Website Rental: The Pros and ConsThe ups and down of Renting a Website
Renting or subscribing to software is becoming more and more commonplace with cloud-based applications rapidly replacing many conventional "installed" software suites.
Because we offer eCommerce websites on a subscription basis, we are often compared to the various "website rental" options available out there (and rightly so as there are many similarities). As a result, we are often asked questions such as: Why should I pay monthly for my eCommerce website?
So, I thought I'd share our opinion on the advantages and disadvantages of obtaining a website on a subscription basis. This is based on our perception and the services which we offer, but should be of interest no matter who your provider is. While attempting to compile a list of 3 pros and 3 cons, it became apparent that the points are largely the same - and can be viewed from either angle.
A few Positives..
The initial cost is often lower. Although you are likely to be paying a monthly fee, such as with our eCommerce framework, the developer is often able to leverage shared code and common functionality in order to bring down the cost of building your site. While the fact that you are paying a monthly fee may seem to make the overall cost higher, often this isn't the case.
This can also mean that you get more mature code and more functionality than you would otherwise within your budget.
Hosting, Management and Support are often among the elements included in your monthly fee - with our eCommerce system, all you need is your own domain name - everything else from support to backups is included (email servers provided as an extra). With a pay-once-and-walk-away website, you'll often be completely on your own once the warranty expires.
You'd be amazed at the amount of time you can spend fiddling around with things when they go wrong - so proper support really can be invaluable - and none of us want to pay extra because something has broken unexpectedly.
Customisations and future Development tend to be easier to approach if you haven't had to spend a fortune getting the first phase up and running as well as if you have an ongoing relationship with a developer. This means that if you're renting (or subscribing to) a package, they have a vested interest in helping you maximise it's potential. You may not get a preferential rate, but you'll certainly get more attention!
..and a few Negatives
Ownership can be problematic. You should always be clear on what you do/don't own. Typically there are going to be elements of the software (if not all the software), which you don't own and thus can't take with you if you decide to change provider. You should always be able to get all of your data, though!
In the case of our eCommerce system, we typically own the framework code and functionality while our clients own their designs and data.
Sharing a system with other users isn't always ideal. Make sure your developer takes an ethical approach to server loading (e.g isn't packing their clients in like sardines). Be prepared that depending on their architecture, there may occasionally be periods of down-time when they make system-wide upgrades.
Making changes to a rented (or subscription based site) isn't always possible. Quite often you won't have access to the sourcecode, nor to FTP to do so and you'll need to get the developer to do it. This is a double-edged sword. We deal with a lot of instances where people have made seemingly innocent modifications to their websites and created all sorts of problems - but of course, it can mean that there is a cost attached to changes.
Typically a sensible middle ground can be struck, e.g by keeping content in a Content Management System (CMS) so that you can update the contents of pages (within reason), while the actual application code is protected. Often you may not want to make changes at all!
What do you think?
So. What do you think? Have you ever rented a website or application, or do you currently subscribe to a service such as one of our eCommerce websites? This is only a brief dip into what can be quite a contentious subject, so we'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions - or your questions - we'll even do our best to answer them for you!