With shopping on the Internet becoming more and more popular, plenty of entrepreneurs see this as a great opportunity to create new businesses. Selling online can be very simple and profitable - but just like in every field, in eCommerce you need to do a serious amount of research before starting. The building of every e-shop starts with a question - are you going to use self-hosting or hosted eCommerce platforms?
Are there differences between the two? Plenty! In this blog post, I will cover most of them, so you can make a decision for yourself. Let's talk.
What is the main difference?
To be blunt and simple, the real difference is a number of services you get for your money.
Self-hosting eCommerce software gives you the basics - basically, some code. Then, you have to put it on your existing website and make sure everything works well. As the name implies, you are not given any server space but are instead expected to host it somewhere yourself. This is an advanced solution. Finding high-quality hosting isn't very difficult - on this website, we have plenty of web hosting reviews - there are plenty of suitable options.
Hosted eCommerce platforms give you more options. That includes a website builder and hosting space to put that online shop in. Most of the time, you can set up this kind of an e-shop with no coding or development knowledge whatsoever. This is a great option if you want pretty much nothing to do with building a website - instead, you are more interested in selling.
These are the basics - but that is not all. There are a few other differences that may affect your decision to one or another way. Namely, the advantages and disadvantages of both types. Let's check them out.
Self-hosted allows more freedom
When you only use eCommerce software to sell products on your existing website, you can do whatever you want with it. That means virtually unlimited design choices and features for your clients. Want your webshop to have four columns and music to play in the background? No problem. Want an item to let out a scream whenever a mouse hovers over it? Weird but sure, that's also possible. The point is, self-hosting gives you full control over every single aspect of the shop. You may even choose your own perfect hosting provider which delivers you performance way above that of a hosted e-shop.
No nasty surprises
If you choose to host your e-shop on someone else's platform, you can't predict the unpleasant changes that may occur. Changes in the panel, changes in functionality or even huge changes in pricing - all can happen if you completely depend on a third-party company. When you take the responsibility of programming and hosting everything yourself - all these things now depend on you. If something nasty happens, well - you're to blame! No one else!
Hosted is the way to go for support!
It's easy to use
In many cases, using a hosted platform for your online shop is incredibly simple. Everything is done for you, so you don't have to sport any kind of website development knowledge. That way, you can focus solely on your products and fulfilment of the shipments. Some may worry that choosing a hosted eCommerce solution may make your website look dull and unoriginal. It's not always like that. Many platforms actually allow you to have interesting, unique designs. It's only that setting everything up is very simple.
It's not a rule, naturally - but when you use a pre-existing platform, the problems which arise can be easily solved by just contacting the support of the service provider. Everything, starting with the servers, going to the colour of your "Buy Now" button can be adjusted with the help of expert customer support. This is a serious advantage - and if you think you'll need a helping hand quite often, it would make sense to go with the hosted eCommerce platform.
Now, once we covered the main points, let's go to the main question. Just when exactly should you consider choosing each of these two main solutions?
Pick a self-hosting online shop if...
You have an expert at your disposal
If you are an experienced website developer or have one on the team, a self-hosting solution should be perfect.
After all, this means you won't have any problems getting the required server space and you'll have enough skill to work with WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or any other popular content management system. In turn, you will be able to have a perfect solution which won't depend on the quality of the service provider.
You need a bespoke solution
Sometimes, the online shop you require may not fit the capabilities of a hosted eCommerce provider.
Maybe the idea you have in your head is simply too advanced for the eCommerce hosts to handle. Or perhaps you want plenty of interesting things which may be difficult to do even with an advanced online shop builder. If that's the case, a self-hosting eCommerce solution is perfect as you can change everything however you see fit. For example, your hosting provider - there are plenty of great options and we have reviewed enough of them to know which are the best. Our current #1-rated hosting provider is Hostinger and it's a very quick provider, offering its services for a very low price. There can be many solutions - it's one of them.
And why should you pick a hosted shop?
You have a small team
If your business is already small, it makes no sense to bother the people with a self-hosting online shop.
For the majority of the time, hosted online shops have everything you may ever need. Even if you have an existing website, you may just host the shop to your own subdomain and send all the technical problems to the people of your chosen platform. The less hassle, the better. Instead, invest more of your attention to the products and marketing!
You have a fairly small budget
It may appear that hosted online shops are quite expensive to maintain. It is not uncommon for the entry plans to cost 20, 30 dollars per month. Plans with more options may set you back $100 or even more! However, some things have to be considered.
By choosing a self-hosting eCommerce option, you may need to pay for its design and you definitely have to invest in good server hosting. For a bigger project, a separate person maintaining so everything works well could also be important. Put all of that together and you will see that hosted eCommerce is not as expensive as it may seem. Expenses of doing everything yourself may actually be bigger. In that case, something like Shopify could be very useful - its price tag may appear slightly big at first but it has loads of features, includes a lot of plugins and may actually save you money in the long run. If Shopify isn't exciting you enough, you may also choose one of our other top rated best eCommerce platforms, they are all different, therefore, all suitable for different kinds of users.
So what should you choose?
If you plan to make an online shop, great news! There are plenty of options to choose from. In general, these solutions can be divided into two separate categories: hosted and self-hosted. If you are a professional or have one at your disposal, choose self-hosting. It's more flexible and more powerful. However, if you don't have extra talent or time to spare, consider going for a hosted solution. If done well, they can be very powerful. At the end of the day, it's all down to you and your decisions. Good luck and go make a terrific online shop!