Magento Commerce: Which Edition is Right for Me?

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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.

Magento Platform Growth Chart

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!

by Founder & CEO
Kevin is the Founder & CEO of Blue Acorn, and he also serves on the Magento Certification Advisory Board. Kevin has worked with a number of companies with online needs: banks, IT companies, consumer packaged goods manufacturers, various software companies, and finally, starting his own eCommerce business. His roles included that of a web developer, a business development manager, a technology evangelist, and a consultant.  When Kevin founded Blue Acorn in 2007, he didn’t want to be all things to everyone who wanted to be on the web. As an eCommerce entrepreneur himself, he wanted to focus on helping other online retailers achieve their goals. At the time, the world of eCommerce “solutions” for online retailers was an overcrowded space of web development generalists that left many online retailers yearning for more – more expertise, more value, and more love. So Kevin started Blue Acorn and blogged about his thoughts and approach towards eCommerce. Those thoughts were well-received, and the demand for services to accompany them would soon follow.

DISCUSSION

17 Comments

  1. Maciek

    I think you are wrong with your graph – the community/paid modules actually add to each version not only Community Edition. I also think you forgot about support for the EE which increases the gap between Community, Pro and Enterprise. While you can pretty much fill the community with modules so functionality wise it becomes like enterprise, you will not get real support and patches from the community.

  2. Thanks for your comment Maciek – the line in the graph representing the Community line is not a reference to extensions and add-ons, but there is an entire CAB that is dedicated towards improving the core product, consider it an outside development team. The core of the Community Product will continue to be improved, and enhanced from this group that is managed by Magento themselves. Similar in how osCommerce and other open source solutions have grown through a grass-roots developer community – aside from the extension developers.

  3. Dan

    I realize that this was written a while ago. I have seen it suggested that the Pro and EE performed better, in respect to loading, than the Community Edition. Have you experienced this?

  4. Hi Dan,
    In respect to performance, the Enterprise Edition has full page cacheing and some specific performance improvements and clients can expect to achieve comparably better performance in the Enterprise Edition. The Professional Edition is very closely aligned with the Community Edition at this point regarding performance however.

    Regardless, I know there’s a lot of information and questioning about the performance of Community Edition but it is important to understand that there is no reason why you can’t have a Community Edition instance performing just as well as any other platform. There are thousands of businesses running on Community Edition without any performance concerns. It takes a little bit of work, knowledgeable development, and the proper environment.

  5. I am looking to move to a PHP/MySQL ecommerce solution. My question is can a developer take the community edition of Magento and extend it, customize it, on their own to include some of the addition functionality in the Pro/Ent editions?

  6. Kevin

    Hi Charlie,

    My suggestion is always to let the requirements drive the solution. If you put together your functional requirements first, you can evaluate them against each of the editions to determine which is best for you. If you find yourself needing many of the features in Pro or Enterprise, then you’re going to be better off just using those solutions than getting Community Edition and customizing it to include some of those features.

  7. Thanks for your reply, Kevin, although I’m still scratching my head as to the answer to my question. Can a developer take the community edition of Magento and extend it, customize it, on their own to include some of the addition functionality in the Pro/Ent editions?

  8. Thanks for your reply, Kevin, although I’m still scratching my head as to the answer to my question. Can a developer take the community edition of Magento and extend it, customize it, on their own to include some of the addition functionality in the Pro/Ent editions?

  9. Hey Charlie, to answer your question: Can a developer take Magento CE and customize it to the extent that it has the same features as PE or EE? Yes. Like anything to do with development – anything is possible. But the time, cost, and complexity of some of these features in PE and EE would make the exercise cost much more in the end than just going with EE to begin with. And if you can find a developer to promise it for less, I’d be very skeptical.

    So yes, it is possible, would I recommend it? No way. If your requirements are a better fit for EE or PE then you should use one of those instead of trying to make CE like them. If it’s just a few things – maybe – but anything beyond that would not be advisable. Hope that helps!

  10. Youn

    Hey Kevin,

    I found your article browsing about Magento on the Internet. The e-commerce company I work for is looking to upgrade to an enterprise level platform, and Magento seems like the most viable option right now. However, there are some doubts about this. We’re very hesitant to make the move because we’re not sure if we can “maintain” an open-source platform in-house.

    We don’t have any professional IT personnel here, and the EE’s SLA seems very restricted. Magento, by itself whatever the edition is, lacks a lot of nice features. It doesn’t even natively have fully functional batch import and export feature. I foresee having issues mostly with installing and maintaining extensions, which the EE’s SLA does not cover.

    What is your opinion about a company like ours (no in-house programmers or webmaster, but we do have web designers) moving onto Magento? Is this EE SLA going to help us maintain a 0% down-time? We pay a comparable amount right now for our shopping cart, so the money is not an issue. It’s a question whether or not we’ll be able to successfully maintain it. If you have any comments or suggestions please let me know! Thanks!

  11. php

    HI

    I am using community edition.How good enterprise version is ? We’re worried to make the move because we’re not sure if we can “maintain” an open-source platform in-house

  12. Ketan

    Hi Kevin,

    I am just new to Magento. One of my client wants an e-commerce solution in PHP with little of Content management system and integration of social netwoorking APIs. Can I use the Community Edition to provide these features?

    Thanks

  13. Neil

    Can we start with Community version and easily upgrade to Enterprise (now they do not have Pro any more) easily – or we have to redo everything?

    • Kevin Eichelberger

      Neil, you don’t have to necessarily redo everything to upgrade, but the upgrade path isn’t necessarily a flip of a switch either. There is significant work in upgrading from CE to EE and having a well thought out strategy goes a long way in a successful upgrade. The level of effort will depend on how old the version of CE it is, the amount of customizations in place, the number of extensions, and how well the site was originally developed. Even in the best case scenario, because Magento EE introduces so much additional functionality, it all needs to be configured and setup (eg. Solr, staging site) which can take some time. In addition, many of these features need to be added to your site’s XML/themes that won’t be there from your CE theme. So, like I said, it’s not starting from scratch, but it’s not plug and play either. Good luck!

  14. Monty

    Magento ecommerce solution has become the most demanding open source platform of today’s online retail store businesses since it provides a tremendous advantage. With Magento Ecommerce Platform, online store owners are being given the capability of handling multiple stores and facilitate a more systematized browsing of items for sale. Improved management of customer’s orders and having more developed promotional or advertising tools also comes possible with Magento Ecommerce.

    Thanks

    Monty
    iLoveMage

  15. Josh

    Hi Kevin,

    Is there any feature that EE offers that cannot be implemented on CE even with extensions?

    Based on my understanding, talking to developers and reading blogs all have given me the impression that EE is wasting 15K while CE is capable of everything that EE does with adding the required extension with little or no cost.

    Best,
    Josh

    • Kevin Eichelberger

      Josh, my typical recommendation is that as soon as you need just a few features of EE (like full page cacheing, returns, store credits, etc) you’re better off going with EE. Yes, you can technically take CE and add extensions to mimic EE. But I can tell you, the cost of that work: buying the extensions, implementing the extensions (yes, it does involve time), QA testing, and maintaining them through upgrades, headaches with conflicts and bugs, etc is MUCH greater in the long haul. Developers will promise you the world otherwise, but I can tell you through 5+ years firsthand experience, it may seem cheaper up front, but it rarely ends up being that way. Best of luck!

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