You want to start a business, but you’re not sure how you should host it. There are two popular platforms out right now: self-hosted and hosted. Here’s what you need to know about both and which one is best for you.
What’s The Difference?
A basic hosted service, like Shopify and Shift4Shop, is an excellent example of a hosted ecommerce solution. It’s a service that takes care of a lot of the backend servicing for your website. All you need to do is manage the front end and sales. It comes with a shopping cart, and all of the basic web design is done for you.
Most of these platforms are also hosted in a secure environment with proprietary technology backing the platform. This means that you wouldn’t really be able to transplant the business to another platform without a lot of work and trouble.
However, because all the backend maintenance and support is covered, there’s not much work you have to do to maintain your site. The main drawback, other than working in a proprietary environment, is that some hosted companies will take a percentage of your revenue for being on their platform. Some companies do waive this requirement if you use their credit card processing system. But, not all companies do this.
A self-hosted platform means you set up your own website and don’t work in a proprietary environment. Instead, your site is your own, you have your own host, and you can take your website with you to a new host if you decide that you don’t like the host you’re with.
Companies, like AS400 expert, claim this is the best way to go since it allows you more control over your site and ultimately the destiny of your company. Hosting your company in the cloud, on a server that you control completely, does indeed give you more control. But, it also comes with more responsibility.
You can’t slack on maintenance, and you have to keep up on your own security protocols, protecting your ecommerce site from hackers and other similar attacks.
When you work in a hosted environment, the design tools come standard. This is a major advantage of working in such an environment. Right out of the box, the graphical design tools are much better than they were just 5 years ago.
This is good if you’re tech-averse or just don’t know that much about web design. Most entrepreneurs don’t. Being able to throw up a site in a few minutes without knowing much HTML or CSS is a huge advantage. It also reduces the uncertainty, and the hurdle of having to learn anything about programming.
For example, Big Commerce offers customers an intuitive drag and drop interface that allows you to shuffle things about within your store. It’s easy, and it doesn’t require any knowledge of the underlying programming. It also offers a good library of standard templates to start out, so your business site can look like pretty much anything you want it to.
The backend features and tracking are also good. There is built-in support for social media sites like Facebook, too.
If you own a self-hosted blog, you need to be an expert in at least some aspect of web design or hire a designer to manage it all. With hosted, none of that is necessary. At the same time, you lose a lot of the control of your site with hosted. So, at the end of the day, your decision boils down to control vs convenience and what you want more.
Luca Boyle is an e-commerce consultant who mostly helps start-ups and micro-businesses navigate the world of online selling successfully. He blogs for small business sites.