You’re going to have to make a lot of very significant choices when you set up your eCommerce store. One of the most fundamental ones will be deciding whether to use open source software (OSS) or to go with a proprietary offering.
At first, going open source might seem to be the preferred route. Using a product of the hive mind means the platform is constantly evolving. Ready access to the code means updates and bug fixes are easy. You’re freed of a dependence on any one company.
However, there are a number of disadvantages of open source eCommerce software to consider as well.
While OSS security concerns are less acute than they were in the past, it’s still an issue. Many hands mean undetected backdoors may well exist, placed there by those who might decide to come back later and create a bit of mischief. Identity theft and the pilfering of financial information is a particular concern in e-commerce. And yes, proprietary software can have these issues too, but they generally exist at lower levels.
Difficult to Use/Limited Product Support
Some OSS applications are notoriously tricky to install and operate. Interfaces aren’t always optimized for your particular purpose, so tweaking the code might be required to get it to do what you want it to do. Meanwhile, an out-of-the-box solution, designed with premium web templates specifically for e-commerce, will be a plug-and-play situation. Additionally, you’ll find OSS product support is typically limited to forums and chat rooms. This looks bad compared to proprietary solutions with a team of people on call to deliver personalized support right away.
Plug-ins Are Usually Required
In many cases, if you want to add specific functionalities to an OSS e-commerce platform, you’ll have to find a suitable plug-in to customize the code to deliver your desired solution. This can mean working with a coder — or even a team of coders — which can add cost, complexity and time to getting your site up and running. Further, you’ll need to keep someone on call to handle any issues that might arise if the various elements decide to stop playing nice with one another. And yes, plug-ins can be a factor with proprietary software as well. However, in those cases, the plug-ins have been tested and evaluated to assure seamless functioning when integrated within the primary code.
OSS solutions are usually warranty-free, as there is nobody standing behind them, offering assurances of stability, suitability, and competence. On the other hand, developers always wrap proprietary software under a warranty so you can be assured your store runs problem-free. They can do this because they have complete control over the product from development all the way through implementation and installation on your server. With OSS, no single entity can guarantee anything. Therefore, it’s a caveat emptor situation in that regard.
“Free” Is Just an Illusion
Yes, you might get your hands on the code at little or no cost. But you’ll pay to get it set up and configured. You’ll pay to integrate any other platforms you use it. You’ll pay to customize it to your specific needs. You’ll pay for maintenance and you’ll pay for consistent support—if you can find it.
And yes, you’ll also run into some of these costs with a proprietary solution. However, when you add these issues to all of the other disadvantages of open source e-commerce software, going proprietary is clearly a much easier, faster and more stable way to get your e-commerce store up and running.