Podcast | Self-Hosted vs. Hosted eCommerce Sites

Welcome to the Official Plesk Podcast: Next Level Ops. In this season, we’re exploring the ins and outs of building your eCommerce business to success!

This month, we welcome Patrick Rauland, eCommerce Educator and Entrepreneur, to discuss the benefits of different types of hosting solutions for your business. Tune in to find out what’s the best hosting option for your eCommerce store:

Patrick Rauland eCommerce Podcast Hosting Plesk

In This Episode: How to Choose the Right eCommerce Hosting Setup

It’s the age-old question for online retailers: do you go with a hosted web solution where you only have to manage web content and products, or do you go with a self-hosted solution that you can control completely? And like everything with computing, the answer is a resounding, “it depends.” It depends on what you need, what you want to focus on, and the goals of the business.

The way Patrick explains this through the renting vs. buying analogy. Buying a house or car is like opting for self-hosting; it’s the cultural dream to be a home, car, or web host owner, but as Patrick illustrates, it is only the best solution for particular situations. Some businesses are better suited to the ‘rental’ solution; a hosted website.

For example, Patrick admits that owning a car costs him more than just using a car sharing or taxi service whenever he needs a ride; for living in a city and working from home, owning a car doesn’t offer many additional benefits. Joe, meanwhile, has a family outside of town. In his particular case, it would be impractical for his family not to own a car. So renting (hosted) and buying (self-hosted) attract different customers.

This also applies to renting vs. buying a house. With a rental, if something’s broken, the landlord will fix it. It’s much faster and more convenient than finding and hiring a contractor. But if you want to remodel the bathroom, you can’t unless you own it. So personalization in a rental – as with hosted websites – is limited.

Looking at a more concrete example, Patrick explains how he started his board game business using Shopify:

I built a site on Shopify first and part of the reason is because generally hosted solutions like Shopify are very fast to set up…you could, if you knew what you were doing, get it done in a day.

However, he outgrew it and ended up switching to a self-hosted solution a few months later:

With a hosted solution, if they have something that’s just hard for [them] to do, it’s literally impossible for you to do.

So the main question you should answer when trying to choose between the two is:

  • Do you need to “rent” (hosted) – where most of it’s taken care of for you, it’s faster to set up, and you generally don’t need to worry about technical issues?
  • Or do you want to “buy” (self-hosted) – where it will take longer to set up, but you have much more control over what you can and cannot do?

As you’ll learn in the episode, there’s also managed solutions and hybrid approaches. Think of those as your Home Owners Associations!

Key Takeaways

  • Hosted vs. self-hosted is a lot like renting vs. buying. On the one hand, you can have 80% of your management and troubleshooting taken care of – you just need to worry about running your store and your business. But on the other hand, is the remaining 20% enough flexibility to run your store or your business?
  • The most common self-hosted eCommerce solutions are Shopify, Volusion, and BigCommerce. There is also Etsy and the Amazon Marketplace, which are a lot closer to hosted than self-hosted solutions.
  • The oldest self-hosted solution is Magento, but WooCommerce has gained considerable popularity in the last few years.
  • To get a better understanding of what you need, it’s a good idea to start with a hosted solution. This will let you get up and running (and making money) as quickly as possible. Then as you outgrow the hosted solution, you can seek a self-hosted solution, like WooCommerce.
  • WooCommerce is currently the number 1 self-hosted solution. There are lots of add-ons and resources, making it flexible enough to support just about any type of store you need (with the right amount of effort).
  • Another option Patrick mentions is the hybrid approach. This provides you with a self-hosted solution, but you can still offload certain functions to SaaS products. BigCommerce does this with their WordPress plugin. Metorik does this with WooCommerce analytics.
  • There are also self-hosted partners that offer managed eCommerce solutions – like the Plesk eCommerce Toolkit. In some ways, this is the best of both worlds. 
  • One problem Patrick sees a lot is people wondering why their WooCommerce site is slow. We covered site speed and performance in a previous episode, but here’s Patrick’s advice: don’t cheap out on hosting. Find some good hosting with a company that will make sure your site is up, running, and working well.

The Official Plesk Podcast: Next Level Ops Featuring

Joe Casabona
Joe is a college-accredited course developer and podcast consultant. You can find him at Casabona.org.

Patrick Rauland
Patrick is an e-commerce entrepreneur and educator who’s developed courses for LinkedIn Learning, as well as launched and funded his own successful Kickstarter project.

Did you know we’re also on Spotify and Apple Podcasts? Just search for Next Level Ops! And stay on the lookout for our next episode!

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