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Do You Really Need Self-Hosting?

It depends. It really does. Answer the following questions –

  • Are you a beginner in the world of blogging? Are you just trying your hand at blogging and are not sure of continuing blogging long-term?
  • Is this a personal blog?
  • Is this blog a hobby? (Basically, are you doing this more for fun than to make money out of?)
  • Are you satisfied with the functionality that your blog offers and the way it looks, currently?
  • Are you hesitant on spending on the blog at least in the early days?
  • Does technology scare you?

If answer to any of the questions above is a “Yes”, not hosting your own blog/site might work out better for you. In fact, the more number of a questions you answered with a “yes”, the more you should consider letting a WordPress or a Blogger handle your hosting.

As a corollary, if yours is a business site/blog, you are in it for the long-term, have been around enough to know that you need more functionality in your blog/site, it is a sustained source of income for you or are okay to spend on your blog/site, you want to go for self-hosting your blog/site.

What is self-hosting?

Just in case you are wondering, what self-hosting really means – most simply put, all the data you have on your blog has to be stored somewhere for it to be pulled up when your readers want to access it. If you are using a free service like WordPress or Blogger or Tumblr or any of the social media (facebook/quora’s) blogging facilities, you are using their servers to store your data. On the other hand, if you sign up for space on a server separately, that would be “self-hosting.”

Pros and cons of self-hosting.

Control:
Self-hosting gives you control of your data. A recent example, private blogs running on quora were taken off the grid because quora found it unsustainable. Or Posterous, for example, shut down completely and all the blogs hosted there had to be migrated elsewhere.

Flexibility:
With control comes capabilities to customize the look and feel of your blog the way you like it. Self-hosting offers a plethora of options to change the look and feel of your blog. At the same time, you can add a lot more functions to your blog via plugins. A blog hosted on the provider’s servers has very limited options and is bare bones version of what a WordPress blog is capable of. On the other hand, this basic version does what it is supposed to do – get your content out there for consumption in a simple, readable format.

Security:
With power and control of course, comes responsibility. A self-hosted site has to be kept up-to-date by the owner. A blog/site that say WordPress or Blogger or Facebook hosts will be kept secure and updated by the said provider. Keeping the back-end of your site updated is not rocket science, but it requires a little more than average awareness and you have to do it regularly or at least keep an eye out for major updates, especially those related to security.

Finances:
Only a site hosted with a free provider will be truly “free.” Sure, WordPress does give you the choice of running a blog that you are hosting elsewhere so that you can use the themes and plugins, but you are going to pay for the domain name and the hosting, at the very minimum.

Functions:
There are some functions that you can have for your blog only if you are self-hosting. For example, running ads or using google analytics and so on.

URL:
For me, this is of utmost importance. For any blog/site that wants to remotely sound professional, your own URL is a must. This is the difference between [your blog name].com and [your blog name].wordpress.com. And you can get a [your blog name].com only and only if you are self-hosting. Once again, you can still use WordPress, its themes and plugins along with such a blog name.

The reason to let a provider host your data for you is that it does get a little technical and half knowledge can very soon become worse than no knowledge. So, if you find things getting complicated, you will want to hire a professional. That immediately adds up to the costs side of your analysis. And only you can decide if it is value for your hard-earned money.

What should _you _ do?

Given the pros and cons, I’d say if you are unsure, don’t start with a self-hosted blog. Go for one maintained by one of the many services at your disposal. In a few months, or even weeks, you can reassess your call according to the roadblocks you are hitting.

When do you make the transition?
This one is simple. As more and more of your answers to the questions listed in the beginning get converted into “No”s, it is time to make the transition. You are then, ready for your blog to be self-hosted.

photo credit: Lori Greig via photopin cc

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