Hosted vs Self-Hosted Ecommerce Platforms – What is the Difference?

Hosted vs Self-Hosted Ecommerce Platforms

You have probably seen these terms quite a lot while you have been researching ecommerce platforms. But what is the difference between the two?

Well in this post I am going to explain exactly what the difference is so that you can decide which is the best option for you and and your business.

What is a Hosted Ecommerce Platform?

A Simple Explanation:

Hosted ecommerce platforms can be thought of as an all in one solution for building an online shop, the reason is that you get high performance website hosting combined with purpose built ecommerce software already installed. Below are some of the most popular hosted ecommerce platforms:

A more Detailed Explanation:

Hosted ecommerce platforms are designed to make creating an online shop as easy as possible for people who have no web building or design experience. They are usually well designed and easy to use, with lots of support and documentation to guide you through the process of setting up your online shop.

The main benefit of this type of ecommerce platform is that you as the website owner, don’t need to take care of any of the technical aspects of running a website such as:

  • Making sure your websites are loading fast
  • Making sure that the servers are secure
  • Having to figure out what has happened if your website isn’t working

All you have to do, is make sure that the website looks nice and is well laid out and organised, once you have done this you can then  focus your attention on the business side of running a website such as bringing in buyers, managing inventory, processing orders and dealing with your customers.

Your own Website Support team!

As I mentioned above, hosted ecommerce platforms are aimed at people with little or no website experience and there is a good chance that at some point you are going to either run into an issue or just simply can’t figure something out. This is where hosted ecommerce platforms do come into their own because nearly every platform has a support team either at the end of the phone, live chat or email to help you get your problem sorted quickly.

Some hosted ecommerce platforms also have staff you can contact about other things such as marketing and generating sales.

Are there any downsides to Hosted Ecommerce Platforms?

Unfortunately, yes there are but only a couple. The main downside for most people is that you are kind of stuck with whichever platform that you choose. The reason for this is that each platform build their software specifically for their business and this means that you cannot just simply move your website from one platform to another.

Many platforms will try and help you migrate from one to another but you may experience some issues, such as URL’s not being able to be moved over or drop in search ranking. However most platforms will try and reduce the amount of disruption to your business.

Another thing is that you can be quite limited as to what you can do to your site as you have to operate within the limits of the platforms software. The amount of customisation you can do to your site does depend on the company you are with, some offer a lot and others offer only a little. This applies to both functionality and design.

What is a Self-Hosted Ecommerce Platform?

A Simple Explanation:

Self-hosted ecommerce platforms consist of two separate elements, web hosting and ecommerce software. To run a self-hosted ecommerce website, you need to choose a web host and choose what ecommerce software you want use.

A more Detailed Explanation:

With self-hosted ecommerce platforms, you have more parts of your website that you need to manage in order to have a functioning website and you are responsible for making sure that they are all working properly.

One of the main plus points of self-hosted ecommerce platforms is that you own the site and you can move your site from one host to another, if you are not happy with your current provider. You also have more control over the site as you have access to the source code meaning that you can end up with an ecommerce store that does exactly what you want it to.

Web Hosting

The first thing you need to do is choose a hosting company to host your website. There are hundreds of different hosting companies out there so you need to take some time and do some research to find the best ones that are out there. It can be helpful to know which ecommerce software you want to use and they try and find hosts that have created plans specifically for that software.

You also really want to look for companies that offer ecommerce grade web hosting as general shared hosting isn’t really ideal for ecommerce websites.

Ecommerce Software

You need to decide which ecommerce software you going to install once you have your web hosting sorted out. There are a few options when it comes to self-hosted ecommerce software with some of the more popular ones being WordPress + Woocommerce, Opencart and Prestashop.

You can run into a chicken and egg problem if you are just starting out as you can’t try out the ecommerce software until you have web hosting but you don’t know which is the best web host to go with until you know which software you want to use. The best thing to do in this situation is get some really cheap hosting, try the software out and then look for the best web hosting companies.

Are there any downside to Self-Hosted Ecommerce Platforms?

Yes, the main one being that you are responsible for all the technical aspects of running a website and if you don’t know what you are doing yourself, then you will need to employ the services of a developer and/or designer to make sure your site is running properly.

One of the main issues many self-hosted ecommerce platforms face is performance as unless you have your server and website set up properly, you may struggle to get good page load time speeds. As this is an important factor when it comes to page ranking, it is something you do need to consider.

Following on from the above point is that you are kind of on your own when it comes to support. Yes, many hosting companies will try and help but they really only need to help with server related issues, anything relating to the running of your website is your responsibility. This can lead to lots of frustration and wasted time if you are having issues.

Is a Hosted or Self-Hosted Ecommerce Platform Cheaper?

This is a very common question but unfortunately there is no straight forward answer as every businesses situation is different.

The costs associated with hosted ecommerce platforms are generally more predictable as you have a set monthly fee that you pay, you may have a couple of one off payments such as themes but generally the costs don’t fluctuate.

With self-hosted ecommerce platforms, your costs can vary wildly. If you are competent with managing a website, then you may have little to no costs involved other than your web hosting and possibly purchasing a theme and plugins etc. However if you are employing the services of a website professional to build and manage your site, then you costs can be quite high depending upon your requirements as their services do not come cheap.

Wrapping Up

I hope this has helped answer your question as to what the difference between a hosted and self-hosted ecommerce platform is. If you want to know more about the kind of platforms that are available, then take a look around the site as I have done lots of reviews and comparisons to help you try and choose which is best for you and your business.

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