One of the first things you may ask yourself when developing an online store is: Do I use a self-hosted, or fully-hosted ecommerce platform? There is never a perfect solution but both choices come with costs and benefits, you as the user should review these carefully before deciding which solution fits your need. In this blog we’d like to provide an overview of the factors you need to consider before making the decision that’s right for you.
What exactly are the differences between self-hosted and fully-hosted?
With a self-hosted ecommerce platform you as the end user are also fully responsible for managing, creating and storing all your platform data. This asks more of you than a passing understanding of elements such as security, data protection, and server management. If you aren’t confident in your expertise in these areas you may need expert advice to ensure everything is set up properly, which could increase your overall costs.
A fully-hosted platform on the other hand is an all-in-one solution which also often includes hosting, technical support, shopping and ecommerce functions and plugins for your website, security features and more. In this case you trade in complete independence for convenience and stability. You don’t have to build and manage everything on your own, and you can also outsource challenging tasks like data security maintenance and secure data storage. Your hosting platform in effect sets up the online store and also allows users who aren’t tech experts to gain most, if not more, of the advantages of a perfectly set up self-hosted site when it comes to features.
Are there advantages to using a self-hosted eCommerce platform?
As the server is owned, built and managed by you, you have a much more granular and direct control over what your store looks like and how it works with data. Extra features and functions that you would like to add also depend only on your time and skillset, and aren’t affected by an external party. If you know how to use the tools, it’s an open field and you can pretty much do as you please. This includes where you set up your server, and flexibility for scaling up over time.
On the other hand self-hosted platforms can be a lot more work. Setting up and making sure everything is running smoothly, from sourcing a hosting provider to building your ecommerce store. If you run into technical issues you are also less likely to have expert advice available, that covers the full feature set and operational activity for your website. Even for experts self-hosted platforms are not always the answer, as they require significantly more time investment to get up and running. Think of it as building and maintaining your own car vs. buying one with a maintenance contract. A skilled engineer could likely build their own, but the time and effort needed is not always worth it for their specific needs.
Using a fully-hosted eCommerce Platform
With a hosted eCommerce platform the management and construction of websites is easier to handle. For beginners in tech this can be a life saver, while for tech experts it’s a useful time saver, giving them more space to work on other priorities. Greater access to support is an advantage for both users, as even experts aren’t familiar with every potential problem an e-commerce platform can have.
Another feature found in fully-hosted platforms is that the startup phase for your website is extremely fast, with frameworks and templates that can later be customized with bespoke layouts and designs. This does of course come with some disadvantages, as having a solid framework and foundational tools means there may be less space for more advanced customization options. While this keeps improving a self-hosted platform will usually have more options, if you have the skillset to make use of them. You also need to be able to trust the ecommerce platform hosting your site, as in effect you have a working relationship with them as part of managing your ecommerce business.
So what choice is right for me?
The answer to this question depends largely on three factors: Your level of skill, how much time you have, and the needs of your ecommerce site. For the tech-savvy amongst us with enough time, or a very specific vision for an ecommerce site, the self-hosted option may be the way to go. However for most people a fully-hosted option will provide peace of mind, expertise, and a functional way to build upon their business, creating space to focus on growth and the business operations side of the equation. After all, the tech aspect of ecommerce is there to facilitate your business and is not the end goal!