SaaS vs. Open Source: Which Platform is Right for Your Business?
Much like building a physical store, creating your online store needs to begin with a strong foundation. As your business grows and expands in the future, you need to have a reliable eCommerce platform that’s capable of scaling alongside your company. Furthermore, the platform you choose can come with limitations when it comes to back-end tools, customizability, user friendliness, site speed, extensions, and hundreds of other variables.
Today, most eCommerce retailers tend to go with either an SaaS (Software as a Service) platform, such as BigCommerce, or an open source platform like Magento. Although both options offer great flexibility, plenty of customization options, and hundreds of out-of-the-box features, knowing which one is perfect for you depends on your budget, your company’s needs, and the level of control you want to have over your store.
Benefits of SaaS
SaaS platforms can often be thought of as “all-in-one” eCommerce solutions. Merchants who choose to launch their websites on this type of platform don’t have to find their own hosting providers, install anything on their computers, or continuously monitor the security of their sites. Instead, retailers simply pay a monthly fee to access their online stores while the eCommerce provider will build, maintain, and host their site for them.
Since SaaS platforms provide all of the primary necessities for anyone to start a website, they’re ideal for people with little to no coding experience. Small businesses can realistically build a basic store in just a few days and easily maintain their sites as their business grows due to these core benefits of SaaS platforms:
- Lower start-up fees. Paying a flat monthly subscription fee is often cheaper than having to pay for hardware, software maintenance, and a hosting provider.
- Fast and user friendly. SaaS providers already have everything a retailer needs to start their online stores configured in the cloud or on a third-party server. SaaS users can choose from pre-built themes, designs, and free and paid extensions and apps to customize their store without the help of a developer.
- Ongoing maintenance. Other eCommerce platforms leave the retailer responsible for applying security fixes and deploying upgrades, but SaaS providers take care of these aspects for their customers. If your site has a security issue or a new update is ready, the SaaS platform will apply these fixes automatically.
- Responsive and accessible. Since there is no hardware to download, a retailer can access their SaaS store with nothing more than an internet connection and a browser.
- Scalable and flexible. SaaS platforms offer plenty of choices when it comes to subscriptions. As businesses grow, they can upgrade their monthly subscription to include more features and benefits as needed.
Cons of Saas
SaaS platforms can be great for small to mid-sized businesses, but larger companies and enterprises may find that their needs aren’t being met with this kind of subscription model. One of the main downsides of SaaS is that users don’t have full customizability over their stores. Merchants may feel like they don’t have enough control over the features and performance of their website since they can’t fully edit or change the source code. If there are no specific apps or extensions that can meet the retailer’s specific need, then they will have to simply go without that feature.
Another disadvantage of SaaS platforms is that they can be deceptively expensive. At first glance, a subscription might seem reasonable, but the cheapest monthly price might only have a handful of the features your store needs. As your store grows and you require more advanced tools and functionalities, the monthly cost can skyrocket.
Benefits of Open Source
Open source platforms, on the other hand, allow for total customizability. Open source software can be accessed by anyone for free, and users can freely collaborate with others to create new features and develop solutions to common issues with the platform. For example, Magento has a thriving global community of enthusiasts who frequently contribute their ideas to the Magento GitHub page. Simply put, open source platforms make it possible for people to start creating their websites for free, and having full access to the source code allows for unlimited customization and flexibility.
Cons of Open Source
Despite the exciting aspects of open source software, it can be intimidating to many retailers. It can take weeks to build a website, and if the merchant doesn’t have significant coding experience, they will need to request help from a Magento developer. Although retailers can customize their website exactly how they’d like, they will also be responsible for finding a hosting provider, maintaining their site’s security, and customizing their theme.
Thousands of businesses appreciate the independence and freedom provided by open source platforms, but it’s also important to note that far more responsibility falls on the merchant with this kind of eCommerce platform. For instance, if a security patch is released, it’s up to the retailer to apply the fix themselves or contact a developer for help. They will also have to find the right providers for various aspects of their online store, which can be time-consuming and difficult to keep track of as more features are added.
Before committing to an eCommerce platform, consider the current needs of your store, your budget, and how much control you’d prefer to have over your store. If you have a small to mid-sized company and you don’t think you need complete customizability over your store, then an SaaS platform could be the right solution for you. SaaS platforms like BigCommerce will also provide ongoing maintenance and security features, allowing you to focus more on managing your business instead of maintaining your site.
However, if you want highly specific and specialized features and don’t mind higher up-front costs, going open source may be a good fit for you. Even if you don’t have coding experience, you can connect with an expert Magento developer to get started on the perfect website that will look and function exactly how you’d like.
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