SaaS vs. Open Source eCommerce: What’s the Difference?

Technology drives the world of e-commerce, and unless you make the right choices, your business could suffer. You’ll need an eCommerce platform to get your business started and this is where it gets complicated. Should you choose a SaaS or an open-source eCommerce system? Your choice may have far-reaching effects on the profitability and growth of your business.  

SaaS systems offer simplicity and ease of use along with managed services., while open-source systems offer customization and system control. Still, their development and maintenance require technical skills. 

In this article, we examine the features, pros, and cons of SaaS vs. open-source e-commerce platforms. 

What Is SaaS?

Software as a Service, or SaaS, is a cloud computing model offering software applications over the Internet. Users pay annual or monthly subscriptions for the service. The subscription model is often more cost-effective and scalable than traditional software models.

SaaS software is typically cloud-based and accessed via a web browser. The SaaS software provider hosts and maintains the infrastructure. The provider also manages software updates and patches. Application maintenance and security are also the provider’s responsibility. 

Examples of SaaS eCommerce Platforms

SaaS e-commerce platforms have grown in importance in the last two decades; today you have many choices. Here are some of the best SaaS eCommerce platforms:

  • Salesforce: An AI-driven Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, Salesforce is a cloud resident system. Best for large and growing businesses, the system has been around for over 20 years and boasts more than a thousand integrations to help with customizations.  
  • Shopify: Shopify offers a simple way to get an online store up and running. Millions of businesses depend on Shopify for their storefronts. It supports several languages and currencies. It also has an email marketing feature, but limits product variants and options.  
  • Big Commerce: A good choice for businesses big and small, Big Commerce has three eCommerce plans to suit your requirements. The platform also provides a mobile app, so you can manage your store on the move. Email marketing and social media integrations help you grow your business. 

Pros of SaaS eCommerce Platforms

SaaS e-commerce platforms may offer efficient benefits, including: 

  • Ease of use: A SaaS e-commerce platform is typically easy to install and use. These systems offer templates and user-friendly interfaces to help you get your online store up and running. 
  • Automatic updates and maintenance: Your SaaS provider looks after maintenance and software updates. 
  • Scalable: SaaS platforms can grow with your business. The best SaaS platforms offer users unrestricted bandwidth and several sales channels. 
  • Predictable costs: SaaS e-commerce platforms charge annual or monthly subscriptions. Users receive support, maintenance, and updates, so all software costs are factored in and easy to budget.
  • Managed security: Security is crucial when you’re working with customer’s credit and debit card information. Your SaaS provider will look after your security, providing Payment Card Industry Security Standard security. 
  • Customer service: SaaS platforms have customer service desks so you can tap into the company’s expertise whenever you need it. 

Cons of SaaS eCommerce Platforms

SaaS e-commerce platforms have some disadvantages too. Do your research and choose the platform best suited to your business.

  • Limited customization: SaaS platforms are standard. The provider controls the source code and users have limited customization options. 
  • Cost: Though subscriptions are known and predictable, they can present a significant expense over time. 
  • Vendor dependence: Your business depends on the provider for uptime, support, and reliability. Switching to a new supplier may be challenging because of the data migration complexities. 
  • Offline access: You need an internet connection to access SaaS platforms. If the internet is down, employees will have limited access to work. 

What Is Open-Source eCommerce?

Open-source eCommerce refers to eCommerce platforms whose source code is available to the public. Anyone can view, change, and distribute the software. The community collaborates and helps to develop the software.

Merchants adapt these platforms to suit their business requirements. There are no proprietary software limitations. With open-source software, businesses can avoid vendor lock-in. You can take control of the functionality and customization of your online store.

Examples of Open-Source eCommerce Platforms

Here are some popular open-source e-commerce platforms:

  • WooCommerce: Designed to work with WordPress websites, WooCommerce has built-in payment processing and inventory management. There are over 800 free and paid extensions. Find the plug-in on your WordPress site, turn it on, and start doing business.  
  • PrestaShop: This open-source platform boasts over 600 features and 5,000 modules, although some add-ons will cost. PrestaShop offers users a managed solution that covers hosting and maintenance. It is a great solution for those who want the flexibility of an open-source platform but don’t have the technical know-how.
  • Magenta: Now known as Adobe Commerce, Magenta offers users over 3,000 extensions. On the downside, Magenta is complex and more difficult to customize. You may need a developer. The software provides inventory and catalog management, as well as content and SEO optimization. 

Pros of Open-Source eCommerce Platforms

Open-source e-commerce platforms have many benefits. Here are a few:

  • Flexibility: Open-source software is customizable. You can fit the software to your business, add third-party functions, and integrate it with third-party tools. A cautionary note: the more you modify the code, the more complicated it becomes. 
  • Free to use: Open-source software is free to use. There is no initial cost and no monthly subscriptions. There are, however, other costs to consider, like hosting, security, and maintenance. Many of the add-ons are also not free to use.
  • Control: Because you have control of the source code, you decide when and how to make changes. 
  • Community support: Open-source software has strong community support. This support ensures ongoing improvements and innovative changes. 
  • Scalability: Open-source platforms are scalable, so your platform can grow with your business.  
  • Extension availability: Third-party extensions, plug-ins, and themes extend functionality. 
  • Hosting options: Users choose where their software will be hosted and by whom. 

Cons of Open-Source eCommerce Platforms

There are several disadvantages to using open-source platforms. Here are some of them:

  • Technical skills: Open-source software is often complex. Setting up and maintaining it requires technical skills. Businesses may have to hire developers and IT personnel to install and maintain their open-source software. 
  • Slow implementation: Open-source software will take longer to set up than a SaaS solution. 
  • Lack of support: Despite strong community service, it may be difficult to find the support you need when problems crop up.   
  • Responsibility for security and maintenance: You are responsible for security and maintenance. 

SaaS vs. Open-Source eCommerce: Main Differences

There are several important differences between SaaS and open-source e-commerce platforms. Some of them are discussed below:

Fees

SaaS depends on a subscription-based pricing model where users pay recurring fees. Costs are often predictable, and users don’t have to worry about infrastructure or maintenance expenses.

With an open-source platform, there are no start-up costs besides hosting and development. There are no subscriptions, but maintenance, updates, and support costs may surprise you.

Security

If you’re using open-source software, you are responsible for safeguarding client data. You must ensure that your firewall is up to date and impenetrable. The software source code is available online so hackers can find and exploit it. 

Customization

SaaS solutions often come with predefined features. Customization options may be limited. Users can configure settings and sometimes use plugins or extensions, but they have no control over the underlying code.

Open-source solutions provide a high degree of customization. Users have the source code and can modify the software to meet their business requirements. This flexibility allows for extensive customization and adaptation.

Installation

A SaaS installation is typically quick and easy. Download the software and you’re good to go. The platform will supply help menus and tutorials to assist employees in the initial implementation stages. 

Open-source software customization is often complex. It may take time to install and implement the platform. The business will need a person or team with considerable IT technical skills to produce the required system.  

Scalability

Both SaaS and open-source software are scalable. Because you have the source code, you can develop the areas you need to on your open-source platform as you grow. If you have a SaaS solution, you may have to increase your subscription fees to accommodate increased traffic or product options. 

Maintenance and Customer Support

SaaS providers maintain the platform. They also have customer support systems, often with 24/7 support. Businesses using open-source software must maintain their own system, often with little support. Community support networks assist where possible. 

SaaS vs. Open-Source eCommerce – Which is Best for Your Business?

The best system for your business depends on your priorities, resources, and planned growth. SaaS solutions are simple and quick to install and implement. Managed services offer a hassle-free, out-of-the-box solution. 

On the other hand, open-source platforms provide customization and source code ownership. If your business needs high customization and process control, an open-source platform may be your best choice. Technical expertise, budget, scalability, and customization are all crucial aspects of your technology choice. 

doola business experts can help you to set up your online business. Make the right choices from the start with doola’s guidance and advice.   

FAQs

Can I switch from SaaS to Open Source or vice versa?

You can change your system from one to the other. However, change is disruptive, and you will have to migrate all the information from one system to the next. 

Which option between SaaS and open source is better for small businesses?

The option depends on the business. If you need a high degree of customization and technical skills, open source may be the best option for you. If you want a drop-in solution that is quick and easy to implement and maintain, consider a SaaS platform. 

Can I combine SaaS and Open-Source solutions?

You can combine open-source software with your SaaS eCommerce platform. 

Can I sell internationally with SaaS or Open-Source eCommerce platforms?

Both SaaS and open-source eCommerce platforms include international currency conversion. Therefore, you can sell internationally with these platforms.

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