Hosted vs Self-Hosted eCommerce Solutions

Christina Rickabaugh August 16, 2016

How to Choose the Right eCommerce Solution for Your Business

The type of eCommerce platform you choose today is extremely impactful to your business potential in the future. When looking at eCommerce, you have two choices: hosted vs self-hosted. Since every business decision you make should be carefully considered, we’re here to help break down the benefits of each.

Hosted vs Self-Hosted

Hosted solutions like Shopify, Volusion, and BigCommerce, are platforms run and maintained by a 3rd party host on their server. These platforms provide users with a management portal in which they can edit premade templates and control built-in features that cover some basic eCommerce needs. Users also have the option of buying additional premade features through their host’s app store. The backend of a hosted platform is maintained by the provider, which means the user doesn’t have to focus on managing or updating code to build their website—the user can simply edit temples, add apps, and build their eCommerce site through their management portal. This cuts out the need for a developer. The downside however, is that these platforms will limit you to the tools and applications made available by the host you choose.

Self-Hosted solutions are open-source platforms that can be downloaded and hosted on your own server or by a paid provider of your choice. The user of the platform is in full control of managing and maintaining the front and backend of their website and applications. Unlike hosted platforms, this gives users unlimited possibilities of the features and applications they can implement. Most people who choose this type of platform either have an internal IT team or hire professional developers to do the job.

What you decide on now will deeply impact your future eCommerce path and could bottleneck your business potential if you opt for the wrong choice. So, let’s dig in and understand exactly what your business needs are, and where you envision your business being a few years down the road.

Analyze Your Business Needs

Why are you considering eCommerce in the first place? Is it to complement your brick and mortar retail store? Will it be your only source of revenue? What’s your current volume of sales and do you expect it to grow? Ask yourself these questions and consider where you are now and where you will be in the next few years. You’re going to want an eCommerce platform that can serve you just as well now as it will down the road. When considering eCommerce, also think of the product you’re trying to sell. Is it a service or an actual item? Here are some instances when you would want to choose one type of platform over the other:

  • If you’re selling an online service, you might need customer or vendor portals integrated into your website. This would require a self-hosted platform that allows for custom made software and applications to be implemented.
  • If you require additional features and applications not included in a hosted package, hosted platforms may provide additional apps in their store for a monthly fee. These fees can add up and the apps may not fit your exact needs. Using a self-hosted platform while working with a developer will allow you to create the apps you need designed specifically for your business.
  • If you are just selling a few items and looking to create some form of online presence, a hosted platform will help you achieve that.
  • If you are a small store that only requires basic features like abandoned cart recovery, discount codes, email, a hosted platform will most likely provide what you need.

Keep in mind that with a hosted platform, if you plan to grow your business or offer other services in the future, it may not be a sustainable option that will continue providing all of the features you need. Before making a decision, make sure you truly understand your business needs now and what it will need for the future. Transferring platforms after you’ve already become invested in one can be a daunting process.

Making a Decision

At this point you should be able to see which platform your business leans towards. Hosted platforms provide a great solution for DIY small to medium sized businesses. Self-hosted is great for those who need additional features that simply can’t be implemented on a hosted platform. Still unsure of where your business fits in? Check out our blog “Is Shopify Right for Me?” and our eCommerce comparison chart! Ready to get started with a self-hosted solution? Contact us today!

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