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Blog Building: Who Controls Your Blog? You? Your Host?

Building a blogDo You Own Your Website? by Healthy Web Design takes a good look at the hidden pain and suffering and control that comes from choosing a cheap web host for your blog compared to making a conscious business decision on how to host your blog.

It’s true, companies such as Yahoo!, SiteBuilder, and Homestead offer some great, and easy-to-use services. If you use their templated designs, you can often have a website up very quickly. And for seemingly little cost.

Yet, as Sara and I soon discussed, there is a cost. And it’s a cost that usually goes without knowing.

Sara thought the design she was using was okay – “good enough for now.” And she felt ready to create the pages of her site using this template from Yahoo! just to get things moving.

Then she asked me a very important question…

“Dawud, if I want to stop using Yahoo!, what do I need to do to move my website,” she asked?

I said, “There’s the crux…you can’t do anything…it’s not your website?”

She said, “What do you mean it’s not my website, I’m paying for it?”

It’s true, she is paying for it. She’s paying for the hosting on Yahoo!’s servers and for the privilege to use their templates for her design. But she doesn’t own any part of the design itself. So once Sara stops using Yahoo! for hosting, she looses her website all together. The only thing she can retain is her content. But only if she gets it off “her” website before closing the account.

When you make the decision to start your own independent blog, on Blogger, , and other free or cheap blogging services and hosts, make sure you know all the fine print. You need to know who controls your blog? You or your host?

The host server needs you have for your blog today are not the server needs your blog may need tomorrow. Think through exactly what you need and then project into the future.

Will you need to move away from the free or cheap blogging service, or will its services be enough for you? What will happen to your blog content if you move? Can you get full access to it, including the layout and web design? Or will you have to start over from scratch?

Then there are the logistics. Can it handle a sudden spike in traffic without costing you a fortune, just in case someone “big” thinks what you say is worth it? Can it handle a slow growth in traffic beyond the next three to six months? Blog traffic builds over time. Your blog might not be the hit of the blogosphere, but it will attract an audience if the content merits it. How much traffic can it handle?

What about the parts and pieces you want to include on your blog? What kind of access use will there be on the database? If there are restrictions on the database usage, your WordPress Theme and/or WordPress Plugins may easily exceed its limits.

But as Sara learned, if your current blog host can’t do the job, what will it take to move, and will they let you move nicely?

bloggers who choose to leave this free hosting service can take their content with them, if they export it before the blog is deleted. Will WordPress.com delete it? Unless you ask them, they won’t. You do not have to give warning that you are leaving. You control the delete button found on your Options Panel.

After you have moved to a new hosted server, you can take your time to move your content to the new blog. While it is a good idea to delete the blog when you are done with it to avoid confusion and duplicate content, it is my understanding that WordPress.com will not delete it until it’s time to do some housekeeping. They will check to see how long it’s been since the blog has seen activity and possibly remove it. It could lay there for years. They have the right to do it, but it’s not high on their agenda.

However, unless you paid for the CSS Extra Upgrade, the WordPress Theme is not yours to take with you. There’s a bright side to this. Most WordPress Themes features on WordPress.com are available to the public to use freely, so you will just have to find the WordPress Theme, download and install it yourself. So while you can’t take it with you, you can rebuild a copy without much trauma.

For more information on what WordPress requires from a web host, see Before You Install and Hosting WordPress. If this is totally new to you, I recommend you read New To WordPress – Where to Start.

I cover this and many other issues in my ongoing blog building series on the development of my family history blog:

Genealogy Blog: Building a Blog Series


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network Feed on Lorelle on WordPress Subscribe

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12 Comments

  1. Posted March 31, 2007 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    This is a very good point, and one that I have tried to make clear (unsuccessfully) to friends of mine as well. Sometimes people don’t seem to value their blog data.

    The WordPress self-hosted version has a number of ways of importing at least some of your content from other blog services, so you may not be entirely left out in the cold if you decide to migrate away from these services.

    WordPress can import posts (and sometimes comments) from Blogger, Blogware, DotClear, GreyMatter, LiveJournal, Movable Type, TypePad, and Textpattern based blogs. It can import virtually everything from a WordPress.com blog or another WordPress based blog (as long as it’s a recent version of WordPress). And failing all else, it can import posts from any saved RSS feed.

    But there are some services that simply have no good way to export their data. MSN Spaces seems to be one of these services, for example. If you can’t export the data, then you cannot import it. And while we try to help on the WordPress.org support forums, sometimes all we can say to do is to use Copy and Paste (a long, arduous, and annoying process).

    So whenever you pick a blog service, remember that themes can often be duplicated or copied or you can even find a better one elsewhere. The real value is in the data that you cannot find elsewhere: Your posts. Your reader’s comments. All that stuff that is unique to your blog. So when picking a blog service, look for that. Because if you don’t have a way to get that data down to your computer, then you might be left with CTRL-C, CTRL-V.

    On the plus side, ask the support forums before resorting to that. Sometimes there might be a roundabout way of getting the job done. We do try to help when we can. :)

  2. Posted March 31, 2007 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    The other thing to watch for is the terms of service of the host. Your blog can be delete without warning and with no chance to back it up if you’re found violating the rules.

  3. Posted March 31, 2007 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Nice article! Though this article talks about owning a blog, I think, keeping a site backup ready is also a good thing to avoid data loss. I’ve faced such situations when *trusted Web hosts* were unable to re-store my blog data when their server crashed.

    I always avoid buying a web hosting plan that includes free domains. I prefer registering my domains separately, no matter how big is the hosting company.

    And in the case of hosting WordPress, you should make it your daily routine to download your WXR file. It’ll make sure that your articles are safe even if you don’t have a backup ready.

  4. Posted March 31, 2007 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Some very good advice in both the post and comments.
    I think the real problem in free blog hosts is setting up a great blog and not having a domain that you own. Is it possible to successfully move a blog to a new domain and maintain its popularity, traffic, and PR that it has developed? Even if you manage to keep the content and look?

  5. Posted March 31, 2007 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Er, if you decide to move away from Yahoo, you don’t suddenly lose all rights to your website. Perhaps the design (if it’s one of Yahoo’s) can’t be used anymore, but you still have your content, which is most important. Just get a new design – there are plenty of resources.

  6. Posted April 1, 2007 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    Another major worry is that since Blogger changed to a Google based system a few months back, most Blogger users can no longer import their data into WordPress. In fact, in WordPress 2.1, the import page even mentions that only “Old Blogger” accounts can be successfully accessed for import. That is really disappointing for the thousands of people who want to make the switch to their own domain and keep their Blogger content.

    After MUCH searching I located this terrific plugin that works currently, although the author of this plugin that exports Google/Blogger content believes Google/Blogger is working to thwart code similar to his.

  7. Posted April 1, 2007 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    David: The latest WordPress code does contain a new Blogger importer, which can get both old and new Blogger information. It should be released as part of either 2.1.3 or 2.2 very soon.

  8. Posted April 2, 2007 at 2:01 am | Permalink

    I was hosting with DreamHost for a while, when one of my posts became very popular though the hosting crashed after the first 1000 visitors and I had to sit and watch the error logs tell me that many thousands more had tried (and failed) to see my blog. It was pretty frustrating.

    Needless to say the next day I got a new host!

  9. Posted April 2, 2007 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    :( Now you got me thinking…

  10. Posted April 3, 2007 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    @Collis: DreamHost? God! I used to think that they can control sudden surge in traffic. Now I really need to think about MT.

  11. Posted April 25, 2007 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Another problem with Yahoo Small Business hosting is that, unlike Bluehost or Dreamhost, you can’t update WordPress with one click. Take a look at what I had to do to update the blog at work – and many of the plug-ins still don’t work.

  12. Review
    Posted August 20, 2007 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    first you, than the visitors, than the host


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