NBI 2016: Why I Don’t Self-Host

WordpressIn the project-driven environments of today’s workforce, there are typically three major stages that a product or service can fall into. These are (in my terms, not the industry): Conceptualization, Realization, and Sustenance. Subsequently, job descriptions tend to be divided to support one of these three major stages. As a worker, you’re either brainstorming the concept, bringing that concept into reality or sustaining that reality for an undetermined amount of time. While new ideas are always exciting (and tend to get the lion’s share of attention by the higher ups), more time and resources will be spent on maintaining and supporting the product/service during its life cycle than on either conceptualizing or implementing it.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work within all three stages over my nearly 20 years in the workforce. While my earliest years were spent in service support, I now find myself gravitating towards conceptualization and realization. This is true of my hobbies, as well. I’ve written previously about how I enjoy learning the systems and mechanics of a new video game, but can quickly tire of the same game once it becomes repetitive or predictable. In other words, I love visualizing and building, but “maintaining” is not something that particularly interests me. It often requires the highest level of expertise and most amount of dedicated time.

The truth is, like many bloggers, my personality contains a fairly good blend of creative drive and technical aptitude. Even without the technical challenges of hosting a website, writers tend to have a distinct gift for encasing flowery language within a familiar, almost mathematical, framework that can easily be recognized and understood by a mainstream audience. Is it art? Is it analysis? Is it communication? Yes! Knowing this, you might be thinking that I’d be a good candidate to tackle the challenges of self-hosting alongside the more artistic part of actually putting words together. If so, you’d be 66% correct.

I actually do love the idea of conceptualizing and creating my own self-hosted blog. But I don’t love the idea of maintaining it. The mere thought of having to deal with plugin updates, plugins not being updated, denial of service, templates (and the updates, lack of updates), patches, fallout from patches, and the various months of tweaking things which don’t quite work together precisely, is enough to make one shy away from blogging altogether! I know myself well enough to know that these are the types of things that could sap enthusiasm from a hobby that I once enjoyed. Believe it or not, I actually did some planning prior to deciding what this blog should be, and with an eye toward sustainability I chose to use wordpress.com as my host. It also helped that I had already played around, and was familiar with, the platform. As an added bonus, if I ever do opt for the agony of self-hosting, I am able to export my current blog to a self-hosted WordPress content management system and point my existing braxwolf.com hostname (which WordPress.com allows me to use for a small fee) towards it without skipping a beat. In essence, I’ve chosen the best fit for today while allowing for future flexibility.

Writing

As it turns out, I’ve adopted a real-world business strategy for blog hosting. What do you do when the expense of supporting and maintaining your product becomes unwieldy? You outsource it! This can be especially effective when those you outsource to are experts in the field. The way I see it, WordPress.com are experts in hosting websites, while I am not. They can absorb a denial of service attempt better than I can. They get volume discounts for data center hosting, I do not. They are monitoring their servers 24*7 because it’s in their best interest to do so.  I, on the other hand, will possibly check on my blog once a week. Maybe less, depending on recent activity.

I admit, there are times when the existing templates on WordPress.com seem annoyingly similar. There are times when I wish I could do something that is not allowed by the platform, or when I thought I’ve found the perfect template – except for that one little showstopper, but by and large, the decision has turned out to be a good one. It allows me to focus on the real point of the blog: communicating with all of you!


WordPress by Cristian Labarca at Flickr Creative Commons

Notes by Rebecca on Flickr Creative Commons

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6 thoughts on “NBI 2016: Why I Don’t Self-Host

  1. Aywren June 7, 2016 / 9:00 am

    Great perspective on this post – I’ve always wondered why someone would choose not to self-host. I knew that in self-hosting there was some maintenance and always the chance you’d mess up your blog if something installed wrong (I’ve been there). But for the most part, my sites take care of themselves and I’ve had little problem over the many, many years I’ve used self-hosted WordPress. I also don’t experiment too much and stay away from anything that seems iffy. 🙂

    I’ve always owned my own domain, even before using WordPress, so hosting my own blogs (and I have many, though most are used for creative sites) was a given. I like the freedom to do what I please with my themes and plugins, but I completely understand the desire for stability instead.

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  2. Pasduil June 7, 2016 / 10:10 am

    I’ve never been one for the maintenance side of things. Luckily such maintenance as I’ve tended to be involved with professionally has been more along the lines of “lets add new feature X to the existing system”, which is more of a conceptualization / realization thing.

    I have tried out self-hosted WordPress in the past, as I think you have as well. While I enjoyed initially being able to tweak everything just so, there is a horrible truth about tweaking: The more you’ve departed from vanilla, the more maintenance work you have made for yourself. If you tweaked the PHP of your theme, every time the dev updates the theme, you’re gonna have to make adjustments potentially. If you used a bunch of fancy plugins, you can bet some of the devs are going to give up on supporting them after a while. And when they break because of some WP change, you either have major work to do to make your blog not need the plug-in any more, or major work in fixing the plugin.

    To put it another way, self-hosting is painless IF you don’t take advantage of any of the benefits of self-hosting. The more you take advantage of the freedom and power self-hosting gives you, the more work you make for yourself ongoingly.

    Another thing I discovered from self-hosting is that should you wish your blog to have longevity, you’re better off sticking to a free platform. If you’re on a paid platform, any time you have a lull in your enthusiasm or your life gets too busy, it becomes a question whether to keep paying for the damn thing. But if you stop there is usually no easy way of picking up again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Roger Edwards (@ModeratePeril) June 7, 2016 / 10:55 am

    I still have nightmares about self-hosted sites running on VPNs, creaking under the weight of plugins and add-ons. Then there’s the update that fubars everything and you have to restore the entire site from a back up on to a fresh WP install.

    Never again.

    Squarespace is my friend and can be yours too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pasduil June 7, 2016 / 11:20 am

      What does Squarespace give you that WordPress.com doesn’t? I’m still curious why you went there. (Though admittedly I just assumed it was your basic nomadic nature, which has you changing domains, platforms, hosts etc on a pretty regular basis!)

      On the downside for Squarespace, I find it a hassle to comment there. Any WP site on the web seems to autofill your preferred credentials from what you used the last time you commented on some other WP site somewhere, but Squarespace doesn’t seem to remember me even from the last time I commented on the very same blog.

      Blogger is also somewhat of a hassle to comment on, maybe even more than Squarespace.

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  4. Syl June 9, 2016 / 5:07 pm

    One of the biggest reasons for me to self-host was content ownership. There used to be a shady definition for that on blogger which is gone since, I believe, but technically you’re still putting your content in someone else’s hand, their data base, their maintenance etc. I dont feel good about that even if copyright is easily violated on general.

    As for self-hosted WP, I never spend much time on my updates nor plugins; it’s automated and very easy to track. It is really up to you how difficult or easy you make self-hosting for yourself. Once my blog was set up, I changed very little about it but I appreciate the plugin community and recent updates. I spend about 30mins per year renewing hosting and my domain, thats it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Braxwolf June 9, 2016 / 5:12 pm

      Sounds like a volunteer to take over the TGEN site!

      Like

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