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Hosted Solutions versus Do It Yourself

A big question for businesses entering the realm of ecommerce is how should they approach creating their ecommerce system. Should you use an out of the box package like Yahoo Stores or Shopify? Or should set up everything yourself (hosting, merchant account, shopping cart, etc.)?

Well, let’s look at the pros and cons to each:

Fully Hosted Solution

  • Quicker set up

    Using an out of the box solution means everything is set up for you before you even start using the solution. All of the programming and integrating that needs to be done has already been done for you. You only need to customize the solution for your store and add your products.

  • Technical issues handled by the solution provider

    Browser compatibility, gateway integration, database connectivity: all handled for you. Knowledge in web programming or other technical skills are not required as this is all handled by the solutions provider.

  • Less overall maintenance

    Since the hardware and software that powers the solution is all managed by the solutions provider, all you need to do is manage your products and your orders.

  • Possibly better security

    Naturally the security of the data each merchant stores on the provider’s servers is very valuable not only to the merchant but to hackers as well. Normally the security of this information requires constant checking and upgrading to make sure no new security vulnerabilities arise that may allow this data to be compromised. Fortunately the provider handles all of this.

  • Higher costs

    Naturally the provider is not going to offer their services for free. Not coincidentally they will not offer it at cost either. You will have the same costs as you would if you attempted to establish the service yourself plus the mark up of the provider.

  • Less control

    Since you do not own or control the software offered by the provider you are limited to whatever the provider will allow you to do. This means you cannot customize the software to fit your needs. You can only do what they decide their software will allow you to do. Additionally, this solutions typically do not allow you full customization of the appearance of your store. This means your store either won’t match the rest of your website or, even worse, will look just like every other store hosted by the provider.

“Self Serve” Solution

  • Lower costs

    Because you are free to shop around for the software your store will use it is likely that you will find a solution that is well-priced. In fact, there are many free offerings for ecommerce solutions available. You also will be able to sign up for a merchant account that costs less to use then what most third party processors offer.

  • More control

    Because you control every aspect of your solution you can be sure it meets your exacting specifications. Your storefront and checkout will seamlessly integrate into your website and provide your customers with a professional shopping experience. You will have all of the features you want and none of the ones you don’t want. You can expand and alter your storefront whenever your business demands it.

  • You are now a security expert

    Without a dedicated team minding the security of your storefront you take on the responsibility of ensuring your storefront and your data is safe and secure. You have to keep up with security updates for your software otherwise you risk exposing sensitive data. One occurrence of this can mean the end of your business.

What a smart business will do is make a lit of their priorities and then compare them to this list. One is no better then the other straight up. But one may be better then the other to your specific business based on your needs and wants.

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2 Responses to “Hosted Solutions versus Do It Yourself”

  1. Jestep

    Great post.

    This is one of the biggest hurdles I have seen for businesses starting out online. All to often people want the all-in-one at the price of the doing it yourself.

    I personally almost always lean on the side of doing it yourself. When people put the required effort into learning everything they need, they often come out with a better result, and undoubtedly more knowledge. But, it definitely takes the right person to pull it off. There are so many businesses that fail, because those people tried to do it themselves and just didn’t have the patience / ability / motivation or whatever else to get things going. These same people often fail with a pre-made solution, but it just takes a little while longer and the result is often blamed on other things.

    Whatever the case, getting the site up and running smoothly, is only a small piece of the pie to becoming successful. Most will realize that making the site is the easy part once they get into it.

    Each business should definitely look into all the options, and do what makes the most sense for their specific business.

  2. MarFarMa

    I’ve spent some time working with the templating language that Shopify uses. As long as your look and feel can be created with standard web graphics, (x)html and css, you absolutely will be able to match your Shopify store to the look and feel of the rest of your website. Your statement,

    “This means your store either won’t match the rest of your website or, even worse, will look just like every other store hosted by the provider. ”

    does not apply in the case of Shopify.

    note: I’m neither a customer nor affilliated with Shopify. I use Mephisto for blogging, and it uses the same templating system as Shopify (the people who developed Shopify released their templating system, Liquid, to the Open Source community.)

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