Open Source Vs SaaS e-Commerce Platform

Talking to several designer and store owners, I realized how confusing it becomes when it comes to selecting an e-commerce platform to start e-commerce website, especially for the start-ups with little budget.

There are online reviews, suggestions and rating but very few actually look into the real meat and guide small retailers to choose the right e-commerce platform. Earlier we saw some of the worthy Open Source forums and shopping carts.

I decided to share what I discovered. Feel free to comment, add suggestions or even ask questions.

Let’s understand intricacies involved in implementing online store using open source platform.

Open Source Platform – What’s The Big Deal?

Open source implementation

Time to market

When you choose open source, it is going to eat up several weeks to be able to make your website available to do business.  Factors that adds to time are code customization, template integration, Testing, implementation.

Customization and maintenance is painful

Website built with open source platforms are difficult to maintain and impossible for a non-techie. You got to have developers around when you want to change something. The trickier part comes when decided to hack the code to add additional feature on top of the open source code you downloaded from the platform provider. When you do so, the code base is personalized to your needs. The problem exacerbates when the bug fixes are made available from the open source provider and cannot be merged with your own customized version of the platform. Lack of proper documentation adds more complexities. Every time you want to add or remove feature from your e-commerce website, you have to go through the process of testing, implementation and bug fixes.

Open source experts are rare

Open source experts are pricey and rare. Many developers claim to be expert in open source development but fact of the matter is very few of them write quality codes that can become part of official future versions of the open source platform. A freelance expert can cost you anywhere between $25/hour to $45/hour.


Open source platforms do not provide direct support to customers. You have to rely on the developer you’ve hired to do the job. Lack of support from the developer can jeopardize your business.


Your website will attract more traffic during the festival than the normal period. You constantly need to monitor and ensure your website do not crash during the peak season. You have to upgrade your server capacity as traffic increases and downgrade during the normal days. If you fail to do so, you loose customers or end up paying more for hosting. Hiring an expert becomes eminent.


SSL checkout is now standard feature of any online store. SSL certificates come with a yearly price and you need to have experts to install it for you.

SaaS platforms – What’s The Big Deal?

Now, let’s find what is involved with SaaS platforms.

e-commerce implementation with SaaS

Maintenance and bug fixes are free and fast

One of the biggest benefits of SaaS platform is their ability to push upgrades, bug fixes and new features quickly. Fundamentally, SaaS e-commerce are multi-tenant, hence upgrades are made available to all the store deployments within seconds without requiring it to be done individually.

No separate hosting required

SaaS e-commerce platforms are hosted on cloud and you do not require to buy separate hosting. For instance, (SaaS ecommerce platform) provides free data storage, unlimited bandwidth with all its plans. Hence, buying separate hosting is completely ruled out.

Designers take charge of the driver seat not developers

Expert designers are easier to find than open source developers. Unlike open source platforms, developers don’t have much role to play when it comes to store implementation and customization. Designer next door, with good XHTML/CSS skills can do the design customization and implementation. At times, basic changes can be done by  a non-techie user as well.

Support is integral part of SaaS offering

Most SaaS provider offers direct e-mail or phone support to their customers.

No separate SSL certificate required

SSL checkout is essential and most new SaaS e-commerce platforms (Example: provides SSL checkout included with its offering at no extra cost.

Although, open source are free but the end cost can go significantly higher compared to SaaS. If you are small business owner with less budget, less requirements and wants to do away dealing with developers, SaaS platform is ideal for you.

If you are large business with higher budgets and custom requirements, you may choose open source. But make sure that the changes to open source are no more than 30%, if you require modifying more than 30% code base of the open source e-commerce platform, you might want to consider developing your own.