WordPress is a popular blogging engine and content management system, and is one of my top four platforms for building a website. There are two main ways to set up your WordPress website.
- A hosted blog/website on wordpress.com, hereafter referred to as "hosted"
- A self hosted blog/website on your own hosting, hereafter referred to as "self hosted"
But how do you decide which option to go with? Well, to make an informed decision it helps to compare the two and then make a choice depending on:
- your long term goals,
- what you want to be able to do with your website, and
- the resources and knowledge that you have.
Cost is also a big consideration in this choice.
Let us compare the two options and then look at the pros and cons of each.
You create a hosted WordPress website by going to wordpress.com, signing up for a user account, selecting an address for your wordpress site, deciding what you want to pay, and then setting things up.
The whole process takes a very short time and you can have your website and content online very quickly. The steps are easy to follow and don't require any technical expertise other than knowing how to use a computer keyboard and navigate the internet.
Self Hosted Option
To have your own self hosted WordPress site you first need to obtain a domain name, get some hosting, and point your domain name to that hosting. To install WordPress and get it running on your hosting, you then have two options: you can use a script installer if your hosting company provides one, or do a manual install by first going to wordpress.org and downloading a copy of the install zip file to your computer.
If you choose to do a manual install, you need to then upload the install files to your hosting server, create a database, and run the install. This process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending on how prepared you are and your level of expertise and comfort with executing these steps. It usually takes me about 10 minutes to get a new wordpress website running on one of my servers, but that's because I've been doing this for a long time and have a lot of experience and time-saving tricks. Depending on your mileage it may take you a shorter or longer time.
Now that we've had an overview of the two options and an idea of how to execute each, it's time to compare them and go over the pros and cons of each.
Pros and Cons of Hosted WordPress Sites
For people who are new to building WordPress sites, it's very tempting to go for the hosted option. But let us examine more deeply the advantages and disadvantages of this option.
- It's easy and fast to set up. We've discussed this already and you can see from the summary above that you can get your website up and running in no time at all.
- Minimal technical expertise and knowledge is required. All you need to know to get started is how to work a computer and navigate the internet, and an idea of what you want to write about.
- It doesn't have to cost you anything. You can get your hosted site running for zero dollars. However, there is a caveat to this which I will cover in the cons.
- You don't have to worry about maintenance. WordPress.com will take care of all the updates and security issues, and all you have to worry about is adding content to your site and marketing it.
- You sacrifice control of your website. This may not be an issue for most users who just want a place to have a voice and post their content. But if you want the flexibility to customize your website in any way you desire you won't necessarily be able to with a hosted site. Wordpress.com does not give you FTP access to your sites files. Some premium plugins and themes are not available to hosted websites, and you're out of luck if at any time in the future you find a need for these. For me, this giving up of control is the biggest downside to choosing the hosted option.
- Extra costs:
- if you want to use your own domain name. Having your own domain name is essential if you have a brand you want to maintain and promote. Free hosted wordpress sites have the words "wordpress.com" in their url. To use your own domain name will cost you extra every year. You can obtain the name through wordpress.com at slightly higher cost, or else use your own pre-existing domain name, but that's again at extra cost.
- to remove wordpress.com advertisements. To cover their costs, wordpress.com insert ads on your site if you're running the free version. To get these ads removed will cost you an annual fee.
- to customize the available themes. You are provided with a bunch of free themes that you can use to skin your site. However, because there are millions of sites hosted on wordpress.com, you'll find that your site looks like other sites. If you want to make it look a bit different by, for example, changing fonts or colors, you will need to pay extra.
- to get extra space and upload certain types of media files. You get a restricted amount of space for hosting your website content and images. If you need more space or want to be able to upload audio and video files to your site you will need to pay extra. This isn't something you'd need to worry about with a regular hosting account.
- to transfer your site elsewhere. With regular hosting you have access to your site files and can copy and move them to a different hosting company or location if you want to, but not so with a hosted site. If you decide to move your website to another hosting company you will have to pay for that too.
- Not allowed to run advertisements on your website. Hosting ads is one of the ways website owners make revenue from their sites. You cannot have advertisements on the hosted wordpress sites.
Pros and Cons of Self Hosted WordPress Sites
If you're like me and like to feel that you have more control over your websites, you may feel that the hosted version is not for you. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of self hosted WordPress websites?
- You retain full control of your website. Because you have the files and site sitting on your own hosting server, you have full access to edit the files as you wish and to manipulate your site in any way you want.
- Add any themes or plugins that you want. There are no restrictions, and you can be sure that you will be able to install any premium themes or plugins you are interested in as long as they are compatible with the version of WordPress that you're running.
- Modify any CSS or fonts as you wish. Because you have full access to the site files you can make any changes you want at no extra cost.
- Use your own domain name at no extra annual cost. All you have to worry about is your usual annual domain registration fee, with no additional fees for having it linked to your site. This way you can build and maintain your brand.
- No hidden costs. The costs of running your own self hosted wordpress website are pretty straightforward - the cost of your domain name and its annual renewal, and the cost of your hosting and monthly or annual renewal. Additionally if you choose to use any premium themes or plugins or services, then you'd pay for those too.
- More technical expertise required. You need to have some knowledge about hosting and domain names, how to create databases, and how to transfer files to your server. However, this knowledge is easy to acquire. In addition, a lot of hosting companies have one-click script installers that will install WordPress for you without you having to download or upload any files.
- More time consuming and involved. If you're going to host your own WordPress site you'll need to purchase a domain name and hosting and set all of that up. That does take some time and can be challenging if you've never done it before.
- Initial costs. The initial costs for a self hosted site may be higher as you have to pay for hosting and the domain name before you start. However, this may not be the case. For example you may be setting up your blog or site as a subdomain of an existing domain that you own, or you may already have hosting set up for your other websites.
- Maintenance. You're responsible to maintain your own website if it's self hosted. You have to keep your site upgraded and secure and take regular backups, unlike in the hosted option where all that is taken care of for you.
In this article we've gone over the two options that you have for setting up your WordPress website - hosting on Wordpress.com or self hosting on your own hosting account. I've shared with you the pros and cons of each option as I see them. It's important to make an informed choice before you get started, and this will depend on your needs and use-case.
If you're still not sure what option is best for you, have any questions, or can think of any pros and cons I may have left out, feel free to leave your comments and I will respond.