April 24, 2022

16 min. read

Algolia vs Elastic vs Afosto Instant Search

By Sander Kah

Algolia vs Elasticsearch vs Instant Search

Why is website search important?

If you run a website for your business, improving the search experience for customers should be one of your major concerns. It can help you make your business more visible to customers. This translates to more conversions and sales, which is good for the growth of your business.

You can improve the search experience for your website or app via search engines. Search engines index your data, making it quick to search. Choosing the right search engine for your business can be tricky as you will be puzzled by the many options that are available on the internet. Algolia vs Elasticsearch vs Afosto are some of the common search engines today. To help you choose the right solution for your business, we have decided to do a three-way comparison between these search engines. But first, let's have a brief overview of each of the tools.


Algolia is an API platform that helps businesses to maximize the speed of search and discoverability and solve the problem of relevance tuning through Artificial Intelligence. It was designed in C++. With Algolia, accessing content or product on websites and mobile apps is faster and more intuitive.

Fast results with Algolia

It enriches the search experience using features such as autocomplete, query suggestions, filters, and infinite scrolling. Algolia can deliver the right content to users in milliseconds. It also comes with analytics features, allowing developers to customize the relevance of the user experience and gain insights into how users interact with their content.


Elasticsearch is a search and analytics engine that is based on Apache Lucene. It is free, open-source, highly scalable, and was designed in Java. With Elasticsearch, you can store and analyze huge volumes of data faster and in near real-time. Elasticsearch is used as the underlying technology or engine to power applications with complex search features and requirements.

Elasticsearch everywhere

Elasticsearch gets unstructured data from different sources, stores and indexes it based on user-specified mapping and makes it searchable. It has a distributed architecture which allows it to analyze huge data volumes in near real-time. You can start with only one machine and scale to hundreds with time. It can be run on-premise as well as in the cloud.


Afosto's Instant Search is a powerful search engine for your website. It is designed to do searches on every keystroke. Instant Search delivers as-you-type results right from the first keystroke, helping you to double your conversion with fast search. Instant Search makes it easy for web visitors to find what they are looking for and website owners to customize search results based on analytics. You can also adapt the search results based on the needs of your site visitors.

Instant Search a advanced digital search

Instant Search offers an instant search experience with features such as typo handling, custom ranking, filters, and many others. It allows you to do a one-time setup in the management environment and the day-to-day operations in the app.

Next, we will be discussing how the above three search engines compare with each other in different areas.

Algolia vs Elasticsearch vs Afosto

The comparison will consider the following core areas:

  • Hosting
  • Speed
  • Pricing
  • Scalability
  • Indexing
  • User Experience
  • Search Relevance

Algolia vs Elasticsearch vs Afosto: Hosting

Before choosing a search engine for your website or app, it’s good to know whether it’s a hosted or a self-hosted solution. This will help you know whether you will incur the cost of purchasing a server and the burden of managing it, or not.

Algolia Hosting

Algolia is a hosted SaaS (Software-as-a-service) option, meaning that they handle all data storage and hosting of the indexing system . Algolia isn't a database, but it's a hosted search engine that can be accessed through an API.

Elasticsearch Hosting

Elasticsearch is free, but you will incur some costs to host. You can set up a server and host it, but you will have to pay for hosting and managing the server. It also has a hosted solution whose cost starts at around $40/month. If you have a server and you possess the technical know-how, then Elasticsearch will be an attractive alternative. You will also have to buy the plugin at a fee of $99.

Afosto Hosting

Just like Algolia, Afosto is a hosted option, which means that they are responsible for all data storage and hosting of the indexing system.

Algolia vs Elasticsearch vs Afosto: Speed

Speed is an important factor as far as search engines are concerned. A good search engine should provide a fast response in real-time or near real-time. Let’s see how the three search engines compare to each other in terms of speed.

Algolia Speed

Algolia was designed to reduce latency. It's super-fast, and it shows search results as you type without the need to hit the Enter key. Most of the queries take less than 20 milliseconds to return results.

The speed of Algolia

Algolia’s search after each keystroke (Source-techcrunch.com) They have a Distributed Search Network (DSN) which allows you to duplicate your data in many locations across the world. User queries reach the closest data center, reducing latency significantly. It also shows a snippet of the content once you hover over the search results.

Elasticsearch Speed

Elasticsearch performs very well for document search out-of-the-box, but an extra investment is required to offer a fully-featured and user-friendly search. In a benchmarking test to determine Algolia vs Elasticsearch performance, Algolia returned results 200X faster than Elasticsearch. Elasticsearch can also sometimes be too slow if you want to provide a full instant search experience. Most of the time, it is significantly slower in returning search results compared to Afosto. Elasticsearch heavily depends on the filesystem cache for fast search speed. Thus, you should ensure that at least half of the available memory is allocated to the filesystem cache to help Elasticsearch store hot regions of an index in physical memory.

Afosto Speed

Afosto's Instant Search has the search-as-you-type feature which delivers a lightning-fast speed, returning results in less than 30 milliseconds. It performs search on every keystroke. Every keystroke generates a new query in the search engine. For example, if a user types "sources", Instant Search will perform seven queries, that is, "s", "so","sou", "sour", "sourc", "source", and finally "sources". Thus, your site visitors are able to find results very fast. Afosto is a perfect choice if you need a simple and easy tool to deploy a typo-tolerant search bar that provides a prefix searching capability, makes search intuitive for users, and returns them their results instantly with near-perfect relevance.

With Instant Search, you can search through many sources with just one search query. For example, you can search through product catalogues, pages, and helpdesk articles with a single user search field.

Algolia vs Elasticsearch vs Afosto: Pricing

Algolia, ElasticSearch, and Afosto have different approaches to pricing, and this can influence your choice of a search engine for your business. This forms the subject of our discussion in this section.

Algolia Pricing

Algolia offers three pricing plans namely Free, Standard, and Premium.

Pricing of Algolia

In algolia, each keystroke is a search request. The Standard plan costs $1 per unit search. So 1000 keystrokes is one dollar, capped on 1000 documents. The Premium plan charges $1.50 per unit search every month. The Premium plan comes with advanced AI-powered search features such as personalization, rules and more. Algolia also offers you a 14-day free trial period for the Standard plan upon signing up without the need to provide credit card information.

Elasticsearch Pricing

Elasticsearch is a free and open-source tool, so you don't have to pay anything to use it. Thus, on whether algolia or Elasticsearch considering pricing, Elasticsearch is the cheapest.

Afosto Pricing

Afosto's Instant Search is both a free and a paid search engine. It has a free plan named "Free Forever" which doesn't require you to pay anything to use. It accepts up to 100 documents. Instant Search has three other paid plans namely Starter, Serious, and Pro plans.

Pricing of Instant Search

The Starter plan accepts between 100 and 1,000 documents and costs €0.01 per document. The Serious plan accepts between 1,000 and 10,000 documents and costs €0.005 per document. The Pro plan supports up to 100,000 documents and costs €0.0025 per document.

We can compare Algolia vs Afosto in terms of pricing based on 10,000 documents and 250,000 requests (that’s 250,000 keystrokes). For Algolia, the user will be charged $250, which is only €100 for Afosto's Instant Search. Thus, an Algolia user will pay more than double of what an Instant Search user would have paid.

Algolia vs Elasticsearch vs Afosto: Scalability

Search engines should possess the capability to quickly process huge volumes of data, with records running up to hundreds of millions. Thus, scalability is an important feature to consider when comparing Algolia vs Elastic vs Afosto.

Algolia Scalability

Algolia, Elasticsearch, and Afosto's Instant Search support the sharding feature which allows for the scaling of data across multiple indices. Algolia handles sharding behind the scenes, making it invisible to the users. Rebalancing of the shards can be done dynamically to avoid hot spots. Algolia recommends that you notify them when you plan to index a massive quantity of data. They will help you to monitor the infrastructure and engine, and optimize the configuration of indices and machines.

Elasticsearch Scalability

Elasticsearch is designed to support horizontal scaling, which makes it better in supporting scaling and cluster management. However, this comes with a disadvantage in that you cannot increase the shards once they have been created, but you can reduce the shards using a shrink API. In case a shard or a node fails, Elasticsearch will do cluster rebalancing on its own, that is, without the need for manual intervention.

Afosto Scalability

Just like Algolia, Instant Search distributes the shards behind the scenes, making them invisible to the users. In addition, their clusters support autoscaling, relieving users from most of the tasks involved in scaling clusters.

Algolia vs Elasticsearch vs Afosto: Indexing

An index is an entity that gathers a set of documents with its own settings. It can be compared to a table in SQL, or a collection in MongoDB. In this section, we will be discussing how the three search engines approach indexing.

Algolia Indexing

Algolia doesn't require you to create an index explicitly, but it automatically creates it after you add an object for the first time. It also separates search from indexing and assigns them different CPU priorities. Algolia indexes are good for managing huge data volumes. They are also easy to configure, thus, users can fine-tune them to improve the search experience.

Elasticsearch Indexing

Elasticsearch is schemaless, which makes it easy to index dynamic fields and unstructured data without the need to define the index schema in advance. The Elastic Common Schema feature helps users to consolidate data types and field names to avoid conflicts.

Afosto Indexing

Afosto automatically creates an index once you add an object for the first time, thus, you don't have to create it explicitly. Its indexes are also good for managing large data volumes. The indexes are easy to work with and fine-tune for a better user search experience.

Algolia vs Elasticsearch vs Afosto: User Experience

A good search engine should be easy to use, even by non-technical users. Algolia, Elasticsearch, and Afosto have implemented different features to improve user experience as discussed below.

Algolia User Experience

Algolia comes with front-end widgets and APIs to improve the user experience. Its dashboard has several filters, making it easy to use by all users. You can configure these filters to view the user data such as history or behavior in a simplified manner. Algolia also leverages AI to deliver a more personalized user experience. Other Algolia features that help improve user experience include Autocomplete, infinite scrolling, and query suggestions.

The user experience of Algolia

Elasticsearch User Experience

Elasticsearch also comes with a number of features to improve the search experience for users. Some of these features include Elasticsearch correct API that corrects user spelling mistakes, suggesters which add an autocomplete suggestion feature to provide relevant results as a user types on the search box, and fuzzy queries that handle typos by providing "Did you mean this instead".

The user experience of Elasticsearch

Afosto User Experience

Just like Algolia and Elasticsearch, Afosto also comes with a number of features for a better user experience. Users search as they type as every keystroke refreshes the displayed results. Its lightning-fast speed enables it to return results in hundreds of thousands of documents to users in milliseconds.

The user experience of Instant Search

Users can also adapt search results depending on the needs of website visitors using big data. Other Instant Search features that help to improve user experience include typos & autocorrection, synonyms, filters, and stop words.

Algolia vs Elasticsearch vs Afosto: Search Relevance

A good search engine should show the most relevant search results at the top. Getting irrelevant search results can be frustrating. Hence, this is an important feature to consider when comparing Algolia vs Elastic vs Afosto.

Algolia Search Relevance

Algolia is built on transparent and simple search rules that can be managed easily. It uses business insights to improve the way in which search results are ordered. Algolia is also integrated with AI features that help engineers to fine-tune and improve search relevance. Other features used by Algolia to improve search relevance include proximity matching, geo-based searches, custom ranking, and searchable attributes.

Elasticsearch Search Relevance

By default, Elasticsearch uses the BM25 algorithm for relevance. The algorithm uses a number of parameters to determine the relevance score. These parameters include term frequency (which is the number of times a term appears in a document), inverse document frequency (which is how rare a term appears in all documents in the index), and field length (a high number of terms in a field makes it less relevant).

Relevance of Elasticsearch

Thus, as far as Algolia vs Elasticsearch search relevance is concerned, Algolia provides a simpler approach. Thus, when it comes to Algolia Elasticsearch search relevance, Algolia offers a better approach.

Afosto Search Relevance

Afosto's Instant Search uses custom ranking rules for search relevance. This gives users an opportunity to fine-tune search relevance according to the specific needs of their businesses.

Relevance of Instant Search

For example, let's say you are building an app that is based on Twitter feeds. During search, your goal is to rank the results by relevance and custom attributes such as retweets and likes. Instant Search's custom ranking rules will allow you to specify the attributes to rank on.

The following table summarizes what we have discussed above:

FeatureAlgoliaElasticsearchAfostoHostingAlgolia is een gehoste SaaS optie. Ze verzorgen de gegevensopslag en hosten het indexeringssysteem.Elasticsearch is een zelf gehoste oplossing, dus je moet zelf de hostingserver kopen en die beheren. De gehoste oplossing kost $40 per maandAfosto is een gehoste optie. Zij nemen de verantwoordelijkheid op zich voor de gegevensopslag en het hosten van het indexeringssysteem.SnelheidAlgolia is supersnel omdat het zoekresultaten toont terwijl je typt. De meeste zoekopdrachten geven resultaten in minder dan 20 milliseconden.Elasticsearch presteert goed voor document-zoeken out-of-the-box, maar het kan traag zijn als je een volledige instant zoek-ervaring wilt bieden.Afosto's Instant Search levert een bliksemsnelle snelheid door zijn zoek-als-je-typt functie, en geeft resultaten in minder dan 30 milliseconden.PrijsHet heeft drie prijsplannen, Gratis, Standaard, en Premium. Elke toetsaanslag is een zoekopdracht. Het Standaard plan kost $1 per zoekopdracht per eenheid, terwijl het Premium plan maandelijks $1.50 per zoekopdracht per eenheid vraagt.Het is een gratis en open-source hulpmiddel, dus je kunt het gebruiken zonder iets te betalen. De kosten van de gehoste versie beginnen bij ongeveer $40/maand. Je zult wel de plugin moeten kopen tegen betaling van $99.Het heeft een gratis plan en drie betaalde plannen, Starter, Serious, en Pro plannen. Het Starter plan kost €0.01 per document, het Serious plan €0.005 per document, terwijl het Pro plan €0.0025 per document kost.SchaalbaarheidHet ondersteunt schaalbaarheid door sharding. Algolia handelt sharding achter de schermen af, zodat het onzichtbaar is voor de gebruikers.Elasticsearch ondersteunt horizontaal schalen. Je kunt de shards echter niet verkleinen nadat ze zijn aangemaakt.Net als Algolia verdeelt het shards achter de schermen, waardoor ze onzichtbaar zijn voor de gebruikers. Bovendien ondersteunen hun clusters autoscaling.IndexeringHet maakt automatisch een object aan als je voor de eerste keer een object toevoegt.Elasticsearch is schemales, vandaar dat het niet het indexschema hoeft te definiëren alvorens velden en gegevens te indexeren.Het maakt automatisch een index aan zodra je een nieuw object toevoegt.GebruikservaringHet heeft front-end widgets, filters, en API's om de gebruikerservaring te verbeteren. Het gebruikt ook AI om een gepersonaliseerde gebruikerservaring te bieden.Het gebruikt Elasticsearch correcte API, suggesters, en fuzzy queries om de gebruikerservaring te verbeteren.Afosto vertrouwt op functies als bliksemsnelle zoeksnelheid, typefouten & autocorrectie, synoniemen, filters, en stopwoorden voor een betere gebruikerservaring.Zoek relevantieAlgolia ordent resultaten op basis van zakelijke inzichten. Het gebruikt ook AI, nabijheidsmatching, geo-gebaseerde zoekopdrachten, aangepaste rangschikking, en doorzoekbare attributen om de zoekrelevantie te verbeteren.Gebruikt het BM25 algoritme voor zoekrelevantie. Het algoritme gebruikt parameters als term frequentie, inverse document frequentie, en veldlengte om de relevantie score te berekenen.Afosto gebruikt aangepaste rangschikkingsregels voor zoekrelevantie. Gebruikers kunnen de regels afstemmen op hun specifieke bedrijfsbehoeften.

Algolia vs Elasticsearch vs Afosto: Summary

From the above discussion, it's very clear that the above search engines, Algolia vs Elastic vs Afosto, have a number of differences that make each search engine unique in its own way. It is now clear whether to choose Algolia or Elasticsearch or Afosto for your business.

If you need a hosted search engine to relieve you from the task of setting up your own server and managing it, choose Algolia. Algolia will handle all data storage and indexing for you. It also offers a good speed with simple and transparent rules for improving search relevance. However, it is a bit expensive compared to its alternatives.

If you are looking for a free, open-source, and self-hosted search engine to help you improve the search experience for your website or app, Elasticsearch is the best option for you. Note that this will require you to acquire a server and have the technical ability to manage it. You will also have to buy its plugin at a cost of $99. However, both Algolia and Afosto's Instant Search beat Elasticsearch when it comes to speed. Elasticsearch also uses a complex algorithm for search relevance, thus, it may be a bit hard to fine-tune it.

Afosto is similar to Algolia, but it's cheaper. Algolia has more advanced features, but that comes at a price. If you want a high-quality, cheap, and easy-to-use search engine, choose Afosto. If you’re an enterprise, choose Algolia.

Written by
Sander Kah

I'm Sander, a SaaS entrepreneur with over 5 years of experience in co-owning and growing a software company, Afosto, that helps retailers succeed using smart and scalable software solutions. I'm also the co-founder of Sanwin Beachwear, an exclusive beachwear brand for men, and a pilot, flying Boeing 737 aircrafts across Europe and beyond. I'm passionate about creating value for my clients, partners, and customers, and seeing them achieve their business goals and reach new heights. When I'm not in the cockpit or the boardroom, I love to explore the world, kitesurf, and camp in my van. I'm always open to connect and exchange ideas with like-minded people, so feel free to reach out to me.

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