I support http://lifering.org, a WordPress site which has a very active multi-user chat room with about 6 dedicated rooms. For some years we've used 123FlashChat chat hosting, for text only, and last year we upgraded to include video/voice (for which some of our users donated the upgrade fee). This year the bill came and in addition to the upgrade fee, they had raised their prices, so what we thought would be about $450 came out as $768 for a year's license. We've paid them for 6 months to give ourselves time to find an alternative, they are now out of our price range.
I'm interested in 2 alternatives:
1. A list of reliable alternative chat hosting vendors, preferably with English speaking support. I'd like to compare prices if there are chat hosts people like and have used.
2. Build and host our own chat server, using (hopefully) bug-free and secure open source software. There's a lot of open source chat software out there but I have no way of evaluating it. I'd also like to know if we could run the chat room on the same virtual server that runs our web site, or if it would need a separate server.
Any advice would be much appreciated. We're particularly interested in security, as these chat rooms are used for addiction recovery support groups and the discussions contain very personal information.