If you’ve been running a blog for a while via a free service such as Blogger, Tumblr, or even WordPress.com, you may have found yourself wishing that you had more control over the way your site looked and performed. Free hosted blogs are nice for getting started, but once you start hitting the limitations of those platforms, the next natural step is to run a self-hosted blog.
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Installing and maintaining your own WordPress installation can be intimidating at first. However, once you get started, you should find that it behaves just like WordPress.com for basic functions; but the ability to add any plugin you like, change the way the site looks and play with the configuration at will is something you’ll come to appreciate.
Installing WordPress on Your Own Host
WordPress should run well on most Linux based web hosts. If you can find a host that offers cPanel and the Fantastico auto-installer, you could use that to set up WordPress in just a few mouse-clicks. If you don’t have access to Fantastico, you can install WordPress by hand quite easily – just follow the instructions provided at Codex.WordPress.org.
Whether you choose Fantastico or Manual installation, it’s still worth reading at least the QuickStart guide and the Troubleshooting section of the WordPress codex. You may not need the information immediately, but having a bit of an understanding of what’s going on “under the hood” will help you if you ever do run into problems.
Plugins and Customization
The main reason that most people opt to host their own WordPress sites is that they want to have a site that looks and feels different to the ones on the free hosting platforms. Free hosts, such as WordPress.com, limit their users to tweaking just a few options such as header graphics and widgets. When you host your own blog, you can change absolutely any part of the page that you want.
You don’t have to be an XHTML, CSS or PHP expert to be able to change the way your blog looks and feels. If you have a basic understanding of how a WordPress page is made up, you could use a WordPress CSS plugin to change how your blog looks without having to mess around with the code. If you want to keep things simple, you could use a WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) editor or WordPress theme generator to handle making the theme files for you.
Updates and Maintenance
The one downside of running your own WordPress blog is that you have to do your own updates and maintenance. If your host crashes, your blog gets hacked, or you end up breaking something in an update, it’s up to you to put things right.
Fortunately, there are lots of free WordPress plugins that can handle backups for you. At a minimum, you should back up your site’s files (especially ones you’ve changed via a WordPress theme generator or CSS plugin) via FTP or your host’s automated tool, and install a free plugin to automate the backing up of the database for you.
Set your automated backups to run once or twice a month, and take a manual backup before you update the site itself. WordPress informs you of updates when you log in to your admin panel, and the updates are usually easy to do, but it’s good practice to back up before you change anything. It only takes a few seconds, and it could save you many hours of hassle.