This post started off as a head-to-head comparison of Magento Community Edition vs. Professional Edition, and as I started writing, there were grumblings of a Professional Edition being released, and as such this post got put on hold until its official release (comparison available here). The reasoning for this post started from a tweet we posted back in April, stemming from some sales calls whereby several prospects had discussed with us the question of whether they should use the Professional Edition or the Community Edition of Magento Commerce - at the time, these were the only choices available. In those discussions however, several of those people had indicated that they had in fact contacted Magento directly in search of an answer to this very question. What the Magento sales team was telling them, was surprising, but understandable.
What these prospects were being told, and I’m paraphrasing here, was that Magento Community Edition was, in a sense, a waste of their time, and that they really had to use the Enterprise Edition. Now, I get that these are salespeople, most likely working on commission, but I found it strange that they were basically bashing their own product for the “upsell”. What I would have found more appropriate, is an honest evaluation, maybe even a questionnaire, to help determine if the Enterprise Edition is a better fit for someone than the Community Edition. Because, in reality, these specific companies I talked with, had no reason why the Enterprise Edition was any better for them than the Community Edition. They were not to the scale of needing an Enterprise Platform, most of which were smaller operations without a need for Admin level permissions, auditing, staging, etc. The $12K per year didn’t provide enough value add that would solve a specific business need, address a particular set of functionality that they required, or offer any kind of value on top of the Community Edition that made the cost worth it. Sure, these advanced functionalities were really nice bells and whistles – but where they really needed? When you get down to it, it is a cost-benefit analysis. Oh wait, there’s gift cards and credits. Which I personally like to joke a lot about because this is one of the most basic functionalities that most eCommerce platforms have that they decided to leave out of the Community Edition – and with all the advanced functionality that Magento has, leaving out that one little piece amuses me. But back to the story…
So, I found myself in a situation having to really educate these people on the true differences of the Enterprise Edition vs. the Community Edition, to help them make an educated decision for themselves. No sales pitch, no bias, I don’t care one way or the other, I just want to make sure they think it through and make a smart decision. After this conversation with people I usually hear comments like “oh, I didn’t realize that” or “I didn’t think Community Edition could be PCI compliant”, or even “well, the person at Magento I talked to led me to believe…” and many people are worried that the Community Edition will be phased away. Reality is, most of our small to mid customers are on the Community Edition and have absolutely no problems that the Enterprise Edition would solve. And that’s great! And all three Editions will be vital for Magento’s success, not too long ago it was one platform of which the development community embraced, and it was through that development community, and some brilliant folks at Magento, that the platform became the phenomenon it is today.
But don’t get me wrong here, I’m not advocating that no-one needs the Enterprise Edition, or that Magento’s a bad company for trying to sell the products that bring in revenue, but I am advocating that people learn about the differences themselves and make an informed decision. It’s not like Magento is trying to hide it, or deceive people in any way, their website pretty clearly defines the differences – although having a column of red x’s in a competitive array usually means you’re trying to steer people away from that product. I don’t want you to be the person that calls Blue Acorn, only to have us find out that you bought into the Enterprise Edition without real need, and wonder when sales are going to start rolling in – because it has happened.
To throw another variable in the mix now, we have the Professional Edition, which, now adds the much requested functionality of (I chuckle as I write this) gift cards and credits, as well as a higher level of encryption and loyalty system. At a cost of $3K per year, you could probably justify that cost with those features alone, but because this was just launched I see this product maturing in product set and picking up several upcoming new features that will be specific to just the Professional and Enterprise Editions. I believe that going forward, the Professional Edition will hit a sweet spot exactly for those companies that need a bit more than the Community Edition, without the Enterprise functionalities that really are only needed by larger corporations. The following chart outlines the growth we’ve seen with the platform over the years, and the projected trajectory of each platform. We’re using “growth” as an abstract metric in relative terms to each other. This is not to scale, and doesn’t mean that the Community Edition is 50% of the Enterprise Edition – fact of the matter is they share the same code base and are probably about 80-90% the same. This is meant to illustrate relative growth of the platforms in terms of enhancements, new features, marketing, sales, and overall attention given to each from Magento. Although note that the Community involvement in maintaining the Community Edition; as Magento’s role in that platform has diminished to minimal involvement of the CAB and rolling in community contributed code to the core.
In the end, with any eCommerce platform you select to work with, you must perform the due diligence necessary to select a platform based around your needs, both today, and tomorrow. We’re big advocates of Magento, and the introduction of the Professional Edition allows Magento to extend their reach into even more areas – all the way from small companies with limited budgets on the Community Edition, all the way to Enterprise behemoths with the Enterprise Edition. Where you fit into the equation is sometimes a difficult question to answer, but always go back to your requirements – what do you need and how do these editions stack up to that? Or, just give us a call, we’re glad to help!
SIDENOTE: it’s been a while since our last Magento post so I thought I’d mention that we are committed to writing more about Magento and how it can help online retailers. There’s so many things we’ve done with the platform that we’d love to share, experiences and tips others can benefit from, and it is just a matter of finding the time in the day to get it all down in writing. We’ve been so busy working with Magento that we haven’t had the time write about it!