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Hosted solutions vs. your own website/cart

Discussion in 'E-Commerce and Online Selling' started by Pete, Mar 16, 2013.

  1. Pete

    Pete

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    I.m not trying to start a battle, or even take sides, I simply curious to know the value of hosted solutions such as Big Commerce, Shopify and 3D Cart?

    They have monthly fees from $19.95 to $29.95 FOR 100 PRODUCTS!

    Again, I am not trying to sell what I offer, I am simply anxious to understand what these have to offer over any cart, free or paid for, simply hosted on a normal hosting platform?

    I do understand that they are pre-installed and upgrades are included in the deal.

    I am not asking about Features, there is always one cart that has the perfect feature for a particular user that another cart does not offer. That's not what I'm looking for. As an example, Big Commerce was available for years as Interspire, at a cost of maybe $300. I think they even had a free or low cost version with limited products.So with exactly the same features, unlimited products and a lot less real cost over a year what do you get with Big Commerce that was not available with Interspire?

    Or any of the others?

    Granted, they do upgrades.

    Do they offer a large selection - hundreds - of templates?

    Do they install your images and products for you?

    Do they decide upon the keywords and phrases you will use for SEO and enter them for you?

    What do they do?

    Again, I'm not trying to sell anything. In fact, I'm thinking of offering a Hosted Solution myself. But I don't see where there is much difference. Again, not features. Not payment options or shippers. These vary from cart to cart, but you can always find several that meet your needs. Same exact cart. Just for discussion, I'll use Big Commerce and Interspire.

    EXACTLY the same cart, same features. IDENTICAL!

    Interspire - Unlimited products $300 one time and say $10 per month for hosting on a Cpanel type account. Go all out, make it $500.

    Big Commerce - Identical features, but hosted on their server. $149.95 per month for their smallest Unlimited products cart. OK, they will upgrade it for you. Pay me $100 per month and I'll upgrade anything you've got.

    What else is there? What am I missing? People will say you don't have to set it up. But you still have to choose what banner to put where, What shipping method to use. You still have to enter your own inventory and images, do your own SEO.

    What's the benefit?

    One more time, I'm not trying to sell my stuff. I simply can't see what is received for even with 100 items, the cost is at least twice what a normal cart per month.

    I'm begging for someone to enlighten me. I'm giving serious consideration to offering such a service, but without actually loading inventory and actually managing the cart itself, what do these Hosted Solutions offer?
    mickey2910 likes this.
  2. Dean

    Dean

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    I've only looked at one hosted solution in detail and gone as far as setting a store up but I'm pretty sure they're all fairly similar. I'm also very familiar with Opencart and although I haven't made a live store yet I have installed templates and been through most of the configuration. Being familiar with both sides of the coin so to speak, the biggest difference in my view is that the hosted carts are much much quicker to get a live store set up that looks half decent. This must appeal to less technical people or people that have no experience of setting a store up.

    I have a very technical background having worked for 10 years as a UNIX technician but I can understand that something like Opencart can be quite a steep learning curve. And let's face it, Opencart is actually probably one of the easier ones!

    From the other thread these were some of the advantages I could see for a hosted solution...

    Its much quicker to set up
    Its easier to pick up (for those less technical)
    The templates are free and some are better than some of the £30 templates you can buy for OC
    You can easily create shipping rules (thats a bitch on OC!)
    You don't need to worry about upgrading to a new version as its all done for you
    Its not as restrictive as some people seem to think

    Yes you still have to list your items, yes you still have to add your copy and your logos and what not, but like for like, getting a hosted solution set up is much faster/easier than getting a basic OC store set up.

    Don't get me wrong, I think solutions like Opencart are infinitely better overall from a configurable and cost point of view and I am still working on OC for my main business. But for some, I can certainly understand that the extra cost is worth it for the speed and ease of set up.
  3. eAuction

    eAuction

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    I've picked out the important parts so I'll answer them here:
    1. Who cares? it's a small cost of running business - the fact you get all of your upgrades included would make it worth it for most people. Between a bog standard cPanel account for $10 a month, and an account on a high spec managed server, with a CDN and upgrades included at $20 month - i'd go for the second every time. Remember they also include SSL and take care of PCI requirements (costly!).
    2. Also addon apps are one click install - and the upgrades is a big deal - I've upgraded some huge stores and it's not a fun thing to do.
    3. Why not include features? BigCommerce isn't exactly the same as interspire - it's much more solid and at $300 a license it probably stopped being a viable business model.
    4. I'd say quality over quantity - a lot of the free themes are ridiculously high quality.
    5. Why would they? This is something you pay someone £20k+ a year to do in a bigger organisation
    6. See above
    7. It's not black and white like that - perhaps people find shopify easier to use? It's set up for you, all updates are handled, you don't worry about hosting, pci, ssl, you get the use of a CDN, good servers etc etc. The point about them not adding products is just stupid.
    8. Cost isn't everything - you'd need a pretty struggling business to not be able afford $20 a month
    9. You couldn't offer such a service, unless you plan to go and build your own eCommerce platform. You could manage people's open cart installs, but what happens when you upgrade their install and that theme they purchased 5 years ago no longer works?
    All in all, a bit of a stupid thread, but there's some real answers for you. I've probably used just about every eCommerce platform out there right now.
  4. Pete

    Pete

    Joined:
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    Back at ya -

    1 - Many do care. My clients are first time small businesses. That is who I am concerned with.
    2 - That's the sort of answer I was looking for. That is definitely a point for hosted.
    3 - Features are generally available for most carts. You may have to pay some additional, but they are there.
    4 - Lost me on that one.
    5 - You're talking steak and I'm questioning hamburger, or horse meat. My questions revolve around the newbie who asks "Should I use Shopify", not long established businesses.
    6 - See above. The guy starting out still has to do his own or pay someone additional. You've made my points on 5 and 6.
    7 - Same things as above. Again, thinking of newbies.
    8 - Some cry about the 7quid for a domain. This forum is predominately pretty struggling small businesses.
    9 - Of course I can offer that service. There are several packages with all of the capabilities of those mentioned, including PCI, upgrades, etc. I'm not talking about Open Cart, seems like you're stuck there.

    This may be stupid to you, who are into this every day, but there are hundreds here who do ask these sort of questions. I do appreciate you answers, if not your attitude. I'd say that to 75 or 80 of those here $250 per month is a big deal.

    I would like to hear from users, not developers and designers, who have may give an even more biased response than Gary accuses me of having.
  5. planner

    planner

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    Dec 28, 2008
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    Said it before when it comes to websites I haven't a clue. It is alright for someone saying its "easy" to them maybe but to others like myself "its not" I am not stupid I just can't get my brain engaged in websites. If I ever wanted one doing I would go to certain advertisers from this forum who have proven themselves over the years.
    jewishprincess likes this.
  6. eAuction

    eAuction

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    I've been all three - user, developer and designer, and not everyone I've worked with has had a huge budget.

    Here's what I mean about themes: http://themes.shopify.com/#price=free not the biggest selection, but just look at the quality.

    Regardless of OpenCart or not, you're still going to have to use an eCommerce platform - there's only one that I know of that makes it very easy to update. You will be using a platform that every other host has access to, unless you plan to build your own of course (this will end up costing you at least $50k for anything comparable to the open source systems).

    My opinion isn't biased - I've set up both types for people and recommend based on individual requirements, but hosted is certainly an attractive choice.
  7. Nick-D

    Nick-D

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    4,847
    I posted this is the second thread but Gary kindly sent it to me so I can repost here:

    Its interesting that you mention Interspire as an option, we had good results with Bigcommerce but wanted a cart that we could really customise for our next project, we were told that a lot of the features for Bigcommerce would trickle down into the interspire so we would get all the cool new features. Less than a year later interspire was discontinued and we are left with a cart that has no official support.

    Many users when going for hosted solutions are going for ease of use, all the hosting is sorted and scalable, all the updates are done automatically and without issue, meaning you can just get on with the selling.

    I know you don't want to talk about features but for me that is one of the biggest selling points, because they are getting money every month they can invest in cutting edge features, instead of having to download the base cart and then install different mods to bring it up to scratch it works out of the box. Also a newer trend is the "app store" where 3rd parties can create mods that run through the API, its just a case of clicking one or two buttons and they are running.

    A final reason why Hosted can be great is that they are PCI compliant, this can not only be a PITA but can be costly for a small business!

    Now they are not perfect, like you have noted if you have a lot of products then it can get expensive when you are starting up but if you are doing OK then it is probably a small cost of business. Also you are restricted to the framework set out by the cart, you can often change the design and other front end stuff but if you have specifc requirements for discount rules or special shipping processes it can be troublesome.
    eAuction likes this.
  8. eAuction

    eAuction

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    Also something worth mentioning on the PCI requirement - you're pretty much going to need a VPS to be able to make all of the server changes, a VPS will cost a lot more than some of the hosted eCommerce solutions.
  9. planner

    planner

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    For the uneducated please explain these for me.

    1) What is PCI compliant

    2) What is PITA

    3) What is VPS

    I know you lads know this but to others it could mean anything.
  10. eAuction

    eAuction

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    1) Payment card industry compliance - most merchants will make you have a PCI scan to see if your website is secure enough to be dealing with card data (even if you don't store it on your server!).

    2) Pain in the arse

    3) Virtual private server - it's like a dedicated server for web hosting but may be shared with a few people. You get guarantee'd resources and root access etc.
  11. mickey2910

    mickey2910

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    What about DMHI ?
  12. shopafrolix

    shopafrolix Banned Member

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    I have a website that is on Open Cart and my card issuer runs scans on it regularly for PCI complience - no problem at all
  13. eAuction

    eAuction

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    It would be pretty rare for a shared host to pass a PCI scan - not impossible though. Some scanners are also more strict than others - security metrics are particularly strict and you will pretty much always fail first time because of false positives.
  14. shopafrolix

    shopafrolix Banned Member

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    well, I'd like to add, this website is hosted by Pete
    Pete likes this.
  15. eAuction

    eAuction

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    Who does your PCI scans? A lot of scanners will at least fail a cpanel host on false positives the first time (an old vulnerability ith guestbook.cgi) and small things like having to prove bind version.
  16. shopafrolix

    shopafrolix Banned Member

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  17. UKbuyer1

    UKbuyer1

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    Let me give it you from my viewpoint.

    A few years ago, I wanted to expand my ebay business and scale out to a website.

    After much research, I chose BigCommerce. I was a complete newbie then, things like Wordpress, FTP, SSL, DNS etc were absolute alien to me.

    I looked at your offering Pete. Hold Your Hand and all that. But still, there was an awful lot to take in. And I went with BC (I think it was $29 a month or similar). From my point of view, right at that moment in time, that was the best product and choice for ME. I had used the 15 day free trial, and was quite impressed. I didn't need to bother about all the things I didn't have a clue about - simply follow the steps, copy and paste this info in here, and then bam, your site is up and running, one click alters the style and layout, and I could concentrate on uploading products.

    I did a little backlinking and SEO (with the help of the now vanished Ash from these forums), and within a couple of weeks I was making sales. I was very happy with my decision, i liked the simplicity, I liked the point and click nature

    I was paying for convenience. People should't underestimate that - people WILL pay for convenience.

    Quite a while later, I decided to ditch BC and try OpenCart (with hosting from pete). This was primarily because BC had just released a big patch and update, and had somehow the look of my site had been misconfigured. i didn't find the support particularly helpful with this issue, so i thought that this would have been as good as any time to try OC.

    I put the time with setting up OC down to experience and learning now. It took an age, (just figuring out how to FTP my template in took literally days - remember I was a complete a newbie then) and every step I took in setting up presented some sort of problem. I eventually got everything set up but it took time, and a lot of it - in learning and in overcoming problems.

    Yet, for some reason, my traffic went right down, and I would go some weeks without making a sale. Then little problems would arise. Nothing major, but niggles, constantly. On the homepage for instance, lines of error code would randomly show up, orders would show up but without showing what the customer ordered etc etc. Then I added some plugin/module, and malware warnings showed up on my site. None of this happened on BC.

    It ended up being a massive drain on my TIME. So much so, I took my eyes off my main business, which was eBay (and I can still see the exact months I was spending far too much time with the website on my accounts where there was a big lull in turnover).

    It is easy to say to someone like yourself Pete to say go with my hosting and simply install a cart and a template etc. But for a complete newbie, this is a big ask, there is a LOT to learn (I don't care what anyone says) vs the relative simplicity of BC where much of it is point and click.

    And a lot depends on the time an individual has. If they are prepared to take it slow and easy, and learn along the way, then yes, OpenCart or a cart solution would be OK. But if they wanted something quick and simple, the BC or shopify.

    What would I do now, knowing what I know? I would go for my own cart. What would I recommend for a complete newbie as a starter package? I would recommend BC or other similar solution.
    etradz, readysalted and thec00kchris like this.
  18. Pete

    Pete

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    Thanks Rick and Nick! Those are the sorts of responses I was looking for.

    And thanks Richard for your mentioning who your host is.

    Again, I am not really interested in comparing MY Open Cart with Big Commerce, although as most of you know, I'll take the good with the bad. (Rick, I'm sorry you had such a time with FTP. I could have held your hand.)

    eauction, I simply don't get it, in another current thread you're "liking" pxgamer's thread about Open Cart but come here and attack what seems like me and Open Cart. Or am I misunderstanding the meaning of "stupid"? Which is it? This thread and the stupid folks using OC or Koen's reply where you seem to approve of it? > ***************************************************************************************

    While I do appreciate the support, I did not want this to revolve around me and my hosting. It has not been posted as a sales message. I think those who know me realize if I were trying to "compete" with Big Commerce, I'd go to the market place and start a thread like "Why pay $249 for unlimited products when I can give you the same thing for over 50 times less?"

    Frankly, I am shocked at Rick's loss of traffic. Rick, I am curious to know if you used the exact same keywords and such that Ash used in the BC cart? I'd find it a bit unsettling to know that Google would place that much difference in the platform, rather than the content. But, that is exactly the kind of thing I'm hoping to hear about.

    While I certainly don't mind hearing from my clients, there are others hosting with Redspell, Saajan and others offering affordable solutions. And from responses in other threads, also GoDaddy, 1 and 1, MegaHost and other corporate type hosting providers. I know I have quite a few Zen users as clients, as well as several Presta and seems to me CS-Cart and X-Cart users. So I did not intend this as "Pete and Open Cart" against Big Commerce. There is hardly a day goes by that someone on TWF is not asking about Shipify, Freewebstore, etc. And discussions such as this take place. (Well thankfully not quite like this.) Can we get back to "All hosted solutions vs. All stand-alone carts", pros and cons of one type in general against the other in general. Names are fine, but I had no intention of making this OC against BC.

    Please continue those of you who are not competitors with their own purposes in responding. I'd love to hear from more "Rick's" who have used both hosted and stand-alone type carts. Also more on PCI. It's been mentioned several times as a benefit of the hosted solutions that does not exist in stand-alone carts. Again, not trying to pick a side, not wanting to get into a fight, but in my many years hosting carts (from actually before PCI requirements even existed) I've never, ever had a hosting client tell me they had any sort of warning, fine, or any other interaction with the PCI folks. That could change tomorrow, but right now it seems to be a non-issue.

    Reminds me of the guy with the guy in London talking about this great elephant repellant he'd bought. When someone said "why did you buy that?" the guy says, well, it must work" eh? I'm not making light of PCI or the implications of it, but it seems like unless you are collecting and holding card information yourself there is little to fear. Moving to a payment provider's secure payment pages is all that's required. Please don't get off on a tangent with this. As Richard notes, using plain old $4.49 per month hosting and OC he is tested and passes PCI compliance. As does everyone else, unless they are using an "offline" extension that delivers card numbers and such to their PC.

    Anyone had ANY PCI problems, hosted or stand-alone type carts?
    Saajan likes this.
  19. eAuction

    eAuction

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    I like Koens post because it was a well written and good explanation (with personal evidence) of some of the opencart strengths and weaknesses - it's nothing to do with this thread at all.

    Where have I attacked you, or opencart? you seem to be a bit stuck on that...

    You seem to be asking questions and only wanting to hear what you think is correct - you're pretty much ignoring PCI because your handful of customers haven't had issues with it. PCI is an absolute minefield and the fines for non compliance can be hefty from banks, it's also just an intelligent thing to take care of, regardless of the requirement you want to know you are handling card data in a sensitive way.
  20. Pete

    Pete

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    Sorry, can't help but get my hackles up a bit when the word stupid is used several times in one reply, including calling me stupid for even starting the thread.

    You did post this, did you not? "All in all, a bit of a stupid thread"
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