In the past couple of years, having an online shop became more important than ever for any business. A lot of vendors that didn’t have a website or had not updated their existing one, quickly realized their mistake. More and more people have turned to online shopping, so if you want to start a business or you want to expand your existing one and find new customers, you definitely need a website.
There are lots of providers that offer different e-commerce solutions – some of them are cloud (hosted) platforms, others are standard web hosting providers that allow you to install and manage your own (self-hosted) e-commerce application. In this article, we will give you five reasons why the latter option is better.
- 1. You can choose and customize your software platform.
- 2. You can add a commercial SSL certificate.
- 3. You will pay less to get more.
- 4. You can manage your emails with the same provider.
- 5. You will have more control over the site SEO.
- In conclusion
1. You can choose and customize your software platform.
There are lots of self-hosted applications you can use. Some of them are easier to use, others offer more customization or integration options. You can choose between WordPress + WooCommerce, Prestashop, OpenCart, Zen Cart, Magento, osCommerce and many more. Each one comes with different options, themes, plugins, etc. If needed, you can switch from one application to another without changing your hosting provider. There are plugins for many of the applications above that make the migration easier.
One big advantage here is that you will have full access to the application files, so you can create a unique website. If you go with WordPress + WooCommerce, for example, you will find thousands of free and paid themes you can use, and you can easily create a child theme that will match your specific needs.
In comparison, cloud platforms may have lots of templates, but they all use the same framework. Any cloud provider you choose will allow you to use a single closed-source solution. You can use only the tools and elements that the provider chooses, so you cannot customize your store much. This is why, it will look similar to a number of other stores that use the same platform. You cannot use a different platform even if you want to.
2. You can add a commercial SSL certificate.
In theory, there is no difference between free and commercial SSL certificates – they both encrypt the information that customers submit on a website and they both make it possible for a website to open with https and with a padlock in the browser address bar. In reality, however, using a commercial certificate has a number of advantages:
- Identity. If you use an Organization validation or an Extended validation certificate, your company name will be visible whenever a customer checks the SSL certificate in their web browser. This can help you to earn your customers’ trust. Although Organization Validation (OV), and Extended Validation (EV) certificates are becoming gradually obsolete, they still have their place, and running a major online store, or other important service is a bad sign to customers.
- Site seal. You can assure your customers that your site is secure by adding a site seal that displays information about the security status of your website and about its warranty. Technically Site Seals may be unimportant, but many customers will look for them and be re-assured that you have taken all necessary measures to protect their online shopping experience.
You will not be able to add a commercial SSL certificate with a cloud e-commerce platform as the vast majority of such platforms add a free certificate automatically. They do not provide any interface to add another certificate, so you will be stuck with the free one.
3. You will pay less to get more.
Cloud e-commerce platforms often limit the number of products or pages you can add, the number of site administrators you can have or the traffic statistics you can access. Some e-commerce providers even ask for more money to allow you to use a country-code domain, so if you want to target a local market, you will have to use a more expensive plan.
In comparison, a standard hosting package doesn’t have any such limitations. You can add as many pages and products as you want, you can use any domain name you want, and you can access detailed statistics from your provider by default. If you prefer, you can also use an analytics platform like Google Analytics or the powerful, self-hosted Matomo.
One thing we should point out here is that even low-end cloud plans cost significantly more than a standard web hosting plan. Even if you decide to use paid plugins for your self-hosted website, the overall price will be a fraction of what you will have to pay for a cloud plan that is good enough for a standard website in terms of features.
4. You can manage your emails with the same provider.
This is something quite important if you want to have everything in one place. Emails are essential for any online business and you cannot have a successful store without having at least one mailbox for customers to contact you. Any standard hosting package will allow you to create email addresses that will help you to manage your business. Adding industry-standard addresses like [email protected] or personal ones like [email protected] usually takes a couple of clicks. Since emails are a part of any standard hosting plan, you will not have to pay anything extra to be able to use that service.
It you use a cloud e-commerce solution, you will have to look for a different provider to be able to use emails. Cloud providers do not offer any email services and in the best-case scenario, they can recommend an email provider they work with. You will either have to use a free, limited mailbox, or you will have to pay to another provider to be able to send and receive messages with your own domain name. Essentially, you will have to pay twice for your online business presence – once to host your website and a second time to use mailboxes @your-domain.com, which are essential for any online vendor.
5. You will have more control over the site SEO.
Search engine optimization is a complex matter. The ranking of your website in search engine results depends on different factors, including the site speed, so you should make sure that you find a provider that offers good loading speed. If you decide to go for WordPress and WooCommerce, for example, look for a good WordPress hosting provider. This way, the performance of your site will match that of any site hosted with a cloud provider.
For tips on speeding up your WordPress website, check out our article:
Apart from performance, the main difference between cloud and self-hosted online stores is the level of optimization you can have. Cloud providers usually have a set of tools that allow you to optimize some of the content or to add meta tags to pages. Often, SEO modules cost extra, increasing the overall price of your hosted website even more.
In comparison, self-hosted applications allow you to change every little SEO-related detail you want. Having full access to the site files gives you the freedom to edit them in any way you need to give your site a SEO boost. You can also find lots of free plugins that will make things even easier. This is why, self-hosted platforms have a clear advantage over cloud platforms when it comes to search engine optimization.
Of course, using a self-hosted solution for your online store has some disadvantages as well. For the sake of being objective, we will mention a few of them below:
- You are in charge of maintenance. You will have to update the software you use for your store. If a new update is released, for example, you will have to make sure that you don’t use outdated software with known vulnerabilities. You will also have to keep backups or restore the website if anything unforeseen happens. Nonetheless, self-hosted platforms are updated easily and hosting providers usually keep regular backups, which will make your job easier.
- It may be more difficult to add new features. A cloud provider can easily add new features on the front end or in the back end of your website. If you want to add anything new to a self-hosted platform, you will either have to add some plugin and check if it will do the job, or you will have to hire a developer who can help you with that.
- You are in charge of security. You will be accepting online payments, so you have to make sure your website is secure. Updating any plugins and themes, adding and configuring a firewall and protecting key files and folders is crucial to the security of the site. A good solution in this case is to use a managed hosting plan as your hosting provider will take care of at least some of these tasks.
PCI-DSS is an information security standard that is mandatory for any organization that wants to handle credit card payments. All our Managed VPS plans are PCI-compliant – they cover all technical requirements set forth by the PCI Security Standards Council, which makes them an excellent choice for hosting an online store.
Having a website these days can help you to expand your business significantly. Whether the site will be an addition to a physical store or you will focus solely on online sales, it is something that can help you to find lots of new customers. The two alternatives for e-commerce on the market are a cloud solution where you can modify a template using a fixed set of tools provided by the platform, or a self-hosted application of your choice that you can fully customize. Both options have their pros and cons, but if you weigh them, you will see that a self-hosted solution is better.
Unlike cloud platforms where thousands of users have the same framework and use the same SEO tools, the self-hosted option allows you to choose the application that you will use based on your requirements and level of experience, and to fully customize the site in terms of layout and SEO. You can also create and manage your emails in the same account, which will make it easier to manage your online business.
In addition, you can add your own SSL certificate that verifies your identity, which in turn allows you to add a site seal displaying information about your domain name and the warranty that comes with the SSL certificate. With thousands of competitors out there, it is important that you earn the trust of your customers, and the site seal is an important step in this direction.
A self-hosted e-commerce platform will give you the freedom to build the site that you really want, not the one you are allowed to create with the limited tools of a cloud platform.