SaaS vs Hosted Websites: Convenience vs Control

SaaS. What is it? Software as a Service or “SaaS” is a business model where a software company builds a platform and then sells access to use the platform as an ongoing subscription. Companies like Wix, Weebly, and Shopify have built website platforms that are hosted and maintained for you. SaaS is highly convenient, but that convenience comes at a cost; the ability to fully control, customize, and modify the platform. Enter the “Hosted Solution.” A Hosted Solution refers to a website that is built on an open-source or custom platform that you install on a web server rented from a hosting company like InMotion or HostGator. You still pay monthly for the hosting, but, with a hosted solution, you have the ability to fully customize the platform to your company’s needs. In this article we will look at the two solutions by comparing a Wix website to a website that is hosted on HostGator and is running a popular CMS such as WordPress.

Ease of Use and the Ability to Customize the Platform

Creating a basic website Wix is easy, very easy in fact, but the key word in this sentence is basic. Wix is easy because it lacks a lot of the features that make a CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress powerful. With Wix, you can choose from “Over 500 Designer Built” themes… Sounds impressive right? Well compare that to the theme selection on WordPress.org alone which when filtered to just the “latest” themes shows over 6,500 options, and it doesn’t sound quite as good. WordPress is still quite easy to manage but the initial setup will likely require you to partner with a website design/development team like Oxley.

On top of that, according to the Wix Support Website, the “Wix App Market is filled with over 250 popular web apps, powerful services and amazing features to enhance your website and grow your business. Most of the apps are free to use, mobile optimized and easy to add to your site in just a few clicks.” Pretty cool right? Well not really… According to the WordPress.org  website, you can now “extend your WordPress experience with 55,721 plugins” and that’s only the plugins that are listed on WordPress.org. Basically, you can build whatever kind of solution your business needs on WordPress and pick the plugins and services you use while doing it.

The biggest advantage that a SaaS platform has over a Hosted Solution is the server maintenance and platform upgrades are handled by the SaaS provider. That can be a double edged sword though if a platform upgrade breaks a part of your theme. You will be stuck waiting for the theme creator to fix the theme. That said, most hosting companies will apply security upgrades to the server, but it will be on you or your web development company to keep your Content Management System up to date.

Overall, it’s pretty clear to us that unless you are building a very basic 4 to 5 page website and don’t intend to grow your online presence, the ability to customize your platform and tailor your user experience on a hosted WordPress website far outweighs the benefits of a simple SaaS platform like Wix.

Data Ownership

On Wix, it’s actually not possible to export your data if you want to migrate to another platform.
According to the Wix Support Website:

Exporting or Embedding Your Wix Site Elsewhere

Your Wix site and all of its content is hosted exclusively on Wix's servers, and cannot be transferred elsewhere.”

On a hosted solution like HostGator, you keep full control of your data and are free to make and download backups of your code, database, and anything else on your site. If data ownership is important to your company, which it should be, a Hosted Solution is clearly the way to go.

Pricing

This was a hard one to gauge because you aren’t comparing apples to apples. For this exercise we’ll compare the monthly cost of both solutions.

Wix starts at $11 per site per month and goes up from there. Keep in mind that this is for a basic website and doesn’t account for functionality like eCommerce or even a free web-form builder.

HostGator on the other hand has shared hosting plans that start out as low as $2.95/month when you purchase and pay upfront for an extended period. That means that you can get 3 years of hosting around $110 saving you up to $285 in the first 3 years.

When it comes to price, both options are affordable, but you do get a little more bang for your buck with a hosted solution.  Not to mention that you own it your site outright.

Final Thoughts

Overall, both SaaS and Hosted Solutions providers have made monumental progress toward creating better tools for their customers in recent years. Both are utilizing cloud servers and leveraging caching technologies to increase the speed up websites. Both are providing a more secure environment for their customers and the data they store. In our opinion, it boils down to how quickly and easily you can customize the platform to build a truly exceptional user experience for your customers, and what differentiates your website from your competitors’ site. With a SaaS platform, you are often locked in a box with no way out, whereas with a hosted solution, you can create the website you always dreamed about.

By: Paul Johnson

Tags: SaaS, Hosting, Servers

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