Choosing your eCommerce Company:
SaaS or Self-Hosted?

When starting your online store, businesses take a look at the short-term benefits and costs associated with choosing their software platform, but often times neglect to view the long-term picture of how this choice will affect their entire future.   There is no shortage of e-commerce software solutions, otherwise known as shopping carts, available.   This can make choosing the proper ecommerce company to partner with quite difficult.  When selecting an ecommerce company, one of the best ways to cut down on the choices available is discovering if a self-hosted or software-as-a-service (Saas) option is best for your business model. Self-hosted carts are the most common among e-commerce retailers as they have some key advantages:
  • More control over your web hosting and web server performance.By self-hosting, you can choose how and where your website is hosted.   Is your website hosted on a dedicated server from a third party? Or by a close business partner that handles web hosting?  For better or worse, you have the power to choose how well users can connect to your website at any given time.   On the other hand, a SaaS-based ecommerce company requires you to use their web hosting so you are stuck indefinitely with whatever solution and web performance they offer.
  • More control over your website performance and functionality.Since you or your developer have access to your actual website code and database, the sky’s the limit on what you can do.   If you have the budget and manpower to write custom code or run third party software on your site, there is very few limitations to how you shape the user’s experience on your site.  Adversely, a SaaS ecommerce company will lock down what code and data you can modify, largely leaving what you can offer your own customers based on the off-the-shelf capabilities of the vendor’s cart.
Software-as-a-service platforms are a growing trend in e-commerce solutions that have some major selling points:
  • Less barrier to entry costs to start your own online store.Rather than building a custom solution for your business, SaaS solutions allow you to test the waters at an affordable monthly or annual cost and pay more as your business grows.   This keeps you from putting the so-called ‘cart before the horse’ and allows you to focus on the core of your business rather than the details.  Unlike self-hosted solutions, your upfront costs are not thousands just to see if your online model will work.
  • Less web-related overhead and maintenance costs.While this not always true, most of the time you will pay a flat per-month or per-year fee + a possible transaction cost per order.   This permits you to budget your overall costs associated with your online business and develop a clear budget for future improvements.   However with self-hosted platforms, you may have unexpected costs associated with fixing bugs and patching updates to your software.
In our case, we work with both self-hosted and SaaS platforms, choosing the right solution based on each client.  Likewise, you should take a high-view of your situation and see which type of platform is the best fit for your business.