eCommerce Platforms: Self-Hosted vs. Hosted
Which is right for YOU?
by Hank Isaac
So, you have an awesome idea for a product, a line of products, or maybe even an entire eCommerce brand. You’re confident it’s going to catch on, so you want to start selling online and build your eCommerce empire—fast. You’re fairly tech-savvy, and feel comfortable using online tools, services, and dashboards, but you’re not a programmer and you still have your day job so time is limited.
Lucky for you, there are a plethora of eCommerce services out there to choose from. And depending on your needs, some can be up and running in a matter of hours. But what’s the best solution for you? It’s important to get it right from the start to avoid a complete “do-over”.
For comparison purposes, we’ll focus on two of the most widely used eCommerce platforms on the market: WordPress with the WooCommerce plugin, which is typically self-hosted; and Shopify, a popular hosted eCommerce platform.
Self-Hosted vs. Hosted
First, what does “self-hosted” and “hosted” mean? This is often the first decision you’ll make, and it will determine what options are available to you. Each has unique pros, cons, features, benefits, flexibility, and limitations.
Self-Hosted platforms, such as WordPress, typically refer to open-source applications that require you to have a hosting account in which you’ll need to install and configure the software. It’s more of a DIY solution. You need to acquire a hosting account, and install and maintain the application yourself, or hire someone to help you. Most open-source applications are free to acquire with no monthly fee (other than your hosting service). However some plugins (or add-ons) to extend the functionality do come at a price or monthly fee.
Hosted platforms, like Shopify, are a more turn-key solution that includes hosting, shopping cart functionality, and dedicated technical support. The clear advantages of hosted platforms are a low barrier to entry, and simplicity of use for non-technical users. One you sign up for the service, there’s some work to do, like customizing the look & feel, setting up navigation and adding your products and other content. But the service provider takes care of everything else. Most of these services charge a monthly fee, and additional monthly fees for add-ons to enhance functionality. And, depending on your method of payment, they may also take a percentage of each sale.
Which one is right for you?
Let’s do a side-by-side comparison of the two platforms: