The advantages that accompany moving your business online are certainly bountiful. By using Ecommerce, you can open a virtual business that is not only open 24/7, but it is also capable of reaching customers anywhere in the world. Online stores can help you reach broader audiences, make more sales, and keep your overhead costs very low.
If you have decided to embark into the world of online shopping, one of the first decisions you will face is whether you should use a hosted ecommerce solution, or if you should take care of the hosting yourself. There are advantages and disadvantages for each solution, and making the right choice depends largely upon your preferences as the business owner.
There are all-inclusive hosted solutions, such as Volusion, that provide fantastic ecommerce software and services for online businesses. With this hosted solution, you have the advantage of fast and easy set up and launch of your business. The software is very user friendly and their tech support team is always available to help you make any changes or modifications to your site. The costs are also low and predictable. With Volusion, for example, you would be charged a small set up fee and an inexpensive monthly hosting fee, dependent upon the amount of bandwidth you require.
One of the major advantages of using a hosted solution is the support and dependability that accompany it. A hosted solution will most likely guarantee that your site is also safely backed up; if a server goes down, they will have another server available to keep your site up and running. When using a hosted solution, a skilled IT department, using the latest software, will handle all of the responsibilities such as PCI security compliance and troubleshooting. You can rest assured knowing that all credit card information is kept secure.
If you want to take over more of the responsibilities and have more personal control over your site, you can choose do your own hosting using software such as Magento. When you use a self-hosted ecommerce solution, you pay larger initial costs to get the system up and running, and then you are personally responsible for putting the proper security measures in place and taking care of any maintenance of the site. While you can see lower monthly costs when hosting the site yourself, using this solution, you run the risk of facing larger unexpected long-term costs if you run into any type of technical or security problems.
Unless you have a lot of technical support on your hands, or if having a lot of control over your ecommerce experience is very important to you, it is typically favorable to take advantage of the expertise, safety, and support of a hosted ecommerce solution. But if you need more customization than Volusion can offer, Magento may be the way to go. POP can help you explore your options further as well as design and configure the store to your liking.
Note: This is an update to an article originally posted in April, 2010 and entitled "The Case for Hosted Ecommerce."