There used to be only two options when you want to create a website. You could either build it from the ground up or purchase software that provided you with the website functionality required. But with more and more cloud based web services being available, renting is now a very real alternative. Here are some of the relative pros and cons of building, buying and renting your website.
The build option allows for the greatest amount of customization. Essentially you have full control over all aspects of the functionality being developed. You can create all the features, functions and services that you want your website to have and have full control, down to the very last detail.
But the build option usually carries the highest cost, as good software developers usually don't come cheap. The software being developed is specifically and only for your needs. Therefore you'll be paying the full amount of the software development yourself, and you’ll not be able to share the costs with others. And don’t forget the testing too. As you’re also be the first and only beneficiary of the software, it will be down to you to test it, and to fix any issues that arise. And they will arise. It also means that all ongoing maintenance and support will be your own responsibility too.
Frequently, building at least some of website’s functionality is the only viable option. If there’s no satisfactory software solution available to purchase or rent, you’ll have no choice than to build it yourself.
When a software solution is bought off the shelf, we would hope that it mostly provides the features and functionality needed for the website. Some software provides access to the source code, which means you are able to customize the software as much or as little as required. Whilst other software restricts the amount of customization that’s possible. It may allow some parts of the software to be changed, but prevent change to the core software elements. Depending on how the software will be maintained and developed going forward, limiting the amount of customization may mean a third party can support the purchased software.
With the buying option, the supplier develops software with the intention of selling it to many customers. Therefore, the cost of the development is effectively shared. With both the build and buy options, work will also be needed to install the software and configure it on your own servers.
When choosing the best software to purchase you must determine how closely the software meets your requirements. You may choose to purchase software that provides just enough to meet your core business requirements, even though it may not meet all requirements exactly. But it’s also possible for software solutions will provide everything you want and more. With the buy option, you may additionally have the option to customize the purchased software to give you exactly what you’re looking for.
With the buy option, time will be required to install and configure the software on your own servers and test that everything works, as you need it to.
One thing that can be hugely in the buy option’s favour, it that acquiring pre written software doesn’t always come with a cost. Open source software is often available at zero or low cost. Instead, the expertise to install and configure it, will certainly need paying for.
When renting a web service, it’s likely that little or no software customization will be available. In fact, it’s likely that you’ll have no access to the programming source code whatsoever. However, web service’s can often be configured and by entering your own data, you can usually have some control over how the software operates.
Unlike the buy option, rental payments are usually made in regular installments, which avoid having to pay a large software licence upfront. The downside is, that for as long as you continue to use the service, there will always be an ongoing cost to receive the service. If you’re happy with the service then there's no problem. But, there is a risk of feeling like you’re locked into the vendor and the ongoing costs. Software for rent is developed with the intention to be sold to many customers and so the development cost is effectively shared. It usually isn’t possible to build or buy software with the same features without spending a significant amount of money.
As with the buy options that have only a little or no scope for bespoke alteration, it’s important to carefully consider how well a rented option meets your requirements. Both present requirements and but also the requirements that you foresee you’ll need in the future. If you're unable to heavily customize the web service, the requirements fit will not be as close as when you build the software yourself.
One great advantage to renting is that there are no software installation or web hosting to consider as these aspects are usually integral to the service provision. And so renting a solution can be much quicker to implement than either building or buying software. And presuming that the service is well established and has a good standing with existing customers, we can have confidence that the software works and we’ll not need to spend much time testing it. And of course, support and ongoing software maintenance will also effectively be outsourced.
There is No Right Answer
The build, buy or rent options are not mutually exclusive. There is no reason why you shouldn't use a combination of all three options to create a website. In fact this is almost certainly the best strategy as you can choose what’s right for each piece of functionality for your website. The challenge then just becomes, how to integrate the different solutions together. There are plenty of options and solutions out there but no one said it would be easy.
What are your experiences of using different build, buy and rent options?