Ecommerce Technology

Magento Community vs Enterprise vs BigCommerce: What’s the Right Choice for Your Business?

Susan Meyer / 9 min read

Magento Community vs Enterprise vs BigCommerce: What’s the Right Choice for Your Business?

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For many, the name Magento goes hand in hand with ecommerce. The open-source platform, now owned by Adobe, is written in PHP and operated on the Zend Framework. And it’s been a powerhouse for ecommerce enterprises to run their shopping carts for over a decade.

If you’ve been following the Magento platform, either as a user or potential user, you may be familiar with some big news that occurred in June of 2020. At this time, Magento officially sunset their original Magento 1 products. This means that they are no longer offering support or providing security patches for Magento 1.X.

If Magento 2 is the only product going forward, where’s the decision? Well even though there is only one platform moving forward, you still have different versions to consider.

Platform Comparison: Magento Community vs Enterprise vs BigCommerce

In this article, we’ll be comparing Magento Open Source (formerly Magento Community) and Magento Commerce (formerly Magento Enterprise). What are the costs associated with each? Which one is free…and is it really free? What are the different features and which can get your business where you want it to be? We’ll also be throwing BigCommerce into this comparison because 1) you’re on the BigCommerce blog, and 2) if your brand is considering either Magento option, BigCommerce might be the perfect open SaaS alternative you hadn’t considered yet.

Platform Comparison: Magento Community vs Enterprise vs BigCommerce

In this article, we’ll be comparing Magento Open Source (formerly Magento Community) and Magento Commerce (formerly Magento Enterprise). What are the costs associated with each? Which one is free…and is it really free? What are the different features and which can get your business where you want it to be? We’ll also be throwing BigCommerce into this comparison because 1) you’re on the BigCommerce blog, and 2) if your brand is considering either Magento option, BigCommerce might be the perfect open SaaS alternative you hadn’t considered yet.

1. What is Magento Community?

The first and most important thing to know about Magento Community Edition (or Magento 2 CE) is that it doesn’t exist anymore. There you go, article over. Just kidding. But in actuality, what was once known as Magento Community has since been renamed Magento Open Source. The two are often used interchangeably because change happens slowly. For the purposes of this article, we’ll use Magento Community when speaking of that edition of Magento historically, and Magento Open Source when talking about it today.

The first edition of Magento Community 1.0 was released in 2008. This was a free, open-source ecommerce platform that anyone could download and use to self-host and build their online store. Because it’s open source, once downloaded from the Magento website, the software can be changed to meet the user’s needs. This version does not come with technical support.

2. What Is Magento Enterprise?

Magento Enterprise Edition (Magento EE) is also an outdated vernacular. Magento now calls this product simply Magento Commerce or Magento Commerce Cloud. However, as the former name would suggest, it is primarily suited for enterprise businesses primarily because of the steep costs (more on that below).

Much like Magento Open Source, this version of Magento is open source; however, a crucial difference is that it is no longer free to download. It also comes with more advanced features. There are also two separate different types of the paid version of Magento.

  • Magento 2 Commerce (on-prem) — This on-premise premium option comes with added features and support that aren’t provided by Magento Open Source.
  • Magento 2 Commerce Cloud — A cloud-hosted version that provides the same features of the on-premise edition above but eliminates the need for self-hosting. This was formerly called Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition.

3. What is BigCommerce? 

BigCommerce is different from Magento in that it is a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) platform instead of open source. This means that instead of owning the software and being able to alter the source code, you pay a monthly fee to use the software for your site.

One of the advantages of SaaS is that ecommerce hosting is included (it’s done on the cloud) and updating the software and applying security patches is all done for you. Another advantage is that the cost of ownership is often lower (again, more on that below). One of the traditional disadvantages of SaaS is that because you can’t adjust the source code, you might not be able to reach the level of customization you want.

That’s where BigCommerce is a little different from the SaaS of yesteryear. At BigCommerce, the core components of our SaaS platform are open to extension and connection to the tech stack of your choice to increase efficiencies and reduce bottlenecks. We’ve created an open SaaS platform with powerful APIs that can help your brand to innovate and grow, without the headaches of modifying the source code.

Magento Community vs Enterprise Edition vs BigCommerce

We’ve introduced the players on the main stage. Now let’s set the scene for what you really care about. If you’re like most ecommerce business owners, these five things are probably top of mind when you’re searching for your next ecommerce platform:

  • Security
  • Cost
  • Hosting
  • Scalability
  • Flexibility

You need a site that’s secure, so you don’t need to worry about you or your customers’ data. You need a site that works within your budget and/or frees up resources to invest in other areas of your business. You need a site with reliable hosting that isn’t going to go down during a high-traffic holiday season rush. You need a site that’s going to grow with your growth, not hold you back. And finally, you need a site that can become exactly what you want it to be and change to meet your changing needs.

Security

If you’ve ever been hacked and had to write a sincere apology letter to all the customers whose data was compromised or paid PCI compliance fines…well then you don’t need to be told this fundamental truth: security is not where you can afford to skimp on your ecommerce site.

1. BigCommerce: automatic security updates. 

BigCommerce has site-wide SSL security, DDOS protection, 99.99% uptime and all sites come with Level 1 PCI compliance. BigCommerce is ISO/IEC 27001:2013 & PCI DSS 3.2, Level 1 certified. This is an additional rigorous standard for data security.

Most importantly, BigCommerce automatically updates with any necessary security patches and updates, so you can spend your time building your business, not worrying about security.

2. Magento Community: manual security updates.

On Mangento, you will be the one charged with staying on top of your site security updates. Keeping up with the security patches and version updates necessary to have the latest secure version of Magento takes a lot of work. It’s also work that’s best handled by Magento developers. In 2019, Magento released a range of security patches in addition to three different version updates (2.3.1 to 2.3.2 to 2.3.3). Merchants wanting to stay on the most current version would have had to install six different security patches over 2019 and an additional three patches by the end of April 2020. 

3. Magento Enterprise: manual security updates. 

When it comes to Magento Enterprise (again now called Magento Commerce), Magento operates with a shared responsibility model. Magento is responsible for the Magento Commerce Cloud environment, but the user is responsible for the security of their customized instance.Magento Commerce provides merchants with patches (which includes maintenance), updates and upgrades to newer versions, but it is on the merchant to install and manage these updates. 

As you’ll recall above, you can choose to use Magento Commerce or Magento Commerce Cloud which includes hosting. This choice also makes a difference in how much security you’ll have to manage. If you’re utilizing hosting provided through Magento, this would have SOC Type II security through Amazon Web Services (AWS). Merchants not using Magento’s hosting would need to address SOC Type 2 through their host/data center provider. 

Cost

Money will always be a big factor in your technology choices because if you invest too much in your underlying tech, you’ll have less money to spend on other areas of your business. And it’s important to take into account not only the cost to develop and onboard your platform, but also the costs associated with maintaining it. Understand your total cost of ownership before making your final choice.

1. BigCommerce: affordable.

BigCommerce offers tiered pricing for small businesses. Enterprise plans that come with extensive native features are available with competitive prices and are dependent on business size and complexity. The most important thing to remember is that because BigCommerce is a SaaS platform, that monthly cost covers a lot. It includes all the built-in features, hosting, security, and updates handled for you. This can add up to significant savings in developer resources, but you will want to do the math for yourself to determine how it would affect your individual operating costs. BigCommerce has an ecosystem of trusted partners that can assist you with your design, development, and migration needs. 

2. Magento Community: not exactly free.

Magento Open Source (formerly Community Edition) is free to download, so it should be the cheapest one on this list, right? While the software is free to download, there are still a number of costs involved. First, you will need to pay to host it somewhere, since Magento Open Source doesn’t include hosting. You will also need a developer, an in-house IT team, or an agency to manage the build. Magento has an extremely extensive setup which leads to high costs to complete the builds. According to Magento partners, even a basic store on Magento Open Source using a template and no extensions can cost $20,000 to $45,000. You will also need to consider ongoing operating costs for security and maintenance.

3. Magento Enterprise: high cost.

With Magento Enterprise (now Magento Commerce or Magento Commerce Cloud), you need to pay a license fee for the software but also for the cost of the hosting in the case of Magento CC. You will also still need a Magento team for development. You will still have many of the costs above, and the cost of the build will be higher if you are a larger enterprise. Building an Enterprise-level store on Magento Commerce can cost over six figures with costs that scale with the complexity, design, extensions, and additional integrations required.

Hosting

You can’t have a reliable ecommerce website, if you don’t have reliable hosting. You need your site to be able to handle day-to-day traffic and surges with consistently high uptime and fast load times.

1. BigCommerce: cloud-based.

As mentioned above, BigCommerce is SaaS meaning that it is cloud-hosted. BigCommerce hosting is optimized for ecommerce and delivers lightning-fast speed and reliability. BigCommerce had 99.99% uptime for January 1, 2020 through June 1, 2020. 

2. Magento Community: on-premise.

With the free-to-download version of Magento, you will be doing the hosting of the platform. You can do this with your own servers on-premise where you will be entirely responsible for the hardware upkeep and maintenance. You can also choose to use a third-party hosting service, but make sure to pick a strong one, so as not to have issues with outages and unreliability later on.

3. Magento Enterprise: on-premise or cloud-based.

Magento Commerce does provide an on-premise option. Magento Commerce Cloud though is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) model delivered on the cloud. Be aware that PaaS is not the same thing as SaaS. While hosting is managed for you, you still need to make updates and apply security patches yourself.

Scalability

Replatforming is no small feat, so you want to make sure you choose a platform that will not only work for your business now, but will also grow with you.

1. BigCommerce: easy to scale.

BigCommerce is designed to scale with your business. Because it’s SaaS, you don’t have to worry about outgrowing the platform. If you’re expanding to new channels, marketplaces or even across borders, BigCommerce has the features and integrations that can make all of those expansions seamless.

2. Magento Community: scalability ceiling.

With the free version of Magento, you may find yourself limited as you continue to grow and expand. Magento Open Source lacks some features you may want later including B2B functionality like price lists or an easy-to-use page builder. 

3. Magento Enterprise: can scale.

Working with Magento Commerce, your costs are going to be a major factor in how much you can scale. When you have hosting through Magento as with Magento Commerce Cloud, it doesn’t come with unlimited bandwidth. That is something that gets factored into the cost of your store, but you may experience overage fees. That said, Magento CC should be able to scale with your needs, as long as you’re willing to pay for it.

Flexibility

Your business is unique. One concern you have might be that you can’t fit your specific use case into any existing cookie-cutter platform. You need a platform that can be molded and customized to the exact ecommerce and mobile commerce shopping experience that you want. 

1. BigCommerce: easily flexible. 

While Saas is traditionally thought to be less flexible, where BigCommerce is different is that it operates with an open SaaS model. At BigCommerce, the core components of our SaaS platform are open to extension and connection to any other environment to increase efficiencies and reduce bottlenecks.

This means using our APIs and open ecosystem of integrations, you can customize and extend the platform to meet your needs. Because you aren’t modifying the underlying source code, you still have the advantages of automatic updates and security patching. 

2. Magento Community: flexible with some catches.

Magento is flexible. It’s one of its big selling points. The platform is also equipped with a number of Magento extensions. Merchants with needs for extreme customization are often quick to see Magento as the only option, but that flexibility comes with some downsides. On Magento when you modify the source code, it becomes more difficult to install patches and updates as they may break customization that you’ve done to your store. Additionally, Magento Commerce Open Source does not have PCI Compliance

3. Magento Enterprise: flexible with some catches.

The same issues with Magento Open Source extend to Magento Commerce Cloud when it comes to flexibility. The difference is Magento CC is PCI Compliant…if your customizations don’t make any changes to the underlying source code. By exercising the flexibility of the platform, you risk complicating your security situation.

Which Ecommerce Platform Works for Who?

No platform is one size fits all. Choosing the right platform will depend largely on your business and its needs and challenges. Here are some guidelines for where to start.

1. Magento Community: Smaller stores not wanting to scale.

You’re not too small or you probably wouldn’t be looking at Magento at all, but you also aren’t big enough that you’re worried about the limitations of using the free version of Magento. You’re not planning to expand your online store in the future. You don’t need 24/7 support and have your own team of developers ready to work. If this describes you, Magento Open Source might be the right fit for you.

2. Magento Enterprise: Large store with endless resources.

You are big and getting bigger (and you have the budget to match). Your store needs to have additional features around advanced marketing, SEO, and promotion functionality (gift registration, multiple wish lists, rewards, discounts, special offers, gift cards, and private sales). You need more out-of-the-box functionality than what is available in the free version. You have plenty of developer resources to devote to the hefty site build and maintenance. If this is you, Magento Commerce Cloud may be your answer.

3. BigCommerce: small and large stores.

You’re a business small, medium, or large, and you know you want to grow. You need a large array of built-in ecommerce features, reliable uptime, customer support and robust security. Most importantly, you want security, automatic updates and ecommerce hosting included so you don’t have to worry about them. Store owners with these needs might want to consider BigCommerce. The platform can handle not only small stores, but large stores with many SKUs, so it can grow with your business. And because of the platform’s integrations and flexible APIs and webhooks, it can provide endless opportunities for customization while leveraging your existing tech stack.

Conclusion

Magento Community and Enterprise Editions no longer go by these names, but Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce and Commerce Cloud live on.

Are they the right choice for your business? Or should you explore BigCommerce and see what today’s SaaS is capable of? Hopefully, you now have a clearer idea of what the pros and cons are, so you can decide for yourself.

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    Susan Meyer

    Susan Meyer

    Enterprise Content Marketing Manager

    Susan Meyer is the Enterprise Content Marketing Manager at BigCommerce, where she researches, analyzes and educates brands making more than $10M in annual online sales on tech stack scalability, flexibility and overall growth strategies that alleviate growing CAC. She lives and works in Austin, Texas and her decade of writing experience spans everything from young adult nonfiction to technical documentation.

    View all posts by Susan Meyer

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