E-Commerce Solutions: Answering the Hosted or Self-Hosted Question

Do you need a hosted or self-hosted e-commerce solution? Many businesses struggle with this decision. But, it’s not as difficult a decision as most people make it out to be. You’ve got many advantages for both, and limitations that will place you firmly in the camp of one or the other.


Self-Hosted Platforms

Self-hosted platforms are sort of like owning a vehicle as versus public transportation. Or, at least this is how Patrick Rauland of Patrick’s Programming Blog describes it. When you’re self-hosted, you have complete ownership over everything you put on your site.

You can also tweak the design to your heart’s content. If you don’t like the color, you can change it. Don’t like the layout? You can change that too.

Want to run third-party scripts and plugins? No problem.

You own the site, and the code (unless you paid for it from a third party and they license it to you).

If you want to move your site to another host, you can and take everything with you. So, for example, if you start on a small web host’s platform, and then you decide you outgrow that platform and want to upgrade to something more robust, you can do that.

For example, let’s say you’re on a discount hosting provider’s shared hosting environment. You find that your traffic is either being throttled or you’re having trouble loading resources. What can you do? You could move up to a more robust solution, like IBM AS400.

The advantages of this should be obvious. First, you’re not beholden to a third-party platform, and they can’t dictate what you can and can’t do with your site.

The disadvantage to self-hosted solutions is that all of the problems fall squarely on your shoulders. So, if you’re not a technically-inclined person, you could end up doing a lot more IT work than you’re capable of. And, no one will be there to help you unless you hire outside help, which can get expensive.

Hosted Solutions

A hosted solution is one where a service provider hosts your website for you. You don’t have to worry about any of the technical details of the site. Think about it like you would logging into Facebook or Twitter. There’s this platform. It’s there. All you have to do is plug into the infrastructure and create your content. You don’t own anything.

This can be a curse or a blessing depending on how you look at it.

On the one hand, you are forced into their ecosystem, so if you want to change something about the overall layout or color scheme of the site, it may be difficult or impossible for you to do that.

Shopify and Bigcommerce are two examples of hosted solutions that are popular amongst business owners.

The advantages are obvious: you get a solution you don’t have to manage at all. That also becomes its disadvantage. Because you don’t own any of the underlying infrastructure, if you want to leave, you may be completely destroying your online presence and business.

Sean Perry built his own website straight out of college. Now a website consultant for small businesses mostly within the retail industry, he enjoys sharing his knowledge by writing for a selection of business blogs.


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