Tech

Should you get a hosted or self-hosted website for your author platform?

You know what an author platform is and you’ve decided that you want one. Your next round of questions is about the logistics. Should I use WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, or something else? How much does it cost? How do I do it? Is it hard? Should I pay someone to do it for me?  The first and fundamental choice you need to make once you’ve decided to build your brand online is whether to have a hosted or self-hosted website platform.

Glossary

Before we get into it, let’s make sure we’re speaking the same language.

Domain: A group of computers and devices on a network that are administered as a unit with common rules and procedures. A subdomain (sometimes called a child domain) is a smaller part of a larger domain.

Domain name: A unique name that identifies a website. For example, the domain name of this website is “cosettepaneque.com”.

Web hosting: The business of housing, serving, and maintaining files for a website. Websites are hosted, or stored, on servers.

Hosted or self-hosted website?

Hosted platforms include Blogger, Squarespace, Tumblr, Weebly, Wix, and WordPress.com. All you have to do is create an account and create your pages or start your blog. They’re usually free, but they may offer upgrades and premium plans for more features. These platforms are designed to be user-friendly and you don’t need to know how to code. They own and manage your site so you don’t have to worry about updates or security.

Typically, your site is hosted on their subdomains. This means that the company’s name is part of your domain name, such as http://oldloves.tumblr.com/ and https://simonkindt.wordpress.com/. You can register your own domain name and then purchase an upgrade from the hosted site that allows you to connect the website to your own domain name. For example, http://www.kellyjonesdesign.co.uk/ is built on Wix, but it’s connected to her own domain name. Note, however, that this is a connection. It’s not the same as owning your website.

The main drawback to having your website on a hosted platform is that you don’t own it. They could shut down your site any time if they find it doesn’t comply with their terms of service. Tumblr is particularly notorious for shutting down blogs without informing bloggers. They won’t even tell you what rule you’ve broken or give you the chance to comply.

Another drawback is that you don’t have full control over your website. As your knowledge and comfort grow, you may find that you want to do more with your site, but you won’t be able to. For example, design options are limited, you can’t expand the site’s capabilities, and you may not be able to advertise or sell anything on it. You might also discover that a hosted platform places ads on your website. You won’t have any control over the ads or profit from them. You might be able to pay to have them removed. You won’t have these problems with a self-hosted solution.

WordPress.org is a self-hosted solution. This is the leading content management system (CMS) for building a website for all different kinds of online endeavours from small personal portfolios to enterprise-level business and eCommerce. It has a large community of users and developers who are always expanding its capabilities.

There are drawbacks to the self-hosted solution too. To build your website on WordPress.org, you need a web hosting service – a company to house and store it. You will need to install it, manage it, secure it, and back it up. This sounds more daunting than it is, but a self-hosted solution doesn’t offer the ease and immediacy of a hosted solution. It takes longer to set up initially and there are more steps, but that doesn’t mean you need to have special or advanced technical skills. You don’t need to know how to code and the WordPress.org dashboard looks just like the WordPress.com dashboard. You’ll just need a little more patience and perseverance.

A self-hosted solution costs more than a hosted website until you start upgrading your hosted website. For example, Wix’s Combo plan, which allows you to connect your own custom domain, remove Wix ads, and add a customised favicon is US$8.50 a month. That’s US$102 a year. I pay US$5.45 a month for my web hosting plus $23.88/year for security. That’s US$89.28 a year.

Still not sure?

In the long run, you’re going to want and need a self-hosted solution, but if you’re not ready to do that right now, go with WordPress.com. When you’re ready to move your website to the self-hosted WordPress.org, the migration will be easier and you’ll already be familiar with the dashboard.

In a future post, I’ll cover the ins and outs of building your author platform on WordPress.org. Don’t miss out. Subscribe here to receive the latest blog updates in your email inbox. You can opt-out at any time.

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