This post forms part of a series answering 29 hot blogging debates. Here we are looking at whether it is better to use a hosted blog service or to self-host it. There is more getting set up information on our how to setup a website page, a must read if you are learning about this for the first time.
What do these terms mean?
A hosted blog is one that is run on a free service. There are many providers out there but in all honestly if you only look at two such providers then you are unlikely to be making a choice you’ll regret:
- Blogger.com: This is the site run by the Internet God Google. Normally a Google product is worth a look and this one is no exception.
- WordPress.com: Wordpress is surely the leading blogging software package on the Internet and this is the hosted version of that. Signing up here will give you a WordPress powered blog running on the WordPress.com domain.
So if you chose this option, all of the software that powers your blog and all of the data written into your blog’s database will be stored on your providers servers. They will maintain all of this and all you have to worry about is writing a post once in a while. Sounds ideal? Unfortunately there are a few problems with this.
A self hosted blog is one where you will be renting some server space and will then install and run the blogging software yourself. Now this sounds like it could be very tricky, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as it initially sounds.
Continue reading to find out why this is the better option
Why You Might Regret using a Hosted Blogging Service
These free blogging sites offer a great service, don’t get me wrong. If you are posting up the occasional personal blog or testing out a new idea then they can be a great way to get a site up quickly and for no cost. Many people have proved it is perfectly possible to get sites up that generate a large income. But there are several reasons why you might come to regret this as your site grows:
- You don’t have access to the raw data behind the blog. Some services may have ways of extracting this, but if not, moving your blog to another platform will be very time consuming. That said, changing platform is never going to be without challenges whether you self host or not.
- If you don’t own the domain the site is hosted on it makes it much harder to sellthe blog on to someone else late. If website “flipping” is part of your future plans then being able to sell the domain will add to the value.
- A site hosted on a free blogging platform has to work harder to gain respect. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but some people will perceive blogs on free sites as less authoritative.
- There are likely to be restrictions on what adverts or affiliate links you can place around the site. Being a Google product, Blogger.com does have close Adsense integration, WordPress.com can be much more restrictive.
- You don’t have the same flexibility when it comes to customising your blog, for example when installing themes and plugins.
- And if that doesn’t put you off, the following point is what really puts me off. As was recently mentioned in the press, the operator might one day decide it doesn’t like your blog and will remove it. You might get little or no notice that this is going to happen and little right to complain when it does. Even if you have backups of your content you will still need to put in a lot of effort to re-establish your blog. This is not something you want to happen. You can mitigate this risk by reading the site’s terms and conditions very very carefully, but these may be hard to understand or open to interpretation.
But enough about why you might avoid the hosted option..
What are the Advantages of Self Hosting a Blog?
Self hosting a blog puts you in control. You get to make all the decisions. On the down side, with great power comes great responsibility (I’m sure I’ve heard that before somewhere?). But here are some reasons why it makes a good choice:
- Many hosts will actually set everything up for you. My host (eukhost.com) for example will do basic installs for me. Sure, there are limits to what they have time to do but generally they are willing to help. Many hosts have automated scripts that will deploy WordPress at the click of a button, it really couldn’t be easier. If you aren’t confident that you can install your CMS software yourself, check carefully with your host before signing up. Pick one that is happy to help.
- You get full control of your site. You can display any adverts, run any content, upload any plugins and make any changes you like. Of course you are responsible for making sure you stick to your ISPs terms and conditions and comply with the law of the land – but other than that, you can do what you like!
- You get to chose your own domain name! Of course getting the right domain name can be a challenge in its own right, but it’s your chance to start building your own brand.
- You can run any software you like. You can integrate different products such forum software or even a wiki. I have a site that runs using vbulletin, Mediawiki and WordPress to get the best of all worlds.
- You own your data. You will have access to the underlting database that powers your CMS and therefore you can extract this and convert it for use with another system. Who knows WordPress may be overtaken by another product in the next couple of years…
On the down side, a self hosted solution will cost you more money, use a host that can start you off with a very cheap package so if your site never grows you haven’t lost anything. Most hosts can move you up to bigger and better hosting options with little or no interruption. And as your blog grows, hopefully so does the income it generates. By the time you have a million daily hit blog you won’t even notice the hosting fees!