Hosted Solution

Being a managed service, Pusher reduces the need for in-house setup and maintenance.

2. Adaptability

Designed to scale effortlessly without the need to manage the infrastructure.

3. Rich Feature Set

Offers features like user presence, client events, and access control out of the box.


  • Easy to integrate and get started.
  • Does not require handling server-side WebSocket logic.
  • With the managed service, it ensures high availability and reliability.


  • Monthly cost depending on usage and features.
  • Less control over the WebSocket connections as it is a third-party service.
  • Potential issues with data privacy, as data travels through third-party servers.

Making the Choice: Action Cable vs Pusher

When deciding between Action Cable and Pusher, consider the following factors:

1. Project Requirements

If your project requires tight integration with Rails and you have the capacity to manage scaling, Action Cable is a good fit. For projects where ease of use, scalability, and quick setup are priorities, Pusher is preferable.

2. Resource Availability

Consider whether you have the resources to manage a WebSocket infrastructure. If not, a managed service like Pusher might be more suitable.

3. Cost Implications

Action Cable is free and built-in, but could require more server resources as your app scales. Pusher, while potentially costly, offers a predictable pricing model based on usage.


Action Cable and Pusher have many advantages when it comes to using Ruby on Rails to implement real-time features. Exploring these solutions can significantly improve the interactivity of your Rails application because these solutions make your application easily driven by users’ actions.

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