Over the years, when it comes to online stores there have been several e-commerce shopping carts from which to choose: OpenCart, Magento, WooCommerce, Yahoo! Stores, Volusion, BigCommerce and Shopify to name a few. What’s the difference?
Self-Hosting vs. Hosted E-Commerce Solutions.
Self-hosting requires a server (a computer that serves up your web site when people go to www.yourbusiness.com). That server can be housed at your business or you can rent one from a company that solely provides that service on a monthly/annual basis. Unless you’re a large corporation, I would never recommend trying to host your own in-house web server. Bandwidth issues, backups and upkeep won’t be worth the time/money involved.
But, there are numerous 3rd party web site hosting companies that will host your own server (or shared server) and run your own shopping cart software on it.
Hosted E-Commerce solutions are essentially companies that take care of the entire technical side for you. They host your web site on their servers, they take care of the upkeep of their proprietary shopping cart software as well as handling security.
There are advantages to both, but first what are they?
- Flexibility of finding your own hosting company/server/cost.
- Flexibility of running your choice in shopping cart software (open-source or proprietary, free or paid).
- You are responsible for upkeep and constant updates to your shopping cart software/security. Even if you’re not housing your own server, shopping cart software requires upkeep/maintenance/backups.
- There are many choices when it comes to shopping carts (open-source and paid).
Hosted Advantages & Disadvantages:
- Reliance on large 3rd party to take care of security and updates to their closed proprietary system.
This is a double-edged sword. You are putting your trust of you and your customers information in the hands of a 3rd-party. Personally, I find it more reassuring to have a large 3rd-party corporation that specializes in such e-commerce solutions handle those responsibilities rather than rely on a smaller fly-by-night operation. If a company like Shopify or BigCommerce have an issue, they’ll be quicker to find a resolution.
Over the years I have worked with a several self-hosted solutions like OpenCart and Magento, WooCommerce, and several hosted solutions like Yahoo! Stores, Volusion, BigCommerce and Shopify. Self-hosted solutions are a lot of upkeep. In my experience, most small businesses will be more than satisfied with a hosted solution like BigCommerce or Shopify.
Personally I recommend Shopify for almost all business. However, Shopify does not offer wholesale solutions without the use of paid 3rd party plugins. If that is a deal-breaker, BigCommerce offers wholesale pricing options with their standard packages. But, in my experience, Shopify offers a nicer overall experience (as well as discounts on shipping).
Currently, WooCommerce/Wordpress has the largest marketshare for a self-hosting solution. Though, unless you’re a DIYer, the amount of upkeep involved in a WooCommerce/Wordpress site keeps me from recommending that option to most clients.
Squarespace and now Etsy also offer an e-commerce hosted solution similar to Shopify, but in my research Shopify still holds the advantage.
Shopify has the largest marketshare for a hosted e-commerce solution. It has relatively straightforward interface that allows me to set up an e-commerce site for a client and hand it off to them so they so they can add/delete products and ship them out (with the simplified integrated discounted shipping). It allows my clients to focus on making, selling, and shipping products.
It also has a 14-day free trial.