Starting an online business : SaaS vs self-hosting ?

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Life hacker yesterday had an article about five best ways to set up an online business. They discuss the following shopping carts.

  • Big Cartel (Web-Based, Basic: Free/Premium: From $9.99 per month)
  • Shopify (Web-Based, Basic: $24 per month /Professional: From $59 per month)
  • Etsy (Web-Based, $0.20 per item listing)
  • Sell Simply (Web-Based, $1 per item)
  • … and finally, self hosting.

While I agree with the reviews in general, I disagree with the author recommending self-hosting of shopping carts for small businesses.  I work with many small businesses and self hosting is NOT a good option for most of them. With self hosting comes a lot of IT management headaches – patches, security fixes, archiving etc.

Most small business owners should instead go for a hosted (Software as a Service – SaaS) solution like the ones mentioned in the article. Or if they really want to go with carts like Magento or ZenCart, they should find hosting partners who would manage the IT installation for them. (For example, Magento has Zeon. Shopsite has Lexiconn etc)

As one of my small business owner friends aptly put it –

As a web store owner, you are in the business or marketing your site, selling your goods, and managing your inventory. You are NOT in the business of installing servers, applying patches and worrying about data security.

You should outsource all that stuff to experts, and these days you can find these experts at reasonable prices. So as a small business owner, there is no good reason to self-host your shopping cart.

(Read my own review of 22 prominent shopping carts here)