What is a hosted solution?
A hosted solution is a website platform that includes website hosting as part of the fee. Hosting is where the files of your website live. Also known as website builders, some common examples are Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace. It’s convenient, but you may not have as much control.
What is a self-hosted solution?
A self-hosted website solution is a website platform that requires you to find hosting for your website. Maybe rather obviously, you host your website yourself on a server you pay for. When you have your website on a host you choose, you have lots of control – but sometimes it’s not as convenient.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the pros and cons of each one.
Hosted solution pros
When the platform also hosts the website, it is more convenient than finding your hosting on your own. Website builders offer more of an “all-in-one” experience.
They try to provide everything you need right from that one platform, or as close as they can.
It also means that the platform keeps the software updated. Some platforms offer backups of your website, some don’t see the need.
The hosted solution platforms also offer website builders and templates to get new users up and going quickly. Some builders offer customization of the templates and pages, but the ability to customize varies widely based on the platform, theme, or template.
The builders usually have some form of marketing included. So you may be able to have your email marketing platform and other marketing right from your website builder, all in one place.
The builders are improving their SEO options to the point where you have control of quite a bit of basic SEO items on your site, depending on the platform. Some allow control of your photo filenames, your page title tags, and even schema.
Some of the platforms integrate with a range of common apps, adding all kinds of functionality, from marketing integrations to customer feedback to tax calculation.
The bottom line is that if you want convenience most of all, a website builder may be the simplest solution.
Hosted solution cons
Since it is so much more convenient to have a hosted solution, what’s the downside?
You don’t have as much control.
Website platforms control many aspects of your site.
Often they control the type of website content they allow; for example, so-called risky or gray-area products are not allowed on most of these platforms. They can shut your website down if you break their terms.
The platforms offer website builders, themes, and templates. Customizing the website design may be limited, depending on the platform.
If the customization is not done right, the site may not be mobile-friendly.
In some cases, not much customization is allowed, which means that most of the sites end up looking similar to each other.
You own your content – the text and images – but some of the platforms have user agreements that require to allow them to use some of that content for their own purposes.
You can always move your content to another platform, but you may not be able to export the website design itself; that part may need to be rebuilt on the new platform.
You cannot change website hosts. This is something that may affect your website speed. Some of the website builders rank pretty well on page speed tests, others don’t. This is something to keep in mind if you choose a website builder.
What is a self-hosted solution?
Self-hosted solutions, by contrast, require you to find hosting for your website. Self-hosting also requires you to keep your software updated, your website secure and backed up.
A lot more of the website’s technical aspects are on your shoulders.
This is great if you like the control, or if you can afford the help to maintain your site. But if you just need it to work without dealing with all.the.things, it can be overwhelming.
Self-hosted solutions pros
The best part of self-hosted solutions is the control you have.
The site design — you can design your site however you want. You can use a specific theme to get a certain look, or you can use a versatile theme, a page builder, or code and make things look like you want.
Adding a store or a social media feed or an email marketing integration – you can add the functionality you want. In particular, for WordPress, the community is enormous and so is the plugin universe. While it was created as a blogging platform, there’s not much you can’t do with the platform. It may take money to buy the plugins or pay a developer, but you can probably get it done. And since the platform is so popular, it is fairly easy to find developers.
You can customize your SEO however you want. You have control over the various aspects of SEO, from title tags to choosing your host. There’s so much to optimizing SEO, and you can control just about all of it with a self-hosted solution.
Hosting is totally up to you. If you want to have different options or a faster server, you can do it. Just back up your site and move it. Does green hosting appeal to you? Some companies offer that. Do you want protection in case of – horrors! – being hacked? Some hosts offer that too.
You can keep backups of your site, easily. You can install security measures on your site. You can update your site to new versions of software, or not.
Some of the self-hosted solutions are open-source and free or low-cost.
Self-hosted solution cons
Since you have the control, you also have the responsibility.
You do have to find hosting for your site. Like everything else, there’s good and bad and in-between out there.
You can find good hosting, but it may be more expensive than poor hosting.
Especially for e-commerce, good hosting is critical. It is what allows your website to be fast, which helps your SEO.
Also, your hosting can help your website security and provide other benefits. Your hosting determines whether your website is online and available, or not.
Your website should be backed up. If something goes wrong and you lose your site, if it is backed up, you may be able to retrieve it. Especially if you have customer orders or other business information, that’s critical.
Some hosts back up your site for you, but as a former programmer, you don’t have a backup unless you have 3 backups, and you test them. So making sure your website is backed up, and backed up to your standards, is important.
WordPress needs to be updated. Often. So do all those cool plugins, with all the various functions that are so great.
Marketing is separate. So is client communication. So is e-commerce. So is advanced shipping. So are memberships. So are courses. Each one is a separate plugin or module of a plugin.
It can feel like you are putting a jigsaw puzzle together. How do you fit all the plugins together to get what you need? And yes, sometimes, those different plugins have conflicts.
While the basic versions of some of the plugins are free, some are not. By the time you pay for hosting and the various plugins or subscriptions that you need, most of which require a yearly subscription, your costs can exceed the website builder’s monthly fees.
So which one is best?
It depends on your needs.
If you want a basic website with little customization, hosted solutions can be a great option. A well-designed site doesn’t have to have a lot of customization or fancy features to serve its audience. Also, if you just need a specific function, for example, to sell courses, or physical products, or memberships – there are great platforms out there geared for those specific things.
For customized websites with complex features, a self-hosted solution may be best. If the tech doesn’t intimidate you or you can hire it done, it can be very rewarding to create a site that’s exactly what you want. However, with a self-hosted solution, the software updates, security, and site backups must be a part of the plan from the very beginning.
The best website platform has the website features you need. It’s the one you are comfortable using. The one you’ll keep updated with all the new things going on in your business. The best website platform serves your business, your audience, and your situation.