If you’re planning to open an online shop, the first decision you’ll need to make is whether to choose a self-hosted solution or a hosted solution.
What’s the difference?
A self-hosted solution is hosted on servers you order, and you (or your website developer) upload all the files and manage the configuration of the website, and the installation of a SSL certificate. Examples of self-hosted solutions are Opencart and WooCommerce for WordPress.
A hosted solution is hosted on servers you don’t have direct access to – you can customise and modify the layout and design, but the core features are not accessible. BigCommerce and Shopify are hosted solutions.
What are the pros and cons of a self-hosted ecommerce solution?
With a self-hosted solution you have complete access to all of your website files and data. As long as you (or your web designer) have the knowledge, your site can be customised to do almost anything you want it to.
This also means that unless you have thorough knowledge of HTML, CSS and PHP (or a similar programming language), you will need to hire a website developer to install, set up and customise your website.
You are responsible for all security updates, system updates, and data backups – as well as fixing any bugs that may appear over time.
You’ll need to invest a lump sum upfront to build the website, and ongoing costs include: website hosting, SSL certificate, updates, and maintenance.
What are the pros and cons of a hosted ecommerce solution?
A hosted solution is simple – you pay a single monthly fee and this covers hosting, SSL, system upgrades, security updates and technical support.
The security and reliability of your website is monitored and upgraded ‘behind the scenes’ – with tens of thousands of stores worldwide, both Shopify and BigCommerce have a vested interest to keep your as site and safe and efficient as possible.
You don’t need any special skills to get your store up and running, in most cases you just answer a few simple questions to start a free trial, where you are presented with a fully functional site using a clean, generic template. If you want your store to be unique and enticing, you’ll still want to find a great web designer to help you with customising the template code, or building you a fresh new template – and to be your first point of contact if you need support.
With a hosted solution you do have less control – if you want a specific feature that’s not included ‘out of the box’, you’ll need to purchase an App. However, most solutions include a comprehensive range of features to start with, and the prices for Apps are quite reasonable.
So what should you choose?
If you want a simple all-in-one solution, in most cases a hosted solution will do everything a small to medium sized business would want. Your store can be online and making money within a matter of days, without any prohibitive set up fees.
If you want complete control over your website and hosting, and you have some technical skills or a friendly, reliable web designer on hand that can help you for a reasonable price, then self-hosted might be the right choice for you.
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