To host or not to host: The pros & cons of self-hosting vs. hosting providers

To host or not to host: it’s a question that comes up often for online business owners. Is it better to host my own website or to pay a hosting provider to do it for me? The truth is both are valid answers. When it comes down to choosing how you want to host your website, you need to consider the pros and cons of both options in comparison to your expertise, time, and funds.

What is hosting?

Hosting is the process of allocating storage space and computer resources to run online services. For eCommerce business owners, their online services would include their online storefront: their website. Your website could be hosted in multiple ways: you could self-host it, or you can have a hosting provide it host it.

Self-hosting your website

Self-hosting means you are hosting your website on your own servers. Everything is locally run and maintained by you and your team when self-hosting. This set up comes with many benefits as well as drawbacks:

Pros of self-hosting

Gives you full control over your website – From the tech your website is hosted on to the installed, you have complete control to set up your hosting environment any way you please. By self-hosting, you can pick and choose how much you want to spend on each part of your hosting server, as well as what quality you want those pieces to be. Things like the amount of storage you want, or the speed you want your hosting server to have are up to you rather than limited by a hosting provider.

Allows for quick response time & full transparency – Instead of waiting for technical support on the phone or via email, if something goes wrong or if you want to adjust something in your hosting set up, you can do it yourself right in the moment. You also can set up any amount of analytics on your online service to better understand any issues it may be having as well as monitor your sites traffic more closely.

Let’s you customize your site freely – If you want to change the amount of storage your hosting server has or use a specific software in it, you can incorporate customizations without having to discuss it with a hosting provider first when self-hosting. It’s your equipment, and yours to do as you please.

Cons of self hosting

It can get expensive to run – To self-host, you will not only need the hardware, but you will also need the electricity and consumer grade internet. On top of that, you may need to hire a team of workers to maintain and protect your server depending on your teams existing expertise. Any issues that arise are paid by the company rather than handled by a hosting provider.

Zero support when issues arise – When issues such as hardware failures, data loss, outages, security breaches, and so forth arise, it is your company’s responsibility to identify the problem and fix it. Depending on your expertise and team, this could be incredibly time-consuming and costly.

Time consuming to learn & maintain – Hosting is fairly straightforward start but is a continuous process to maintain. Depending on your current workload, it could be hard to make sure that your server is up to date and running properly. While you can learn the ins and outs of server maintenance and hosting, it may require time that you don’t have.

Security and technical Risks – Lack of proper maintenance can lead to security risks and errors in your hosting server. An insecure store can put you and your customers valuable information at risk, as well as push users away if they don’t feel comfortable. Technical errors could bring your server down, making your online store unavailable to potential customers.

Using a Hosting Provider

Hosting providers will run your website on their servers. A hosting team will take care of your website’s maintenance and changes. Having a company host your online services comes with its own set of benefits and troubles.

Pros of using a hosting provider

Is Reliable and secure – Hosting providers are paid to keep your site up and running. This includes keeping track of updates, saving your data, creating a secure environment, maintaining internet connectivity, and so forth. With a quality hosting provider, downtime should be minimal, and your site should be protected.

Experts handle outages and problems – Hosting providers monitor and respond to errors and outages that impact your website. Experts in their fields, they can more easily identify and fix problems than those with little to no experience. This means quicker return times and less stress on business owners.

Little time investment on your end – For a business owner utilizing a hosting provider, there is little time investment involved. The hosting provider does all the maintenance and major changes to the hosting process, leaving the online business owner more time to work on other important parts of the eCommerce endeavors.

Cons of using a hosting provider

Upgrades & maintenance have to be done by provider – When hosting providers are managing your site, upgrades, maintenance, and changes have to go through them. Depending on the quality of your hosting provider, you may encounter hosting providers that are slow or unreliable.

Resources can be limited and monetized – When shopping for hosting providers, many providers will determine their prices based on the amount of resources you want. Storage, RAM, network traffic, and so forth can be billable items that you need to think about when getting a hosting provider, which requires you to understand your site’s needs.

Industry challenges can impact hosting providers – From mass security events to accessibility, there are industry wide laws and issues that hosting providers need to comply and react to. Finding a hosting provider that you trust in terms of keeping up with the law and potential security risks of the internet can be daunting.

Is there a right option when it comes to self-hosting or using a hosting provider?

When it comes to choosing between self-hosting your online storefront or going to a hosting provider, there is no correct answer. The decision depends on what you can manage as a business. Do you have a team who have the expertise to host a site? Do you have the money to either buy your own server or buy the resources you need from a hosting provider? Do you have the time to maintain a server? Do you have a custom environment that cannot be provided by a hosting provider? These questions and more determine which of the two options best suit your hosting needs.

Need help with your hosting needs?

At BCSE, we not only have hosting services, but we can also help manage existing hosted sites with a select group of providers. If you have questions about finding a host provider or about your current hosting environment, schedule a consultation with us! If you liked this blog and want to see more like it, check out our new eCommerce Made Easy podcast for more eCommerce tips and tricks!