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Self Hosted vs SaaS: What you need to know

By John | Last Updated on 09/06/2021

Should you build your online business on WordPress? Kajabi? Clickfunnels? Convertkit? WooCommerce? There are thousands of questions when you begin, but one of the most important questions for you to answer is: "Should I use 'Self-Hosted' or 'SaaS' platforms?

This video will tell you the answer, and show you the best in breed tools for the most important product categories.



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🕐 Timestamps: 🕐
0:00 What is SaaS & Self Hosted?
1:15 Benefits of Self-Hosted
3:00 Benefits of SaaS
4:05 Drawbacks of Self-Hosted
4:43 Drawbacks of SaaS
6:33 Which is Right For You?
8:25 Best Checkout Platforms (Self-Hosted vs SaaS)
9:36 Best Website Builders (Self-Hosted vs SaaS)
10:54 Best Email Marketing Systems (Self-Hosted vs SaaS)
11:36 Best Online Course Platforms (Self-Hosted vs SaaS)
12:25 Custom Stack (Best of both worlds)
13:35 Conclusion

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Video Transcript with Timestamps

[00:00:00] Hey guys, John here from unbeatable tech, and I've got a rather geeky video for you today, but I know it's going to help a lot of people out there. I get the question all the time. Hey John, I hear this term self hosted and SAS or software as a service, but I have no clue what it means. Can you help me understand and what is right for me?

[00:00:15] All right. That's exactly what answer you're going to get by the end of this video. Let's waste no time and dive right in. So basically let's get down to the basics. Are these things. So self hosted is where you get access to your software as code that you can use on your own server. You basically get all the logic and all the software that was built, but not the infrastructure and the server and stuff that it requires to run it.

[00:00:37] So you own that software and that application, basically the intellectual property to use that software. SAS on the other hand, software as a service is a method of software delivery and licensing where you can access the software via an online subscription. You're basically renting access to the software.

[00:00:54] So that's the key difference here is renting versus owning. And if you think about like having an apartment versus owning a house, when it comes to maintenance and upkeep versus calling the landlords to fix a toilet, like it's a lot of the same mentality goes in on the software side as well. Okay. So you might ask yourself, what are the pros and cons of each one of these let's walk through them together kind of side by side.

[00:01:15] What are the benefits of each one of these systems? Because as you will find out, not in all cases is one going to be better than the other. It's going to really depend on your use cases and your needs, which we're going to cover in this. So the pros on the self hosted side, Jen, and I'm going to use a lot of general ease here because it can all vary, right?

[00:01:34] They're all individual businesses to make their own choices. But generally you're going to find that self hosted solutions are more affordable. They're going to give you the ability to customize and develop greater because you own the code. If you want to dive in there, hire a developer and say, Hey, I want to change this functionality or this workflow go and do it.

[00:01:51] If you have the money in the developer, you can make it happen. Whereas you don't have. Uh, capability on the SAS side. Um, also on the self hosted side, sometimes open source software, like WordPress essentially means you have global contribution. The entire community is working together like a whole bunch of hobbyists that are driving this thing forward and doing it pretty much for free.

[00:02:14] So open source is a really powerful. Concept that can create problems as well. Right? A whole bunch of people can go in and mess with the code, but it allows you to develop at a much faster clip. The way we have plugins and WordPress means if you have a problem and someone else has probably had the problem, a solution is probably out there, you should need to go find it and figure out how to use it.

[00:02:33] So in the last benefit on self hosted is you own your data now, especially around GDPR and data privacy, all this types of things. When you put your data for your customers out there with some other company to take care of you, or if you're using four or five different SAS, now you have a data protection issue where if somebody says, Hey, I don't want my data on your servers anymore.

[00:02:55] You need to go reach out to all these different companies and have them delete that. So it can be something to consider. On the software as a service side, the big benefits in my mind is it's a managed experience. You generally are going to have better support. Not saying that the support people on self hosted software are bad, but there's simply more variables.

[00:03:15] You, you choose your own hosting. You choose your own page builder. You choose your own online course platform. And one guy who worked for one company is not going to be as well. To help you with all of your stuff you've got going on. Then if you were to use a software, like an all-in-one platform that, Hey, they know all their hosting, they know all, all the components and they're an expert in their software.

[00:03:35] Therefore they can give beginners generally better support. Also you're going to have less moving parts and less management on your part. Have you ever logged into your WordPress website and had to update 27 plugins? Yeah, it happens. And sometimes you can update. And it can conflict with a different one.

[00:03:50] So there's definitely more management, more tech that you have to maintain on the self hosted side that the SAS takes care of for you and not to use like overuse the apple thing, but you can log in and generally it just works on the software as a service side. All right. So now let's be fair. What are the cons of each one of these setups as well?

[00:04:08] Well, on the self hosted side, again, we always touched on this. You're responsible for hosting. You're responsible for the security updates virus. Compatibility with different plugins, things of that nature, your website goes down. Oh my gosh, it happens. And sometimes because as you're taking all these little individual components and piecing together your own, uh, system, you can sometimes have a disjointed user experience.

[00:04:31] Or there might be like one little fly in the ointment where like the user experience is so good, but then you're stuck with woo commerce and all the stuff that it throws at you. And it can sometimes hamper your goals. On the software as a service side are much different. So generally I found that SAS platforms can charge a premium, you know, it's kind of like you go to the Tesla, you get this nice and it just works. It's so beautiful. And it's taken care of it's managed white glove experience. They're going to increase the price on that.

[00:04:59] Whereas I find the self hosted side are a bit more scrappy people and it's a bit more of a race to the bottom. And when it comes to price there, um, Another reason why they can charge greater prices is because of the second con, which is a lock in effect. What I mean by that is let's say you upload all of your online course content to a software as a service online course platform.

[00:05:21] If you ever want to leave, let's say a year, two years later, you're tired of paying their fees. You're tired of whatever. Maybe their tech, support's not helping you. If you ever want to leave that. Good luck. You've got a lot of work to get all of your people out, to get all your data out, to get all your courses and all your intellectual property out and move to the next platform.

[00:05:39] You're kind of stuck for life. So from that perspective, it's not necessarily a bad thing, but when you start going and growing with an, a software as a service platform, you're making a pretty good commitment there. Uh, next downside is there's no real way to extend the functional. On your own. So if a, if your SAS platform, doesn't, let's say integrate with another tool you want to use, you're out of luck.

[00:06:03] You can't really pick and choose like you can on the self hosted side. And the last point there is data, the see issues or protection issues. Again, not a huge deal. We've never run into this where, uh, you know, our data was. Leaked or anything like that, at least to our knowledge. Uh, but I do know that because you are in control of your day on the self hosted side, it's simply something worth mentioning on the SAS side, that the companies have access to the data of your customers and things like that.

[00:06:33] So the question becomes, which is right for you. Um, obviously it's going to depend, but I'll give you a couple of kind of general principles that can help guide you in making in that decision. So on the self hosted side, if you're happy to manage the technical side or learn the technical side or hire a developer, who's like in your back pocket to help out with your website, when things go wrong.

[00:06:53] You probably need to have that PR proclivity, you need to have that desire to do that. Um, next, if you want a custom solution, I've had some very interesting clients that, uh, who good times, there was a lot of custom code. There was a lot of, it needs to be a certain way. You know, there's certain personalities where like, they're not happy with how.

[00:07:13] Are, they want it to be in their mind how it is, and they're willing to spend, to make it be what they want. I generally try to steer people away from that mentality as much as possible, because it can only end in ruin, honestly, unless you're planning on building your whole thing from the ground up, you're going to hit a whole bunch of conflicts.

[00:07:30] But if you want that custom solution, if you want to be able to tweak it, just so maybe an all-in-one platform is not. And then the last big benefit or the personality type for self hosted is you're that open source believer. You just want to kind of push that Goodwill into the universe and be part of a global, global community building a better internet, open sources for you.

[00:07:52] Good people on the SAS side, you got it. You're gonna just flip the script entirely. If you want a technical team, that's part of your subscription fee that you can reach out to and something goes wrong. That's where you want to be a SAS. And then if you're looking for simplicity over customizability or customization, SAS is going to be generally what you want.

[00:08:10] So let's give you some examples because just talking about the details of it, they might still be up in the air. So now let's go into some best in breed examples of each one. Like see what, what is what, and make the decision for what's right for you. So on the checkout software side, you know, there's the big hitters on the self hosted side is WooCommerce on the software.

[00:08:31] The service side is Shopify, and then you've got others on each one. I'm also going to give you my generally preferred one again, use cases do matter. My, my generally preferred one on each side here. So under the self hosted route, you've got WooCommerce. Whoo funnels, which sits on top of it. Cart flows, same deal studio cart for very simple, like click funnels, like functionality and upsell plugin, which is in its own kind of camp there

[00:08:55] of those. I'm a big fan of WooCommerce and Wu funnels. I think they're really good platforms, but it does come with the big caveat. Accepting of some of the complexity that will commerce can create in your business. I don't tend to have a problem with it, but I know there are some things you just can't change with WooCommerce and it can be a little frustrating.

[00:09:16] That's on the self hosted side. And then on the SAS side, you've got Shopify ClickFunnels, Kartra Thrivecart SamCart. We've talked a lot about most of these platforms of the two. If you're going for that standard, e-commerce you want to have a bunch of skews and categories and filters, all that cool stuff you want to be in Shopify land and on the funnels.

[00:09:34] Thrivecart is still near and dear to our hearts. all right next up for building out your entire online business. Like your website builders on the self hosted side. WordPress. Welcome. You're you're in. Good, good hands here. Uh, you've got elements. Thrive architect, Devi, cadence blocks, and on the software as a service side, you're in a different realm. I'm not a huge fan of the SAS website builders.

[00:09:56] You've got Wix. You've got, we believe at lead pages, click funnels. Kartra and of these. When it comes to WordPress, I'm going to surprise some of you out there. I definitely think WordPress is where to go. But then within WordPress, I'm kind of leaning towards cadence. I think that this is a little early, still to say this, but back in 2018 or 2019, I knew that Gutenberg was going to take over.

[00:10:18] And I think we're seeing that shift now. And so all the standard page builders, like Elementor thrive architect, Devi. They're fantastic. I still use them on my websites and my client. But if I were to start over today, I think cadence has the brightest future, given that as building on top of the default WordPress community, using the open source thing as well on the SAS side, not a huge fan of any of them, but of them.

[00:10:40] I'm probably going to say, Kartra, it's not the best page builder. It's not the best website builder, but if I had to pick between all of them, I like the idea of having an all-in-one. I think the all-in-one nature is good for a lot of people, a lot of personality types. So I'm going to give it to Kartra there.

[00:10:54] Our next up quickly. Let's talk about email marketing on the Southwest society. You've got things like fluent CRM. I still need to do a review on that. Subscribe to the channel because I have a review coming up very, very soon on that platform. You've got Groundhog, autonomic and male poet. And on the software as a service side, you've got the bigger, more well-known names because the self hosted side for email marketing, it's still kind of new.

[00:11:15] It's still kind of getting there, but on the SAS side, you've got big hitters, like convert kit, active campaign. Again, Kartra for that, all-in-one keep and drip on the self hosted side, I'm really enjoying fluency or I'm using it personally. And I'm looking forward to releasing my full review on that soon.

[00:11:29] And on the software as a service side, we have used convert kit for years. Um, and it's, it's been a fantastic platform for. Last category is online courses, self hosted. You've got things like tutor, LMS LearnDash thrive, apprentice and wishlist member. Those are all WordPress plugins and on the SAS side.

[00:11:48] Familiar names like teachable SamCart, which actually released their own courses feature. I probably need to dig into that a little bit more in the future. Uh Kartra and think ethic. So on the self hosted side, uh, I'm using an, I like thrive apprentice, still growing. It's still getting there, but from the customization and flexibility and the value of having all those tools in one membership is fantastic.

[00:12:11] And on the software as a service. Again, I'm not a huge fan of any of them, but of them. I think Kartra does the best job of giving that overall experience of having a membership site and the course platform and everything else there. All right. So the takeaway here is that there's a ton of different platforms you might be feeling like.

[00:12:30] I don't know if I should choose self hosted. Um, SAS. So the good news is you don't have to, generally you can pick and choose an intermingled as needed, and that's basically called spinning up accustomed stack. So what I tend to do is I go self hosted on things like my website builder and my online course platform.

[00:12:51] Um, but then when it comes to things like checkouts and email marketing, I'm more likely. To recommend going for a software as a service platform. Yeah. Uh, I don't want anything to go wrong if I have a big promotion going out, I want people to be able to give me money. So I'm not, I'm going to be less likely to want to put all that on my own website where a plugin could update.

[00:13:11] And now I can't take money. That's something I'm not willing to accept most days. Yeah.

[00:13:15] And on the email side, that one's a bit more of a pick and choose. I'm currently playing with the self hosted email marketing platform. Uh, but I do also understand that could be something that can really weigh down on your websites load. It might be. Could create conflicts. So it's one where you could kind of put in either camp as you want to, and as your budget allows.

[00:13:35] All right. So I hope that was helpful. That was kind of a crash course in software at like a higher level. I know we talk a lot about individual tools, but I felt like this really, uh, would have. Everybody get on the same foot on the same wavelength and help them choose what's right for them. So takeaways here, uh, use what's right for you.

[00:13:52] If you're the type of person who wants to get in and see how it all works, see how the sausage is made or whatever, you might lean more towards that open source and self hosted route. Just understand you're taking on the responsibility of security, plugins, conflicts, all that good stuff. So get ready to get your.

[00:14:08] Kind of dirty software. So it's not that dirty. And on the SAS side, be willing to pay a little bit more, but then getting a bit more of that white glove service, understanding that you can't have it exactly the way you want it in all cases, but you can get pretty darn close. I hope this is helpful. These quick videos walking through all this content is good.

[00:14:26] Please let me know by hitting that subscribe button, leaving a like, and maybe give me. So how's it going? How's your day? Let me know down in the comments down below. And what is your favorite route? Are you self hosted? Are you sass? I'd love to hear and let me know. I'll see you. The next video take care.

About the Author

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John Whitford is an entrepreneur who has built over 12 profitable online blogs and businesses. He's also the founder of Proof, a data-driven digital marketing company that specializes in sales funnel implementation for both his own businesses and clients alike. John loves to be a beach bum while brainstorming new ideas for marketing strategies, but he's always excited to take on another project!


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