Drama Blogging: What it takes to self host + tips on how to find a host
Some of you asked me to write about my experience with transferring my blog over to a self-hosted domain. Instead of writing up a step-by-step guide on what I did, I figured it would be better for me to provide some tips that I learned along the way. 🙂
Note: I will abbreviate WordPress as WP.
^My feelings when I was looking for a host.
What you need:
The willingness to learn
When I first started out researching about self-hosting, I felt like I was reading a foreign language. DNS propogation? Nameservers? Domain registrars? Bandwidth? HUH? I went into this as a total noob and thus I had to read up on the various aspects of self-hosting. It felt like learning a new subject, which was sorta overwhelming. However, there are tons of online resources out there to help you along the way. Also, you can always contact your host (or the host you’re considering) for help. Just remember that this is all a process of trial and error. Even if something goes wrong, it’s an opportunity for you to learn how to fix it! 😉
For those of you who do not want to learn about all the details of self-hosting or migrating, there are some hosting/migration options that will suit your needs. However, I will say that it doesn’t hurt to learn and that you will definitely benefit from learning how to self-host your site. You cannot NOT learn anything from self-hosting, ok!
Here on the internet we’re used to instant changes and updates. There are some tutorials that will say something like “learn how to make your WP blog in 5 minutes!”. HA. HA. HA. Unfortunately, that’s not really the way things work. Don’t expect your website to get up and running within a few hours, or even within 1 day. For some people, this IS possible but it’s not necessarily going to happen for everyone. The amount of time varies, depending on your site. For me it took about 3 days to actually transfer everything, work out all the kinks, and get my site to be presentable.
This goes along with the time & willingness to learn requirements. Some changes will take 24-72 hours to fully take place. It can be frustrating when you don’t know when your site will be up and ready to go. Also, like I said before, sometimes things can go wrong. Even though tutorials make it sound like it’s as easy as A-B-C, sometimes it feels more like OEJATOIJGOIA. I’ve had some glitches before where I got 404 errors, couldn’t redirect my wordpress.com links to my new site, etc. The solution is PATIENCE and the willingness to learn how to fix these problems!
This is my least favorite of the requirements. Depending on your hosting plan it could end up being a bit pricey. =_= But there are some ways to reduce your costs, which I will explain later in this post! Also, hosting fees for small sites probably won’t be too expensive.
The process of finding a host
Research, research, research! It took me about a week to research hosts and to figure out which plan/host I wanted. After all, this is a long-term commitment and an investment. You definitely want to know about all the hosting options out there before committing to a host!
NOTE: I’m not going to define and explain everything in this section because there’s plenty of other online resources that have already done this. If there is something you don’t know about, look it up for further info. 😉
Learn about the different kinds of hosting
There are many different kinds of hosting such as shared hosting, reseller hosting, etc. Obviously, you have to know what each of these are in order to figure out which one you’re gonna go for. The most popular option is shared hosting because it’s cheaper and it’s good for beginner/smaller sites. I chose shared hosting.
There’s also another kind called “WordPress hosting”. At first, I thought this was the only way to host WP so I automatically clicked on “WordPress hosting” when I was on hosts’ websites. BUT! You don’t need WordPress hosting in order to use wordpress!!! WP hosting may be better for those who don’t want to bother with the technical side of things. The downside? It costs a lot more. IMO, shared hosting is probably the better option.
Decide where to get your domain
There are pros & cons to buying your own domain vs. getting it from your host. When you’re getting your domain with your host, usually it’s included in your hosting plan, so you don’t have to pay extra to register it. However, if you want to move hosts (i.e. say you want to cancel your plan and move to a different host), but the host still owns your domain…then that’s a problem. This is why some people register their domains on a separate site rather than with their host.
I decided to buy my own domain from a different domain registrar (aka the site that will register your domain for you), Namecheap. I sorta regretted it though, because I had to do an extra step to connect my domain to my host’s servers. (changing nameservers) The extra step is pretty simple, but I wish I had saved myself the trouble and just gotten my domain with my host. >_>
Once you’ve decided on what kind of hosting plan you are aiming for, now it’s time to start looking into actual hosts. Find a list of web hosts and visit their sites, compare their plans, and most importantly, look up reviews from people who have actual experience with said host. A great resource for this is the forum Web Hosting Talk, which has tons of members who really know their stuff about self-hosting! Also, you can ask fellow bloggers about what self-host they use. I consulted 6 drama-bloggers for advice, which was very helpful.
There is no such thing as unlimited bandwidth & storage. A lot of hosts will offer you unlimited bandwidth and storage space, even though there is no such thing. It is a marketing ploy–there will definitely be some kind of loophole in the hosts’ policy which will make you upgrade your plan if you use too much bandwidth/storage.
Find coupons for your host! This is a HUGE factor in reducing your hosting costs. The Web Hosting Talk forum often has posts with discount offers. I found a 50% coupon (DARN RIGHT!!!) for my host, which dramatically decreased my costs! YAY!
Estimate how much bandwidth & storage you’re going to use per month. This is essential because you need to know how much bandwidth & storage you need in a hosting plan. There is a simple formula for how to estimate your bandwidth. Firstly, you have to estimate how large (in KB or MB) your blog’s pages are on average. I used Pingdom to help me figure out the average size of my pages. Input the links of some of your pages from your blog to see how large they are, and then take the average. Next, input it into this formula.
There are more hosting options out there besides the “big names”. Chances are, when you look up hosts you will probably find the big names of the most prominent hosting companies. WP itself also officially recommends some big names. But take this with a grain of salt. Many hosts are actually all owned by the same company–EIG. I cannot speak from personal experience but from my research, many people have had bad experiences with EIG. Big hosts are not necessarily better. Of course, that doesn’t mean that all EIG-owned hosts or large hosts are bad either. Some have had very positive experiences with them, while others have horror stories about them. It’s up to you to decide.
So, what host did choose?
I opted for Hostwithlove for the following reasons:
- The price was reasonable, especially with my 50% coupon! I was able to get a better hosting plan for less. This is my #1 reason, HEHE.
- It got really good reviews.
- It had everything I was looking for–daily backups, cpanel, compatibility with wordpress, etc.
- I wanted a smaller host rather than going with a big hosting company.
- It didn’t try to pull the “unlimited” bandwidth/storage ploy.
Granted, I haven’t been with Hostwithlove very long so I can’t give an in-depth review. My experience with them has been satisfactory, particularly with their excellent customer service. They helped me solve problems with my site and also dealt with some of the technical issues that I’m not experienced in.
- Web Hosting Talk – For finding coupons & reviews on hosts.
- Knowledge bases – Most of the large hosts have “knowledge bases” which have articles on everything related to self-hosting. Even if you’re not using the particular host, their knowledge base can still have useful info.
- WP Beginner – For tutorials, how-to’s
- WordPress.org Support – For general FAQ, how to import your wordpress blog
- 70+ Resources on How to Start a WordPress Blog
So, that’s all the advice I have for finding the right web-host. This is the first step in transferring your blog & getting self-hosting, hehe. Remember, I’m a beginner, not an expert, so please refer to online resources for more info!
Sources: Web Hosting Talk, WP Beginner, WordPress.org Support, Wordpress.org Support, Kikolani, About tech (explains unlimited myth) + advice from Asian Addicts Anonymous & Obsessions of Line