Are you planning to start a blog? I would highly recommend WordPress as blogging platform for non techie as well as tech savvy people. Matt Mullenweg and few other folks created WordPress back in 2003 which is now the best CMS platform awarded by reputed organizations. WordPress comes in two different versions, one is available online at WordPress.com where you don’t need to worry about hosting, domains as your content will be hosted by Automattic (the parent company of WordPress) and even you will get a domain like yourblog.wordpress.com. The other version of WordPress is a complete package which you can download and install on your rented server and of course can make changes in the vanilla code of WordPress as per your need.
Whether you should choose self hosted WordPress package or hassle-free WordPress.com, we will try to help you in making this decision.
WordPress.com – Advantages and Disadvantages
In this comparison post, first I will talk about WordPress.com which is already hosting more than 10 million websites. Here you just need to register yourself using the signup window and provide few details about your blog, sub-domain name choice etc. and your blog will be ready in no time. You can start blogging in less than 5 minutes. There are lot many theme templates available for free, you can choose any one of them for your blog and once selected, the theme will be visible on your blog. Isn’t it so easy to manage and start a blog without paying a single dollar? Of course it is as easy as buying a baby diaper from store.
In WordPress.com, you can browse other blogs hosted on the domain by using tag surfer and can have a community feeling as well. WordPress is also having a community platform named BuddyPress which is a dedicated platform for building community sites, but here you will get a feeling of being part of a huge platform and browse great articles by other users.
But as WordPress.com is managed by Automattic team, you get very less customization options. For example, you can’t edit the theme files to customize them as per your need. You can edit the CSS to change width, background color, fonts etc. but can’s add things directly into the code. You have widgets to use but then your selected theme should be widget ready. Your blog will be hosted on WordPress server, they are fast and reliable servers but still you don’t have caching feature to load your pages much faster than normal loading.
Self Hosted WordPress – A Complete Package
To overcome these restrictions, you can try self hosted WordPress package. You need to download the latest version of WordPress (currently it is WordPress 3.1) and move all the files and folders to your hosting server. Yes, you need a hosting server and own domain to start with self hosted WordPress. You can also install WordPress on sub-domain or just an IP. Once you complete the installation on server, you can install themes either from WordPress theme repository or by purchasing them from premium WP theme services.
Apart from custom themes and vanilla code customization, the major advantage of self hosted WordPress is the power of Plugins. You can add new features, options and new dimension in self hosted WordPress by installing plugins available on WordPress plugin directory. For example, if you want to add a featured posts slider on your customized theme in WordPress, install Smooth Slider from Plugin repository. You will find thousands of plugins i.e. extra piece of code for specific purpose in official plugin directory.
Installation and uninstallation of plugins in WordPress is really easy task. You can choose to download and install the plugin wither from WordPress dashboard or through FTP process. Just activate the plugin and you will find the new feature rolling on your site.
For managing self hosted WordPress, you should be ready to take few risks. For example, don’t worry much before trying a new plugin until it is hosted on official plugin repository. You may find some plugins very useful for your site and few may throw error. You should either have a developer in contact if you are not much familiar with PHP/HTML coding or CSS customization.
Purchasing domain on WordPress.com
As I told earlier, you get a sub-domain on WordPress.com for free while starting your blog over there. You can also choose to have a proper domain name as per your requirement hosted on WordPress.com, and for that you need to pay $17 per year. It is way more than the normal $10 for a dot com domain but they charge a premium for hosting the domain.
WordPress.com is no doubt a good option for those who don’t want so much customization in their theme layout, branding and adding something different in their site but just a simple blog. But I would recommend to have own self hosted WordPress setup as you will see no boundaries in future over there. You can create as many blog on single server as you want and customize that as per your need. Plugins and custom themes make this package more lucrative. If you are looking for a long term blogging and branding, you should opt for self hosted WordPress setup rather than WordPress.com. You will get each and everything in self hosted WordPress setup what is there in .com free hosting, but in addition, you will get more flexibility, better customized look, self managed and securely backed up blog setup. By securely backed up, I mean the premium backup service launched by Automattic named “VaultPress” which is currently for self hosted WordPress blog only. In $15 per month, you can start automatic backup process for your blog and host the hourly back up files on WordPress server. You can restore any version at any point of time.
Note: I will discuss VaultPress in other post in detail. Currently I am using it for couple of my self hosted WordPress sites.