To self-host or not to self-host .. that is the question …
This post assumes you know the general difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org/self-hosted sites. If you don’t the links at the bottom discuss.
You can redirect a custom domain that you own to get rid of the “wordpress.com” in your URL which looks more professional. You can do this with tumblr, Gooogle Blogger and various other services as well.
More and more people are figuring this out and are wondering “Why should I go with a self-hosted site when WordPress.com is free and I can redirect my URL to look more professional so what’s the dif?”
Here are some of the important considerations:
1. Just start something already
Firstly, you don’t really need to worry about being locked into your decision because you can export the database with the click of a few buttons with all the posts, pages, comments, tags, categories etc. and import it to a self-hosted WordPress site at a later time.
Although you can allegedly bring images over seamlessly as well, it seems like for a lot of people the images don’t reconnect correctly so if you have a ton of images you may want to plan on spending an afternoon manually plugging them back in when/if you move to self-hosted. This is much less of an issue for bloggers that don’t have many images.
It is always .. shall we say .. a bit hair raising to move a website but if you do it when the site is fairly small and new still, it’s not a terribly big deal.
Regardless, going with a WordPress.com site is a great way for people to get started blogging and also learn WordPress.
The thing to understand is that if you start to build up a blog with tags and comments and whatnot; you can export all of this. You may have to hire someone for a few hours to help you BUT .. you can take it with you to self-hosted.
So if you just want to get started with something totally free by all means go for WordPress.com. Oh but not so fast! WordPress.com is not really free….
2. Not Free
You have to pay them to get rid of the ads they will run on your site. You have to pay for the URL and the redirect as well.
You also have to pay if you want any video on your site and if you want a theme (template) that is anything other than extremely plain and basic.
They also charge for storage space so if you have a lot of images you will hit the free limit pretty quickly.
So! A basic and truley free WordPress.com site will be too limiting for most people fairly quickly. Which brings us to …
Self-hosted allows for ENDLESS plugins and much more control over everything. It’s definitely the way to go if you want more of a traditional business site as opposed to a personal blog. As with themes the free plugins for WordPress.com are pretty basic and limited. There are thousands and thousands of plugins, and more all the time, which are only available for self-hosted sites.
You can have a sign-up box that let’s people add their email directly to your Constant Contact/MailChimp/EventBrite lists, you can have all your social media channels integrated however you want, you can sell stuff with ecommerce plugins, you can monetize the site for yourself rather than WordPress, etc.
The biggest consideration:
4. Maintaining a self-hosted site
I’ve seen other people say that WordPress.org/self-hosted is actually cheaper compared to a WordPress.com site with a paid URL, custom theme, no ads , etc. This is only the case if you can manage your own site and do backups and updates on your own. This is not for the faint of heart. You must be willing to learn a bit. (or pay someone)
Everything … absoluetly everything on the internet is always changing and improving and coming out with new versions. There’s new versions of WordPress core multiple times per year, new versions of themes, plugins and even of HTML and PHP and the other stuff making it all work behind the scenes.
Probably the main reason to go with WordPress.com is that they do the updating and backing up for you and you don’t have to worry about losing everything or getting hacked.
Lots of people have self-hosted sites with out-of-date software and no backups .. these people are in danger of losing the whole site and having to completely redo everything. This can be quite heartbreaking if you have built up a following with lots posts and comments, or a site with a lot of pages and links.
My advise when you go the self-hosted route is to pay a web person to do a full backup and update quarterly and have them set you up with something that backs you up weekly (or more) as well. This will cost $500 per year minimum for a relatively small and simple site. Also, go with a host that offers weekly backups (not evil GoDaddy which charges $150 to restore your site.) No host will give you any guarantees they can restore everything BUT many will at least try to help you out.
hmmm trying to keep this short …
The most important thing is just starting something. Blogging is an ongoing process and it’s a lot of work to create half decent writing and to engage with people. If you are wondering where to begin just go with WordPress.com.
Who knows if you will even end up blogging regularly. The fact is most blogs die off, so why go through the trouble of self-hosting before you know if you will even use it? Or maybe it will take you a year (or ten) to blog more than once every four months, (cough .. that’s me : > ) or maybe you will end up wanting a different type of blog/site than you think you want now. So if you are totally new why not just start out with the easier thing?
Chances are you will want to move to self-hosted eventually and unless you know you will always just want a basic blog, you should do so sooner than later once you are actually doing something.
Longer/Better info on all of this:
Tons of good info here: WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: A Definitive Guide For 2013
Great post here: “.. it’s always important to recognize a simple truth — you get what you pay for — period.” WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org — What’s the Difference?
Here’s a post on a wordpress.com site. It has lots of comments which provide various experinces and view points on this topic. WordPress.COM vs. WordPress.ORG — Which Is Better for Writers?
From the source: WordPress.org on Moving WordPress