Community Magazine

Why I Finally Decided to Go Self-hosted

By Eemusings @eemusings

Phew! I made it. 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.

Before I get into all the reasons why I decided to go self-hosted, I’m going to share the misery and nail-biting that this whole process engendered.

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 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.

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 already points to my 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 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 blog.


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 commenting system that wants you to use your Facebook/Twitter etc credentials. If your email has ever been associated with a 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, 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 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 won’t support, like Rafflecopter widgets, as I learned last week. That said, you do lose that connection to the community – there are users who surf 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. 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

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?

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