As of today, August 24, 2012, there are over 55 million WordPress installations in the world. WordPress is here to stay and you should consider it to design a new business site or to re-design an existing site. This article explains the differences between a Self-Hosted WordPress website and a WordPress.com website. Understanding the differences can be vital to your business and website.
So what is WordPress?
WordPress is FREE website software that at one point was considered a blogging software. However, it has become a software that can be used not only for blogs but also for creating amazing and functional business websites. The WordPress core software (the foundation) was built by hundreds of community volunteers and continues to be improved with new WordPress releases. To customize the WordPress website to look and function to your specific needs, all you need to do is add templates (called themes) and special features ( called plugins). We will discuss themes and plugins in more detains in a later article.
What’s the difference between a Self-Hosted WordPress site and WordPress.com?
A Self-Hosted WordPress site is created on a server provided by a web hosting provider such as iPage.com or Godaddy.com. You first register a domain name such as mywebsite.com and then use a WordPress one-click installation provided by the web hosting provider and your basic website can be up and running in less than 10 minutes. You could also download the software itself from WordPress.org and install it on a server of your choice but that’s a lot more complicated and not necessary unless you wish to install it inside corporate server. The bottom line is that a Self-Hosted website gives you a lot more flexibility and options.
On the other hand, WordPress.com is a hosting platform; in simple terms it is a website that hosts other WordPress websites. WordPress.com is maintained and run by a company called Auttomatic. You can go to WordPress.com and sign up to create a website on their platform. A WordPress site hosted on WordPress.com will be limited to what you can do and how you can do it.
Let’s now talk about the actual differences between these two ways of installing WordPress.
Pros and Cons of WordPress.com:
- Free to Sign Up and create a blog (up to 3 GB space)
- Automatic Backups
- Automatic Upgrades
- Automatic Spam Filtering
- Dashboard has SSL security
- You can’t upload Custom Themes
- You can’t upload Plugins
- You can’t modify the code = no customization
- You can’t use Adsense or other Monetizing Systems
- You can’t use Google Analytics
Pros and Cons of Self-Hosted WordPress:
You can upload any Custom Theme from thousands that are available (some free)
You can upload from thousands of available Plugins
You can modify all the PHP and CSS for unlimited customization
You can add Adsense, Affiliates, and monetize your site in any way
You can use Google Analytics
You have total control over your website
Must purchase a Domain name and web hosting = average of $75/year
Backups are not automatic
Upgrades are not automatic
Spam filtering is not automatic = optional
The opinions above are based on personal development experience and on the benefits and cons as listed on the WordPress.com website (click here to see that comparison).
The Bottom Line – Which is Better?
If you’re looking to create a website for a personal blog and have no intention to monetize the website using banners, ads, or paid memberships, then a site hosted on WordPress.com might be the better solution for you. Before going this route, be aware that Website.com does charge for extra features such as creating your own domain name ( e.g. mysite.com as opposed to mysite.wordpress.com). WordPress.com has a “value bundle” of features that costs $166/year.
For business websites, I definitely recommend going with a self-hosted WordPress site. A self-hosted WordPress website will allow you to have full control over your entire site. A domain name and web hosting can be obtained for $75/year or less from various web hosting providers. You can also choose from thousands of themes and plugins that will give your website a professional look and feel. Some themes are available for free and some very professional themes can be purchased for as little as a $49 one-time fee including support and updates for a year. Creating any website is not an easy task. If you don’t want the hassle or don’t have the time for creating your own WordPress business website, then you should consider hiring a professional web designer that has extensive experience with WordPress. Web Designs by Idealocity is one of many companies that provides professional WordPress web design services.
If you have a self-hosted WordPress website, make sure to keep it up-to-date by upgrading the WordPress core files, the theme and all the plugins. You will also want to backup your files and database on a daily basis in case anything happens to your site. To see how much internet traffic is going to your self-hosted WordPress site, you will want to setup a Google Analytics account and create reports. If this sounds like too much work (and it is), then consider hiring a website administrator or you can invest in a WordPress monitoring and maintenance plan such as the ones provided by WP-MONITOR.
Cheers and have fun with WordPress!