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Not hosting an online store

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Every e-commerce store must be hosted somewhere. But there is little reason, in 2017, to self-host. In this post, I will explain why.

Self-hosting is where a company acquires physical servers and installs them in its own data center. This could be a spare office or a leased space in another data center. Self-hosting is the original method for ecommerce stores. This is still done by large companies, although it is more rare day by day.

Flexibility vs. responsibility

Self-hosting is the most flexible option because you can do what you want.

Want to use Apple OSX software for your store? You can.

Do you want to chain a bunch of cheap desktop machines into a cluster? You can.

You can do anything with your own servers. This can sometimes be a good thing if you have specialized needs. But this control over all aspects of the servers can be disadvantageous.

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You are responsible for all hardware malfunctions, software updates and any other computer or connection problem. Even routine construction work could affect your store if, say, a nearby team accidentally cut an Internet or electrical line.

This happened once, in fact, to a former employer. The power was cut off for the part of the building that included the servers. We ended up installing robust extension cables into the data center to keep the servers running. It was a mess. It was also dangerous. But that's what we had to do to make our site work.

Expenditure

Another thing to consider with self-hosting is the expense. The purchase (or rental) of servers and equipment can represent a significant investment. Even though daily costs are lower than outsourced hosting options, the initial capital requirements could be prohibitive.

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In addition, with self-hosting, you will need staff or on-site consultants to make everything work. The skills of the developer to keep an ecommerce and functional store are specialized – and expensive.

Capacity

When you are hosting yourself, you need to make sure you have enough capacity to handle traffic to your site. In practice, this means monitoring your servers so that they operate at 80% or less of their capacity, in order to handle peak traffic without planting the site.

If your company offers major sales, flash sales, or intensive marketing, you will probably need more capacity – perhaps 50% of normal traffic needs – which means buying and maintaining more servers.

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You will also need to consider changes in capacity requirements. This is not a static value. You will probably need to add or replace servers. To add a single server, you must:

  • Order it;
  • I shipped it;
  • Physically Established,
  • Install the software
  • Add it to your store configuration.

Deleting a server could be as simple as turning it off. But you would still be out of the down payment. And I've seen orders for new replacement servers take months to complete.

Do not do it

In the era of Amazon Web Services and other affordable cloud hosting options, there is little reason to self-host. Even large companies that can offer stand-alone accommodation move away from it.

A hybrid model in which you do not run the data center – called collocation – also does not make sense for most traders.

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In short, the benefit of having physical servers for your online store is not worth the money and the hassle. Do not do it.

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