I got a comment from Game Dame on my WoW Resolutions list. Seems The Dame is interested in my experiences transferring my blog from WordPress-hosted to self-hosted. Since many of us use WordPress as our blogging platform, I had fully intended to write some general impressions about my move for those of you that may be considering the same.
After thinking a bit about GD’s comment though, and taking my first steps in self-hosting, I think this may be a more interesting and rich topic than I originally had suspected. Transitioning to self-hosting isn’t without it’s own headaches, but definitely gives you more control over your blog and it’s content. I’m also finding out that making that move does require a “bit” more interaction with your WordPress internals than letting WordPress do the hosting for you. That “bit” is bigger or smaller depending on how fancy you want to get with your blog, but for instance, you are responsible for making all WordPress software updates yourself.
So, I’ve decided to write here and there on the trials and tribulations (and hopefully wild-eyed successes) of self-hosting your WordPress blog. Here’s my first few observations:
Cheap hosters are easy to find, WordPress even recommends some. Some of these hosters have auto-installs of WordPress. What I’ve found though is their control panels are a bit clunky and having an IT background definitely helps. Realize that you will be in charge of file uploads, DNS configuration, software upgrades, backups, etc. If all that makes you queasy, or you’d rather focus on writing than technical administration then let WordPress do your hosting.
There’s no good way to give the hoster you select a test drive, and what I found (I picked Bluehost) is that it’s never as easy to use them as they advertise. I know, no big surprise there. I’ve also found that however good they say their customer support is, just assume you will be on your own to fix your own problems with your best support mechanism the customer forums.
Yes, there are tons of “free” WordPress themes out there, many of them quite good. If you find one that is perfect for you, then you’re in luck. Inevitably, you will want to tweak something here or there. The good news is, you have total access to all aspects of your blog’s look and feel. The “bad” news is, you need to be knowledgeable in PHP, WordPress tags and CSS to do anything other than the most basic changes. The good news here is, with some pretty basic knowledge of HTML tags and some other commands you can pimp out your blog to be uniquely yours.
WordPress is so popular that many hosters have an automatic Fantastico install of it. However, what you will get is a default installation, with no plug-ins. You may have come to rely on additional functionality at your WordPress-hosted blog that you will need to now install yourself. Two important ones I found missing was Akismet spam and a stats dashboard. While each are relatively easy to find via the plug-ins directory, it’s one more thing you need to do yourself (and maintain, if necessary, going forward). I say “relatively” as there are several plug-ins under each category with no easy way to determine which is the one that will fit best for you.
So, Game Dame, there are my initial thoughts. I haven’t decided to abandon self-hosting, there are just too many things I want to do with my blog that I can’t on WordPress hosting. But it definitely has involved more effort on my part than I was expecting. As I go through the process, I’ll make sure to keep you all up to date on anything I think you would find interesting on this topic. I’ve created a category of “wordpress” that I’ll be filing all those posts in so they will be easy to find.
Meanwhile, look for another post to quickly follow this one. I’m torn between two different themes for my new blog and I’m going to ask for your input.