Why I finally decided to go self-hosted

Phew! I made it. (Subscribe here, if you haven’t already!) Email subscribers should be moved over and getting posts in their inbox as usual – or if not, they will be transferred soon.

For those who were following me via WordPress, there’s a new ‘follow’ button toward the bottom right of the page (alternatively, according to a support forum, you should still be able to follow my new self-hosted blog through WordPress Reader by clicking Edit List next to Blogs I Follow). Otherwise, RSS is your best bet – I’m also on Bloglovin and Paperblog.

Before I get into all the reasons why I decided to go self-hosted, I’m going to share an insight into the process…

I awoke bright and early on Saturday morning, all ready to tackle the job. Before hitting the one-click install button on Dreamhost, I looked through the WordPress.org guides. Holy. Shit. There was talk of FTP, servers, and a bunch of other terms that I don’t quite understand. Still, I figured I should follow the instructions. I downloaded WordPress, tried to open the configuration file, and couldn’t. I then downloaded Filezilla, spent ages trying to get that to connect, and nearly broke down in tears after countless failures. Eventually, I decided just to press go on the Dreamhost install and see what happened. Hybrid smart servers provide you with a slice of a dedicated server that is shared by only a few users.

Whaddya know. It worked. Note to others: do not worry about all the WordPress documentation; it’s effectively negged by the one-click install, which bypasses all that for you.

But in trying to set up my new account, I got a ‘page not found’ error, which I figured was because nzmuse.com already points to my WordPress.com blog. After racking my brain a little, I tried reconfiguring my settings and pointing my nameservers (I *think* I’m using all the right terms here, but I may well not be – this is from best recall) within WordPress.com to my Dreamhost settings. And when Pear tweeted me about my blog being down hours later, I knew they’d finally switched over. Hallelujah!

I then set up my user account and set about importing my old blog. Ruh roh. Next hurdle: the XML file containing everything about my blog was too large. Even my text-heavy writing with few photos added up to more than 16MB over four years. File splitters that others on the internet reported using were Windows-only and the one Mac one I found didn’t work. So I resorted to downloading my content in pieces, a year’s worth at a time, and then importing each file individually.

The final hurdle: rebuilding my menus and sidebar widgets. Those, unfortunately, didn’t translate over, even with the same theme.

Overall, it wasn’t TOO painful. Nervewracking for a noob, yes. One more note for future Dreamhosters: you want the Custom install but NOT the Deluxe option. Yes, you get Jetpack, but also a dozen other crappy themes you’ll end up deleting. Just install the Jetpack plugin separately once you’ve imported your WP.com blog.

Reasons self-hosting rocks

A better commenting system

I’m not kidding when I say the number one reason I wanted to self-host was to ditch the annoying new-ish WP.com commenting system that wants you to use your Facebook/Twitter etc credentials. If your email has ever been associated with a WP.com account, it will want you to log in. Basically, it was proving a huge pain in the ass for other bloggers.

Customising themes and look

I want to make a few tweaks to my theme (and it’ll be a good way to practise CSS. Christ, it’s been months since I last logged into Codeyear). Sure, you can buy an upgrade to edit your code in WP.com, but for the price you may as well go self-hosted and enjoy all the freedom that comes with it.

Plugins galore!

From IntenseDebate to related post plugins, there’s a whole world of fun out there. I’m trying not to go overboard. How many is too many?

Monetising

WP.com places some ads on your free blog that you have no control over. This way, you have a shot at making some cash for yourself, be it through Adsense, private ads, sponsored posts or other ad networks. (I’m trying out a plugin that automates all ad management, from selling to setting up ad zones – it even enables bookings from this page.)

No restrictions

There are some kinds of code WP.com won’t support, like Rafflecopter widgets, as I learned last week. That said, you do lose that connection to the WP.com community – there are users who surf WP.com tags and find posts that way – but I don’t think that’s ever been a huge traffic driver for me. We’ll see.

Overall, it was a step I’ve been wanting to take for awhile, as regulars know. Plus, extending my technical skills by any measure can only be a good thing, and I finally decided now was the time. It was a convergence of things.

  • I got my stats back after changing to my own domain when Pagerank, moz and others recently updated
  • I got my first unsolicited ad enquiry in months (though it went nowhere – boo)
  • I won a copy of Rockstar Blogging by Shannyn (I love her style, and in this e-book she provides handy advice on building an attractive blog – yes, you should really think about your design and layout – with email templates on how to approach sponsors. If you’re hoping to work with brands to get freebies, giveaways or review product, it might be worth your while, and this link is worth a read too)
  • Crystal offered her e-book, How I Make Money Blogging, to her e-newsletter subscribers for just $10 on Black Friday, and I decided to buy it. It’s a great place to start for beginning bloggers; if you’re more advanced, it’s still a good resource that offers you guidelines as to how much to charge for advertising. If you’re interested, I have an affiliate link to the book over in my right sidebar, or click here.
  • Dreamhost, one of the WordPress recommended hosts, which offers a one-click install was offering a killer Black Friday deal for $5 a month. So far I’ve had nothing but good experiences – no issues or downtime so far – and Dreamhost even automatically upgraded me to the latest version of WordPress when it came out (I’d been putting off doing the install until the weekend). Dreamhost has a killer money back guarantee (free first month, then the refund period of three months, basically). Right now, the current offer is for a tiny $3.95 a month; click here to  get more info and/or sign up

I’m big on seeing ‘signs’ and following them, and it was obvious – all the signals were shouting that it was meant to be.

If you’re self-hosted, how did you find the transition? If you’re not, any questions about the experience?

10 thoughts on “Why I finally decided to go self-hosted

  • Reply Mochi and Macarons December 5, 2012 at 03:03

    Going from Blogspot.com > Self-hosted was a bigger nightmare than that.

    With Dreamhost it sounds like it was literally a dream. I was with cheap hosting sites, and I learned all those new terms to figure out how to port the blog over.

    Glad it worked out so well!

  • Reply Manda December 5, 2012 at 03:47

    Yay for being able to comment without using my Twitter-generated email (that I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist!) 😛

    Glad to hear the move went fairly well, all things considered. I’ve always been self-hosted and never used Blogger or WP.com or anything so I can’t compare the two, but I really like how I can do just about anything I want with my site because I’m self-hosted. Mind you, I don’t really take advantage of that most of the time, but it’s nice to know the option is there!

    Also, I have never heard of this Jetpack plugin. Going to go investigate now…

  • Reply Leslie December 5, 2012 at 04:19

    The file size issue with importing old blog into new blog is a definite problem. So many different ways to handle it. I manually split the giant file into smaller files until WP finally found a file size it approved of.

    After the Dreamhost promotion runs out, you might want to compare prices & features with other hosts. Storage and bandwidth are the most important but you don’t want to be paying for more than you need either. You can always upgrade to a higher hosting plan later.

    Good question about plug-ins, I’m not sure what is a normal amount but I am actively using 19 on my blog.

  • Reply Budget & the Beach December 5, 2012 at 05:20

    oooh what is the plugin that automates ad management! I love plugins too. So helpful! I didn’t risk moving to self-hosted myself. It was totally worth paying someone to do it…saved myself a lot of tears. 🙂 So when did you switch? I switched about a month ago I think, right after google updated their page rank, so I have to wait I’m assuming till they do it again? How did you get yours back?

    • Reply eemusings December 5, 2012 at 08:40

      Yup you’ll have to wait till they next update. Just hang in there! I know it’s hard, but that’s all you can do.

      I got my own domain name October, got my stats back in November when all those updates went through, and I changed hosting over this weekend.

      There’s a few of those plugins. I installed a fairly new one called CrankyAds but then I figured BuySellAds (which I got accepted into, and is one of the big ones) would be a better option, so that’s what I now have. There’s another cool looking one called Adproval too.

  • Reply Janine December 5, 2012 at 06:40

    Congrats! i’m thinking of switching in the new year!!!!!

  • Reply Stephany December 5, 2012 at 10:30

    Congrats on the switch! I went from Blogger to self-hosted WP so I paid someone to do it. She also installed the Thesis theme, which I wanted and she was able to get me a great discount on it. Honestly, it was worth paying her and avoiding the headache doing it myself would have brought. I tend to freak out easily and it would scare me too much! But I think WP.com > SH WP is an easier switch because I have a blog friend who did it herself without too many issues.

    I don’t use that many plug-ins… maybe 8-10 at most? I feel like I should utilize them more, but I’m not there just yet! 😉

    A better commenting system is why I made the switch over, too. Blogger’s is horrible! And WP.com isn’t much better.

    Anyway! Yay for switching over and glad the move was somewhat smooth.

  • Reply Geek in Heels December 5, 2012 at 14:42

    Many congrats on the switch! I’m sorry the process was such a PITA for you…most hosts are able to transfer large files for you if you go through customer service or tech support, so I’m surprised Dreamhost didn’t have that option. Nonetheless, the site looks fantastic!

  • Reply CF December 8, 2012 at 17:24

    We transitioned a while back. It was a painful process but ultimately worth it. Congrats!

  • Reply Kerry @ Frugal City Girl December 10, 2012 at 04:25

    I moved from WP to self-hosting last month, and it’s been great! I’m also on Dreamhost, and I love the integration with WordPress as well as the layout flexibility.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.