Starting an online store is easier than ever these days and pretty much anybody can have a fully functional website in a couple of hours thanks to eCommerce platforms. However, if you’re still new to the game, it can be difficult to tell which eCommerce solution you should go for. When it comes to available options, it boils down to self-hosted vs fully hosted eCommerce solutions, but what are the benefits of both and which one would be the best for your business and level of expertise? Well, let’s take a closer look at what both options have to offer to see which one is best for you.
What’s a Fully Hosted eCommerce Platform?
Before you decide which option is right for you, it’s essential that you understand what makes them different in the first place. When we’re talking about a fully hosted platform, we’re talking about a platform where all the hosting in addition to the software is handled by the platform. Everything is accessible through the cloud and you don’t have to deal with things like server configuration or install anything.
This eCommerce platform review, for instance, has a few examples of fully hosted platforms. One example of a popular hosted platform is Shopify. BigCommerce and Volusion are also very popular. These platforms will usually have a very simple drag and drop type of web builder that will allow you to create a professional looking website even if you have no experience. They will also usually have an easy to implement shopping cart that will allow you to accept payments easily.
Another thing that is great with fully hosted platforms is that they demand much less maintenance than self-hosted ones. If time is a major issue for youor you are afraid that you don’t have the expertise needed to take care of regular updates, for instance, then a fully hosted platform would be the best for you. Hosted providers will take care of security patches and install the latest updates for you, which will greatly reduce downtime and make sure your site stays up to date.
And if you have limited web design or coding knowledge, fully hosted websites are also a great choice. Hosted platforms also give you access to much better customer service and technical support as well. They know that many of their customers aren’t the most technically savvy and they will go above and beyond to help them.
Hosted websites will usually offer a flat fee that won’t fluctuate much, so you don’t have to deal with unexpected price changes. And the security of your website will usually be taken care of by the service provider. With a self-hosted solution, you will be responsible for all the safety protocols and precautions.
What’s a Self-Hosted eCommerce Platform?
Self-hosted platforms, on the other hand, will require that you take care of the hosting yourself and you install the software on your server. Think about performing a WordPress installation. The only difference here is that you’ll be installing the eCommerce platform of your choice. This also means that your files will be saved on your own server and that you can change hosting at any time if you want to get a better deal or better performance. Examples of popular self-hosted eCommerce platforms include Magento and WooCommerce.
However, since you will be handling the installation and hosting yourself, you’ll also have much more responsibility. You’ll need a solid grasp of things such as security and fraud protection, for instance. And you should also be aware that since many of these applications are open source, they tend to be more vulnerable to information breaches, which could end up costing you a lot in recovery costs.
In many cases, you won’t have the same level of support with a self-hosting platform either. Many won’t have a central support system you’ll be able to access at all times. While user communities can be very helpful, they won’t always be able to answer your questions and you’ll often be left to your own devices and have to troubleshoot issues on your own if anything happens.
On the other hand, with a self-hosted solution, you’ll have more control over your files and your website and you’ll have fewer limitations on how much you can customize it. You’ll have access to the open source code, which will allow you to tweak whatever you want on your website and really personalize it. You can also hand it over to a skilled programmer who can implement some changes on your behalf.
So, which Option Should I Pick?
Well, it all depends on what you need. If you’re a medium or small business with a limited budget and limited time to address IT issues, then a fully hosted service might be the best solution. It will allow you to start selling immediately and have your site up and running without having to deal with all the backend issues. You can also launch a website with minimal starting capital since you’ll be paying on a monthly basis. And you’ll be able to save on web design and maintenance as well.
If what you want is more control and you have a dedicated IT team or expert to take care of the backend side of things, then a self-hosted platform might be a good solution for you. But know that you’ll have to invest a significant amount of money to get your site off the ground and that you’ll have to deal with updates and security issues on your own. You’ll also won’t have someone to take you by the hand if you’re having issues setting up your website or if something goes wrong at some point in time.
At the end of the day, self-hosted and fully hosted platforms appeal to two different types of customers and both have their set of pros and disadvantages. It’s up to you as a seller to see which one would fit the best with your strategy and what you’re looking for in an eCommerce solution.