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The internet is full of tutorials on the tremendous benefits of shifting to a self-hosted blog using the free WordPress software and how to shift from the free wordpress.com to the self-hosted wordpress.org blog (read the difference here).
Though the wordpress.org blog has a lot of benefits, this post is primarily to highlight the issues that a hitherto wordpress.com user like me found while shifting to self-hosting. If you never had a free blog on WordPress or BlogSpot/Blogger and/or if you are a techie, then you will have problems understanding the sentiments here and may think that I am being unkind to the WordPress software or a self-hosted website! Ok, here goes. Image credit.
1. Huge time waste on research and learning tech issues
Learning blogging on the free wordpress was itself a challenge for somebody like me who used to think that you need to be a web designer or a software engineer to set up a web page and a major part of my time was spent learning the ropes on the free WordPress (though it was a lot of fun and pleasure to be honest). WordPress.org will challenge you even more because you are setting up your own website. A self-hosted blog is a whole new ball game and you will often feel so incompetent with the installation of your blog (especially if you do not use the Fantastico auto-installation and want to learn more; the former leaves some security loopholes)! Jargons like phpMyAdmin, FTP access and MySQL database will give you sleepless nights, so to speak! The famous “five-minute WordPress” installations is only a tag line; do not take it seriously!
2. Finding a nice, reliable web host is not so easy
There are so many web hosts out there and they all claim to be genuine. You will have a hard time finding the answer to the question: Which web host to choose for your WordPress blog hosting? I have even written a post on it earlier explaining how to find a nice, reliable web host. My web host is Hostgator, one of the world’s biggest web hosting companies. I have tested them in many many ways through chats, sending emails from various accounts and noting the response time, seeking recommendations from blogger friends and others with Hostgator and even a direct mail to the CEO Brent Oxley (which of course got a quick reply) among other things. If you want to shift your blog to self-hosting or start a new one, I recommend Hostgator. I did all the shifting myself because I wanted to learn things though Hostgator would have willingly done it for me without charging me a penny! Read this very interesting and humorous account on the origin and evolution of Hostgator written by the CEO himself!
3. The wordpress.com free lunch is missing
It is all free with WordPress.com! But once you are hosting on your own servers you have to pay a good sum to your web host (my baby gator plan of Hostgator, for example, is 8 to 10 dollars per month) and a fixed amount per annum for domain name registration and renewal ( dot com domain usually costs 10 dollars). Apart from this, you may be tempted to buy premium themes like Thesis or any of the Woo Themes (I am using the free Thrilling theme presently) and may even want to donate some amount to a plugin or theme developer. Also your ordinary slow internet connection may need more teeth because you will need to download back up of your website(s) regularly.
4. Back up, Security, downtime and Hacking tension
On WordPress or Blogger/BlogSpot all this tension is for the WP staff or Google team to handle. But with a self-hosted blog only ‘you’ are responsible for running your website. Your blog can get hacked (it is not very uncommon; your theme, plugins or installation may have some vulnerability) and you may lose all your contents if you do not back up regularly and religiously. Put simply you are on your own; there is no WordPress or BlogSpot team to iron out things for you and you will often feel insecure if you have recently shifted from WordPress.com like me! You have to keep yourself up-to-date about the latest softwares updates, issues, bandwidth and CPU usage on your shared server, threats and developments and act accordingly. You will constantly worry about uptime of your blog despite being with a reputed host (worrying about things is human nature!) and will use many host-tracking and uptime monitoring services.
5. Free WordPress blog is not so bad after all
All the basic functions obtain in your wordpress.com blog and it is quite nice. You can even get a custom domain so that your blog is not a subdomain of WordPress. Google AdSense and money-making dreams for most self-hosted blogs is a chimera. Also when you shift to self-hosting you may have many technical glitches including missing links, 404 errors and showing comments on pages, a feature WordPress.com bloggers really like. Automattic is regularly introducing new features on WordPress.com and in some ways it is ahead of a self-hosted blog. WordPress.org forums do not have a helping community of bloggers unlike the WordPress.com forums. I am happy I have more than 10 active blogs still on the free WordPress including the popular Delhi zoo website and the campus Holi celebrations documentation.
My advice is that if you are happy with the free wordpress.com or BlogSpot blog and think you do not need to shift to self-hosting then you really do not need to. The grass looks greener on the other side of the hill and the sound of the drum is pleasant but only from a distance!
I have moved to a new level in blogging just the same and I like it. A self-hosted site using the wordpress software has many benefits indeed provided that you feel the need and desire for learning, flexibility and freedom. It is not very difficult but you need to devote a lot of time reading and learning things (or hire somebody who will do it for you if you have money to spend on this).
Feel free to seek my help if you want to shift your blog or start a new self-hosted blog. And yes, I will soon put some unobtrusive ads on this blog just for some trial, testing and fun and make it a permanent feature if it works. If you are wondering how popular this blog is, I get some 500 to 600 hits (views) daily most of which is Organic (through search engines).