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Aug 17, 2016 | 5 minute read

Hosted vs Self-hosted vs Hybrid

written by Clegg

  You no longer need to worry about having to choose between different eCommerce platforms as Elastic Path provides the best of both worlds.

We’ve all experienced the pains and pitfalls, complications and confusion of having to choose software for a commerce store.

There are a plethora of solutions available and they fill all manner of needs and necessities. In general, we classify most solutions as either hosted or self-hosted (you might know them as cloud-based and downloaded).

They each have their positives and negatives and because of this, you can never get the value of both options. Here at Elastic Path we’ve tried to take a different approach to commerce software. The hybrid approach.

Before we go into details of the hybrid, let’s recap on what hosted and self-hosted solutions look like and the differences between them.

Hosted solutions

Hosted solutions are cloud-based and run on someone else’s server. Usually, you don’t have access to the code that runs the site (Shopify being a prime example).

The advantages of choosing a hosted solution include:

  • Ease of use - They usually only have one web interface, have no lines of code and are simple to set up and go live with.
  • Updates - As these are usually cloud-based, you never have to worry about updates. Changes are rolled out frequently, often multiple times a day, and bugs are usually fixed for all users immediately without you having to log in and update manually.
  • Lower costs - Large IT teams aren’t needed to maintain hosted solutions.
  • Technical support - As well as support from the cloud hosting provider you also get support for the software itself so no need to worry about any technical aspects of the online store.

However, with advantages comes disadvantages, including:

  • Limited customization - By not controlling the source code, you lose any flexibility to adapt the system to meet your business needs.
  • Globalization - Due to many hosted solutions not supporting multiple stores or languages, as well as restrictions around scalability and adapting website features, you lack the ability to scale in a way you might like.
  • Using their domain - Some hosted solutions will not let you use your own domain during the checkout process and so use their own subdomain URL instead.
  • Integrating other systems - Sometimes you do get a list of third-party plugins and software you’re able to integrate with however if you want to integrate other systems you use internally, you will often come across problems. There are marketplaces for add-ons, however, there’s often hidden costs associated with these for even basic functionality.

Self-hosted solutions

We class a self-hosted solution as software you download and run on your own servers.

Self-hosted solutions overcome the disadvantages associated with hosted solutions as you can customize something as much as you want to, hosting your own software means you have full ownership and control of the codebase and can ensure your site is always running how you want without the possibility of hosted solutions changing their policies and the way their platform and your site works.

But of course, there are disadvantages that come with self-hosted solutions too:

  • No support - You’re able to control everything and choose when to run updates, however when technical problems crop up, you have to either deal with these yourself or pay for support.
  • Complexity - Although many solutions have extensive documentation to help you, the systems are so complex due to their archaic architecture and outdated methodologies that it takes time and resource to pick up and learn. They often concentrate on overcoming problems through their help sections, rather than showing you how to actually implement features.
  • Configuration - You need to configure servers, maintain databases, manage backups, recovery and updates etc rather than just focussing on the things that matter to the business, conversion rates, sales and the bottom line.
  • Slow - Self-hosted solutions don’t offer asset distribution out of the box and require optimization to ensure fast responses and page loads.

As a result of the above points, ‘free’ downloadable platforms, are anything but free. Whilst there might not be any upfront costs, the true cost comes from the great amount of time, energy, and resource needed for developers to learn and optimize the solution.

The hybrid solution

Elastic Path is a hybrid between a downloaded and cloud-based solution to provide the best of both worlds and overcome the negativities they both inherently have by design. Unlike hosted and self-hosted solutions, an API-based approach provides a number of benefits:

  • Build faster - Set up a backend eCommerce system fast and manage your store using our store management dashboard, so you can concentrate on the front end and more important things like connecting with your customers.
  • Reduced maintenance time - We look after the backend of your system with updates being rolled out seamlessly.
  • Unparalleled customization - Ability to customize everything to meet your goals. Use our custom data models (which we call Flows), and use any programming language or technology stack for your front end that you choose.
  • Design freedom - Have complete design and creative control. Choose between using your own templates or building something totally unique to suit your needs.
  • New features - As the platform matures and advanced functionality is built, this becomes available out of the box. For any features not offered by Elastic Path, you can build your own or integrate with third-party services.
  • Fast response times - You don’t have to worry as much about how fast your site or app will be once built.
  • Get started in minutes - Simple, standardized API responses, an easy-to-use platform and a small learning curve means you can get started with using the platform quickly.
  • Image hosting - Host your images with Elastic Path, to allow you to optimize any image through our APIs. We use CloudFlare technology meaning all images served are cached and distributed by the CloudFlare CDN. This ensures all images load quickly from a customer’s’ nearby location.
  • Build prototypes - Quickly build functioning prototypes to start testing your store.

Overall, as a result of using an API, you can start building quickly, using any interface, device or language and scale as your business and store grows, ultimately accelerating your time to market. All of these points result in your store being more efficient and cheaper to run.

In summary, Elastic Path provides the customization and flexibility of downloaded solutions, allowing easy integration with other systems and no design restrictions, with the speed and ease of use of cloud-based platforms. With our helpful quick start guides and extensive documentation, you can get up and running with us in minutes.


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