Starting an eCommerce store is not as hard as it was earlier. Given the fact that the eCommerce industry is growing exponentially and already over a trillion dollars worth, opening up an eCommerce business is incredibly lucrative.
However, with the plethora of options present nowadays, there are a lot of decisions that often put a lot of budding entrepreneurs in a dilemma. One of these being whether to choose a hosted eCommerce platform or a self-hosted eCommerce platform.
Before we get into the details of which one should you choose, let’s take a brief look at each of these.
What are Hosted eCommerce Platforms?
Hosted eCommerce solutions are those that provide a complete solution in one package. This includes hosting, shopping cart functionalities, easy to use website builder and technical support. This, however, is available for a monthly license fee which could either be fixed or depending on your store’s worth.
Some popular hosted eCommerce platforms include Shopify, BigCommerce, Volusion etc.
What are Self-Hosted eCommerce Platforms?
Self-hosted eCommerce platforms are open source applications that allow you to install an eCommerce platform on a hosting package, which you would have to buy on your own. It is a free of cost and highly customizable solution in which technical support is rendered by a community of developers and other documentation.
Some of the most popular self-hosted eCommerce platforms are Magento, WooCommerce, PrestaShop etc.
Hosted vs. Open Source eCommerce Solution
Making a decision between the two is often difficult. The four major considerations that you should base your decision are as follows:
Starting any business requires you to plan out your budget based on your costs.
If your budget is low, a self-hosted option is always better as the platform is free of cost and you can get a hosting package for a very low price. The cost of maintaining this too doesn’t sum up to much because it isn’t that tough for your eCommerce developers to make alterations in an open source platform.
However, if your budget is not a point of concern, you could go with a hosted platform that will be available to you at a monthly license fee. You wouldn’t have to worry a lot about its maintenance costs too as it is often included in the package you purchase. However, these packages could have a much higher cost.
Before you start out, it’s best to have a rough idea about the type of functionalities you want your store to have.
If you need your store to have a lot of unique and creative features and designs, the best choice for you is the open source solution. With this, since you have complete control over the source code of the platform, you can always alter it to provide some really exciting facilities for your store. If you don’t possess the technical expertise, you can always hire expert eCommerce developers to help you out.
In case you expect your store to have just the basic functionalities and limited design options, a hosted solution would be perfect for you. Since the source code is not available, there is not a lot you can do with your store. You can still make use of the paid extensions that are developed by the platform’s team itself.
Another significant investment to consider in a business is your time. You cannot devote your time to only one task and hence need to plan out all your processes accordingly.
Open source platforms always require you to install new updates and versions. Although it doesn’t take up a significant amount of time, you still need to devote some to regularly make these version upgrades and install new updates.
Hosted eCommerce platforms do not demand a lot of time for maintenance as they don’t release upgrades as regularly as open source solutions. Even when they do, the upgrades are automatically installed by the backend team of the platform.
Your technical expertise in the platform is not always a matter of concern. However, it does help you determine on how dependent you might have to be on external help and its costs.
You can find open source eCommerce platforms based on almost all major technologies. So you can choose the one based on the technology you’re proficient in. These open source platforms also have really large developer communities and detailed documentations to support you. So you can either look for a solution yourself without incurring any cost or you could hire eCommerce developers at a nominal fee to support you.
If you choose a hosted eCommerce platform, not a lot of documentation or external help will be available. All the technical support that you require is provided by the technical team that backs the platform itself. Most of the times technical support is included in the package that you choose. However, in cases where it may not be, it could be a little costly.