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Hosted vs Self-Hosted eCommerce Websites: Which is Best?


When looking to set up their shops, businesses are faced with a choice – whether to opt for a hosted or self-hosted eCommerce store.

But what are the main differences? And is one more suited to certain types of businesses?

This is the biggest decision that businesses will have to make before choosing a platform. So, it’s not one to take lightly at all.

Make the wrong decision at this point and you could find yourself staring down the barrel of some hefty costs later down the line.

Don’t worry if you’re not sure which is the right one for you, this post will discuss the main pros and cons in the argument of hosted vs self-hosted eCommerce platforms.

  • What is a hosted eCommerce platform?
  • What is a self-hosted eCommerce platform?
  • The verdict: which is best for your business?

What is a hosted eCommerce platform?

A hosted eCommerce platform is often referred to as a Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery model. These all-in-one solutions often comprise hosting, shopping baskets and extensive technical support.

eCommerce platform

With hosted eCommerce platforms, you don’t have to worry about setting up your own server. More often than not, businesses will operate on the cloud where all their files and data are stored.

The host platform stores your information for you, relieving you of the responsibility of doing so.

Basically, the host sets up the online store and develops the application themselves. They own and manage the vendor on your behalf, which is perfect for those businesses who aren’t technically clued up.

The price of operating through a hosted eCommerce platform is usually fixed dependent on the size of your business and shop as a whole.

Some platforms will also look to take a small percentage of your revenue through the shop in return for their service.

Some examples of hosted eCommerce platforms include:

What are the advantages of using a hosted eCommerce platform?

There are various benefits that hosted eCommerce platforms can provide for businesses. These include:

Pay monthly for only what you need. Business owners will constantly be trying to keep their costs as low as possible and hosted eCommerce allows you to do this. Nobody likes wasting money and paying for features that they won’t use, so hosted eCommerce only requires you to pay for extra functions and storage as and when your business expands.
Ease of management. Hosted eCommerce sites are notoriously easy to manage. Their proven site layouts are incredibly user-friendly, even for the biggest tech novice. As you can see below, the interfaces are intuitive, meaning that no essential features are hidden.

eCommerce platform
  • Access to full premium support. Should you face any problems with your hosted eCommerce site, you’ll have a full team of experts on hand to help you troubleshoot your issues and resolve them quickly.
  • Rapid and effortless start-up. The host will have already have the framework set in place, so all you need to do is change and personalise your own store to how you’d like it to be.

What are the disadvantages of using a hosted eCommerce platform?

Like anything, there are two sides to the coin and there are certain disadvantages to utilising a hosted eCommerce platform. These are:

  • Limited customisation. As the framework is already set in place, the scope for customisation is somewhat reduced. This means you’re limited to how much of your own spin you can put on things.
  • Ever-increasing price point. Hosted sites can prove to be quite expensive the more your company grows. Host platforms will charge more when your site starts to gain more traffic and need more influential features.
  • Limited working flexibility. You’re partnering with another company to host your site, therefore, you don’t have complete flexibility to make the decisions you like. There can be instances of limited flexibility and disagreements between the two parties.
  • Changing and toggling platforms can be expensive. Toggling from host to host may prove to be expensive. Although there are many options on the market, if you’re forced to move platform it can prove expensive and hit your business in its pocket.

What is a self-hosted eCommerce platform?

Rather than hosting your eCommerce platform through a hosted server, self-hosted platforms are built by yourself.

This means that you’re completely responsible for the build, the hosting and the storage of all data too.

Businesses that opt for a self-hosted eCommerce platform are required to set up their own server, which is usually within the cloud. Setting up the server is the major cost involved in self-hosting.

Whereas, the application that you download to run your website from is usually free or very little cost.

Self-hosting can prove to be a difficult task if you’re not sure what you’re doing. So, you’re going to need expert advice to ensure that you’re doing it properly.

Luckily for you, there are various agencies and providers who will provide you with the advice that you need. Albeit for a small fee.

Some examples of self-hosted eCommerce platforms are: 

What are the advantages of using a self-hosted eCommerce platform?

Self-hosted eCommerce platforms pose many benefits to businesses. These can include:

  • More control than hosted platforms can offer. Due to the fact it’s your server and framework that you’re building, you have miles more control and flexibility of what actually appears in your store. Plus, you’re not limited customisation-wise and can include anything you like on your site.
  • Extra features are available at your discretion. If you need more features, simply download more plug-ins and extensions. It really is that easy.
  • Set up wherever you like. You have the freedom to set up your server and platform wherever you desire. You’re not attached to any centralised store, so coping with growth and increased demand is no problem.
  • Switching platforms is easier. As the platforms are usually low cost, if you need to switch having outgrown a supplier, you can do so a lot cheaper and easier than hosted platforms.

What are the disadvantages of using a self-hosted eCommerce platform?

The main disadvantages of using a self-hosted platform are:

  • They’re harder to set up than hosted platforms. Hosted platforms are a rapid and effortless way of getting started, whereas self-hosted need you to go through various processes. These include: sourcing a hosting provider, deciding an eCommerce platform and experiencing an installation setup process.
  • No expert support should anything go wrong. If you’re having trouble with your platform, you’re left to try and solve the issues on your own. Whereas, with hosted sites, you can tap into expert knowledge who aim to have you back up and running as soon as possible.
  • Depending upon your host provider, costs can start to pile up.

The verdict: which is best for your business?

So, now you’ve seen the main differences between the two host platforms it’s time for you to make your decision. But which one is best for your business?

eCommerce platform

Well, it depends whether you’re looking for a platform that opts for ease and a quick set up or the more technically challenging option.

Hosted eCommerce sites are more tailored to those businesses who want to get started rapidly and want an effortless transition with their new site.

They’re also perfect for businesses who want to manage their inventory as accurately and with as minimal effort required.

The price point of all this usually comes at a fair rate to start with, but bear in mind that it can be hard to cope with growth and switching suppliers.

Self-hosted eCommerce is usually more suited to more technical business owners and entrepreneurs.

If you’re somebody who loves getting into the nitty-gritty and have a technical nouse, then self-hosted eCommerce sites can be an ideal choice for you.

The flexibility of a self-hosted site is definitely one of the main attractions to opting for one. You’ll be creating your own framework, so you have the flexibility to design your store however you’d like it to be.

Although, due to the added design work needed, it may take your site a little longer to get up and running.

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