The first question to consider when starting an online store is: Will you use a hosted or self hosted platform?

The decision comes down to knowing the benefits and drawbacks of each eCommerce platform and find what suits your business needs best.

 

The Difference Between Hosted and Self Hosted Platforms is Simple

Hosted and self-hosted platforms are similar to buying and renting a house. When it’s hosted, it’s like a rental. You can stay there but are limited in what you’re allowed to do. Someone else owns the property even though you might invest a lot of time and money into it. However, the benefits are that you can try it out before deciding to buy and it’s relatively easy to move.

Examples of hosted eCommerce platforms:

  • Shopify
  • BigCommerce
  • PrestaShop
  • Volusion

On the other hand, when you self-host, you own the property and have unlimited freedom. You can design and expand as much as you want. Be aware, just like owning a house, you will need to pay and fix anything that breaks or need an update!

Examples of self hosted eCommerce platforms:

  • WooCommerce
  • Magento
  • Spree Commerce
  • osCommerce
  • Opencart

 

Hosted vs self-hosted eCommerce solutions

Once we understand the difference between hosted and self hosted platforms, we still need to know what the benefits and drawbacks are.

 

Hosted eCommerce Platform

You don’t need to know anything about eCommerce or coding to get started with a hosted solution. This is a perfect option for the beginner.

You start by choosing a theme for the look of your store. There are usually many free basic themes to choose from, but if you want an exclusive or certain look, you might need to purchase a premium theme.

Next, you add the apps or add-ons to extend your store with the functionality that is not offered in the core product.

Your site will have a responsive design and basic SEO implemented to your pages.
On a hosted platform, you won’t need to worry about updating and improving the platform since that is already done for you by the host. Your store will always have the latest updates and you will always have access to support.

Before choosing this option, make sure you’re not locked-in and can migrate to another platform if necessary.

Self hosted eCommerce Platform

If you choose a self hosted platform to run on your own server, you will need to know a few things about eCommerce. You will need to download, install and run the software yourself or hire someone to set it up for you. Most eCommerce platforms are open source which means they are free but they also have active support communities.

Everything on the platform will be customizable and you have endless opportunities for scalability and growth. Any plugins or scripts can be integrated into the store and you have total control and ownership over your store.

This is a good option if your store is unique and complex but customization could come at a cost if you don’t integrate or code yourself.

When you’re controlling the platform yourself, you have the advantage of optimizing the store to a maximum which can put you ahead of your competition.

Maintenance is higher and you need to stay on top of software updates, especially security patches, SSL certificates and responding to downtime.

You could also hire a development firm who is experienced in maintaining eCommerce stores and avoid common mistakes.

 

Hosted

+ Perfect for beginners
+ Responsive design
+ Updates and platform improvements are provided
+ Sign up and start immediately

– Limited design and functionality
– Pay a monthly fee for the platform
– Pay for themes or add-ons

Self Hosted

+ Requires experience
+ Endless customization
+ Total control and ownership
+ Maximum optimization
+ Platform is free

– Higher maintenance
– Responsible if something goes wrong
– Costful if hiring developers

Conclusion

Smaller online businesses that don’t have much eCommerce experience have a good option in trying a hosted eCommerce. Larger or more experienced eCommerce businesses should focus on their own self hosted platform where they can continue to grow unrestrained.

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