SaaS vs. self-hosted: what to choose for your business?
What e-commerce platform to select for your online medical business? Learn more about SaaS vs. self-hosted e-commerce models to make the right choice.
As you surely know, starting a healthcare e-commerce business can be exciting and challenging at the same time. Whether it's selling devices, medications, or other medical-related things, in addition to an appealing landing page, customers need security and user-friendliness. In turn, your business requires economic stability and profitable growth.
The aforementioned safety and convenience, stability, and future growth can only be provided by finding an appropriate e-commerce platform for medical store deployment. Otherwise, your project can fail, even though it may show success in the early stages.
Therefore, while some companies look for an easy and convenient solution in the form of SaaS platforms, others put customization options first and prefer self-hosted deployment options.
Forbes reports that electronic commerce sales grew 50% to $870 billion during the pandemic . Given the increase in technology adoption in medicine over the past few years, the shift to "online mode" has accelerated significantly. Therefore, since a growing number of brands are moving online, the selection of an e-commerce tool to set up the platform should be determined by factors such as flexibility, performance, and the possibility to express brand identity without tech barriers. With fierce competition being the chief obstacle in the e-commerce market , businesses have to optimize every stage of building their business to gain an advantage over widespread competitors.
Where do you start to get your project off the ground? The answer is obvious: to choose a foundation or, rather, a technology for e-commerce platform development, which will be the core of your soon-to-be online medical business.
What is the difference between SaaS and self-hosting? What deployment options exist today? And how do Shopify and Sylius differ as some of the most popular e-commerce platforms for your shop launch?
What are the options for e-commerce software?
The choice of platform depends on many factors, chief among them is the hosting environment. According to the hosting options, e-commerce software can be divided into the following categories:
On-premise (self-hosted or on-prem.)
This type of platform requires constant maintenance, mainly from your side as a seller. Therefore, your team is entrusted with a great responsibility for the operation of the online store.
From one point of view, a self-hosted e-commerce solution implies management of the system and all running processes from the company's server. But on the other hand, such a hosting model requires your tech staff to maintain the hardware, provide security, and follow the regular updates.
- SaaS (Software-as-a-Service)
SaaS is considered the direct opposite of on-premise. Since it does not require large costs for hosting, system maintenance, and security, it is one of the most in-demand today among companies.
According to Statista, the Software-as-a-Service market was valued at about $152 billion last year, and by 2023 it will reach $208 billion .
A key feature of SaaS is the possibility to rent. In other words, you can rent an e-commerce platform and pass all the management responsibilities to its provider. However, it deprives you of full control over the code.
NOTE: SaaS solutions can be contrasted with open-source platforms. The latter somewhat resembles the "on-premise approach" described above. The point is that open-source also implies the possibility of customizing and managing the code, therefore controlling the e-commerce environment. In other words, everyone can modify and customize the platform according to their specific needs. Also, open-source solutions offer a wide range of features, as SaaS does, but require a more technical background.
- PaaS (Platforms-as-a-Service)
The PaaS option is considered a priority for large-scale companies as you get hosting from the provider, who controls security and performs updates. However, you retain the right to manage the database, customize the source code and develop additional solutions.
Also, according to the basic architecture, e-commerce solutions can be divided into:
It is the basic architecture in which the backend and frontend are combined into a single entity.
A headless e-commerce platform implies a disparate architecture, for which it has been gaining a lot of popularity lately. It involves separating the backend from the frontend, where a single frontend is replaced by multiple interfaces connected to the backend via APIs. This, in turn, gives you the freedom to create multiple channels of interaction with users and promptly deliver personalized content to them.
SaaS vs. self-hosted: all-side comparison
The main distinction between SaaS and on-premise solutions is in matters of hosting and maintenance. In the case of SaaS you deal with a third-party vendor, whereas on-premise solutions are hosted in-house. What is suitable for you depends on many factors. Here are a few of them.
- You benefit from an easy implementation process, provider-side management, and remote access to the system. At the same time, your control is strongly limited by the system's operation.
- You are in complete control of the system. However, you will have to provide software and hardware storage, which leads to more expenses.
- A cloud solution is cheap when it comes to operating and upgrading the system. But the overall price is hard to determine as it increases over the long term.
- It requires a large initial investment, but the one-time purchase of a license and ongoing maintenance can be less expensive. Nevertheless, in the long run, the costs can be defined as moderate, although it all depends on your demands.
- A provider is in charge of data security without the need for your involvement. Because of "outside" data management, such solutions can raise concerns about reliability, but today's SaaS vendors have diminished the worries by providing a high level of security.
- Your tech-related experts are responsible for data security and updates over the long term. However, investing in subsequent solution upgrades can be financially burdensome.
- A SaaS option is fully scalable and flexible in customization. However, it offers limited personalization options.
- You have complete freedom of customization, but it is important to keep in mind that the implementation of new modules can require significant costs.
The SaaS deployment model works for you if:
- Remote access to the system is pivotal for you.
- You're ready for minor involvement in system support and setup.
- You need a quick product launch and ongoing automatic updates.
- You are not ready for a large initial investment.
A self-hosted deployment model works for you if:
- You are ready for a significant upfront investment.
- You don't want to pass on data management to an outside party (a provider) for security reasons.
- You have the resources to take over system management and maintenance.
- You want a profound level of system customization and personalization.
Shopify or Sylius: which e-commerce solution to choose for your online healthcare sales platform
Founded back in 2006, the platform has had enough time to become one of the major e-commerce players. Indeed, Shopify was the leader in 2021 with a 26% market share .
Shopify is a versatile SaaS solution for launching and promoting an online selling business. Given its cloud-based focus, the vendor takes full responsibility for updates, content, and security. This solution is particularly suitable for large-scale businesses that expect high-volume flows and transactions. Generally, medical companies relying on foreign markets opt for Shopify.
Straightforward dashboard-based management of the store is one of the reasons why organizations prefer Shopify. Essentially, the provider takes care of all the "behind the scenes" work such as setting up, updates and programming. Therefore, all you need to do is to perform external management according to the specifications of your business.
A quick start for marketing initiatives
Once you've passed the store set-up stage, which includes inserting graphics, descriptions, and product introductions, you can immediately proceed with setting up your marketing campaigns. You are free to implement multiple customer interaction channels and reach your audience through a cross-channel approach.
Shopify provides a vast number of both paid and free apps (over 1200) within the system, allowing your business to grow over time.
Sylius is an open-source headless e-commerce solution with the Symfony framework at the base. It provides companies with extensive personalization options and in-built features to manage customer flow, inventory, payments, shipping, and other customer-oriented activities.
Sylius suggests built-in APIs that make it simple to create native mobile products and Progressive Web Apps as well as integrate with your existing tech stacks. As a result, you can end up with an all-in-one e-commerce system tailored to the needs of your medical business and target audience.
The platform offers a well-thought-out architecture. Thanks to the Symfony framework, you can fully customize the platform.
Sylius requires more technical background on your part compared to Shopify. However, with the involvement of an IT team, you can get a highly personalized and scalable site in a short time. What's more, detailed documentation and a growing community will help the team troubleshoot bottlenecks faster.
Given the extensive tech pool to select from, it's easy to pick the wrong technology. When it comes to deciding on the foundation for your future e-commerce solution, a poor decision can potentially cost your company a fortune.
What to choose? This seemingly uncomplicated question often leads businesses to a stalemate. In particular, companies operating in such a specific sector as healthcare. However, as mentioned at the beginning of the article: it all depends on what you need and what your end-user (i.e., the customer) needs. If you are interested in the easy implementation and quick time to market, it is better to consider SaaS platforms. If you want the availability of extra features and the possibility to make your solution a unique one, then on-premise options can be more useful.
At Brandmed, as experts in both e-commerce and medicine, we can take on the challenges of developing an e-commerce solution that will resonate with your clients. Let us be the ones to guide your business from building the initial concept to delivering a digital medical sales platform. We have some things to discuss — just contact us.
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