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Hosted vs. self-hosted e-commerce solutions: everything you need to know

Growth Secrets|22.04.2016

When it comes to choosing the right e-commerce platform for your business, one of the main things to consider is whether to opt for a ‘hosted’ or ‘self-hosted’ solution.

What is the difference?

A hosted e-commerce solution is designed and managed on servers that you don’t have access to. You create an account with companies like Shopify, BigCommerce or Squarespace where you can customise your own website, making changes via their platform.

Self-hosted e-commerce solutions are hosted on your own server, meaning you have access to the code the platform is built on and can edit it as much as you need to. It requires slightly more technical knowledge and management but also gives you a greater level of freedom and control. Examples of self-hosted platforms include Magento and WooCommerce on WordPress.

What are the benefits of a hosted solution?

Easy to use

With many of the well-known companies, launching your e-commerce site is as effortless as setting up a Facebook profile. Shopify offers a 14-day trial to get you started and takes you through an easy step-by-step process as you input your details, choose your theme and personalise the functionality of your site. The administrator interface is simple, intuitive and requires practically no training.

Technical support

Although 24/7 technical support is generally offered by server hosts, choosing a hosted solution means assistance for the software itself is also included. This ensures all technical maintenance aspects of your store are taken care of, such as downtimes and bug fixes.

Upgrades

All upgrades, new features and security updates are added continuously and seamlessly behind the scenes by the host platform without the need for any manual software checks. However, there is the possibility of an issue later on if you come to customise a feature that is no longer supported by the host.

Cost

Hosted solutions are ideal for businesses with smaller budgets and fewer products who want to launch an e-commerce website in very little time. Without the need to use costly designers and web developers, you’ll have more cash to spend in other areas of growing your business.

Fast and reliable

Hosted platforms rely on a good reputation to gain new users. With over 240,000 active stores, Shopify depends on its reliable, state-of-the art infrastructure to power lightning-fast page response time and the ability to handle 500,000 hits per minute. A quick and painless online journey leads to a satisfied customer and ultimately a happy business owner.

What are the benefits of a self-hosted solution?

Customisation

With a self-hosted solution you have access to the source code, meaning you can edit the software according to your business requirements down to the smallest detail. Hosted platforms do offer a wide range of popular features with new plugins added all the time, but they may not facilitate specific customisations or features you require.

Ownership

It’s possible that hosted platforms will change their policy with little or no notice - you don’t own the code so you may lose access to your valuable content and data. With self-hosted solutions you will always have the ability to access your own software.

Back end software

Many hosted solutions offer dozens of integrations for back end software - like the CRM options and fulfilment services available in the Shopify App Store. However, if you already have complex systems in place, like an existing CRM, it is likely they won’t be easily integrated with a hosted platform.

Unique checkout domain

A checkout domain specific to your shop requires a complex SSL setup, so with hosted solutions you will often be required to use their company url rather than your own when a customer comes to pay.

Global limitations

Be aware that if in the future you plan to launch overseas with a website that caters to multiple nationalities and languages you will be restricted in how you can scale and adapt if using a hosted solution given the nature of domains and their SSL. It may be easier to host the website yourself if you are managing online stores for different countries.

Closing thoughts

While both options have the potential to power a successful e-commerce website tailored to the specific needs of the retailer, it’s important to weigh up whether your business requires the ease and reliability of hosted solutions or the ownership and adaptable nature of hosting the site yourself.

How can we help?

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