While Magento is one of the most popular and versatile E-commerce platforms available to merchants, it may not always be clear which Magento software license to select to best meet your business’s needs and goals. Luckily, there are well-defined benefits to each version of Magento.
Magento offers a free Community Edition, as well as a paid Enterprise edition, which starts in the $22,000+ range. By volume, the sheer majority of Magento websites are powered by Magento’s Community Edition. However, Enterprise does offer some additional features and functionalities such as out-of-the-box support for RMA’s, reward points, gift cards, store credits, gift wrapping, gift registries, “Add to Cart” by SKU, automated related products, abandoned cart emails, static content page versioning, private sales, customer segmentation, and more.
Magento Enterprise is best suited for businesses that are already successful in E-commerce or that expect to see fast growth in E-commerce and is better built to address the needs of a larger E-commerce store. Smaller businesses are often better off using the Community Edition, skipping the license fees, and instead investing more heavily into marketing. With Magento’s Community Edition, you can also leverage Magento Extensions to add many comparable features to those found in the Enterprise edition.
Magento Enterprise does come with technical support from the Magento team, and while the Magento team won’t know much about the nuances of your particular website since they won’t be your web developers, some merchants appreciate having this extra resource.
Switching between Magento Community and Magento Enterprise does require a full rebuild, so it is heavily recommended to launch on the version of the platform that you plan to use for at least a few years.
Magento has built its reputation and following on its 1.x version. In November of 2015, they released Magento 2. Although Magento 2’s debut was anything but perfect, requiring Magento to make many bug fixes and solve critical issues, Magento 2 is now much more mainstream. As with switching between Magento Community and Magento Enterprise, there is no quick “upgrade” between these versions. Rather, merchants need to undergo a labor-intensive migration process which is very much a website rebuild.
Given that Magento 2 is Magento’s new flagship product, having benefitted from more improvement and focus, merchants are highly recommended to build their new Magento website on version 2.x. Merchants on 1.x are, in many cases, already rebuilding to 2.x, especially as PHP 5, a server software used for most Magento 1 sites, reaches its End of Life in 2018, and as Magento 1 extensions receive less attention and fewer updates. Magento 1 is now considered, for all intents and purposes, a slowly dying platform. Much like updating your operating system, it doesn’t make sense to go back to Windows XP. In this case, unless there is a very particular use case, we recommend considering Magento 2.
Incremental Software Releases & Patches
Magento continues to release new incremental Magento versions, security patches, and bug fixes. As open-source software, it’s important to keep your Magento software patched as new security holes are identified. While the frequency of such software updates varies from year to year, it’s good to prepare for at least a few dozen hours of labor for any given year, especially as you may need to upgrade extensions, and debug issues, such as with your Magento Theme, that may arise from upgrading or patching.
These updates are meant to be applied by a web developer and are best conducted on a development or staging copy of your website. By testing them on a copy of your site, you can avoid breaking your public website, and potentially impacting your sales and bottom line.
Is Magento Right for you?
Keep in mind that while Magento is a well-respected platform with many advantages, other platforms like BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Shopify, and Zoey each have their own merits and benefits. Some require less maintenance, include web hosting, and provide more holistic support, for instance. If you’re not sure which platform will suit you best, consider reaching out to an agency that supports a wide variety of platforms in order to get constructive feedback on what makes the most sense for your use case.
Robert Rand, CTO, RandMarketing.com