Many SMEs (small and medium enterprises) find themselves struggling with their decision on which e-commerce solution to use, open sourced or hosted. Unfortunately, there is no absolute answer for the question. If you’re facing this dilemma, your choice would have to depend on your unique e-commerce situation.
In determining whether you should opt for an open source or a hosted e-commerce program, consider these three vital factors:
- Budget – You might think that open source is the more economical choice, but consider a couple of things such as setup cost and hosting fees and you’ll see that this is not the case. With a hosted solution, the setup cost is usually low, unless you want a custom design, but even then, it would still be cheaper than setting up an open source store. With open source, the cost of setup is usually high, considering the work required. You’ll need to customize code, integrate template, test, and finally implement. As for hosting cost, a full service solution already includes hosting in the fee while an open source program requires you to provide your own hosting, for which you will be charged separately. So, it seems that you should choose the paid program if you’re going for a more affordable solution.
- Programming skills – Hosted platforms are usually easy to implement and maintain, even for people with moderate computer skills. Meanwhile, open source programs, while easily implemented and maintained by professional developers, present a high learning curve for many users. Again, a hosted solution is best for the layperson; however, if you have tech wizards on your staff, they can optimize the benefits that open source programs offer.
- Required store features – Hosted solutions would offer limited flexibility in comparison to open source ones in terms of features. Open source programs can be customized through paid for extensions and custom coding, lending them greater flexibility at quite the price. On the other hand, you can take it for granted that hosted programs would already have many useful features included in their plans. There’s no need to pay extra to utilize them.
What other factors should you consider in making your choice? Support is always something that should be taken into account. Hosted solutions typically offer full support through numerous contact channels, while open source software programs don’t really offer any official support.
Upgrades are another concern. With hosted e-commerce programs, upgrades, both bug fixes and new features, are automatically implemented. Meanwhile, open source upgrades would have to be manually integrated by the store owner or the developer.
Open source works really well for those sites that require a great deal of flexibility and have a big budget as well as specialized PHP developers managing them, but, at the end of the day, hosted is what many developers recommend.
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