What is a self-hosted blog?

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You heard about the term self-hosted blog and the fact that all the big-name bloggers are blogging on it. Now you must be thinking, what is a self-hosted blog anyways, and is there other types of blogs out there? As a new blogger, you should definitely know what it is and why you should care.

What is a self-hosted blog? A self-hosted blog is when you host a blog website in your own web server. Today you don’t have to program a web server yourself, because you can rent this service from any of the web hosting services providers. Some of the popular self-hosted blogs are WordPress and Ghost.

Since we are interested in blogging to build a passive income, we are going to invest in a self-hosted blogging platform. This gives us greater flexibility, customization, monetization options, and ownership.

On the other spectrum of the self-hosted solution, we have hosted blog services like Tumblr, WordPress.com, Blogger, and Medium. These platforms are often free and ideal for starting a personal blog.

We’re going to explore the anatomy of a self-hosted blog so by the end of this article, you will have a clear picture of what it is and why you should care. 

What does a self-hosted blog look like in action?

Before I tell you all about self-hosted blogs, it would be helpful to actually show you what does it look like from above and under.

From a surface level, a self-hosted blog has its own domain name like blogkori.com (yes, my blog is a self-hosted WordPress blog).

When you Google my blog, it will show up like this:

With a self-hosted blog, you can tweak and change the blog description.

Compared this to hosted blogs, if my blog were hosted on other free blogging platforms, the domain would look like:

  • blogkori.blogspot.com
  • blogkori.tumblr.com
  • medium.com/@blogkori
  • blogkori.wordpress.com (yes, WordPress has a hosted and self-hosted version)

Design-wise, every blog’s design can be unique. A free blog makes use of templates. Self-hosted blogs can also have templates + the ability to build their own custom design. Since I am a web developer, I sometimes customize my own design.

Tumblr, Blogger, and WordPress.com blogs make use of a set number of available templates. Medium doesn’t have a template picker.

You would log in to a free blogging platform by first logging in the service and then access your blog. If your blog is in Medium, you would log in to medium.com

But for self-hosted WordPress blogs, the login address looks like yourblog.com/wp-admin

My blog’s login address is blogkori.com/wp-admin and it looks like this,

This is how my WordPress backend looks like for my blog,

And this is how I create a new blog post,

Since a self-hosted blog needs a web hosting service, there is another account you have access to.

This is the Bluehost control panel.

The web hosting control panel is the place where you can manage your blog(s), other static websites, files, and databases. We rarely visit this web hosting Cpanel because most of our time is spent on our blog’s WordPress admin area. The only time you would visit the Cpanel is when you need to contact support or do some manual server management.

Now at this point, you must be thinking, having a self-hosted blog means you have to deal with a lot of things like domain, hosting, and WordPress, so this must be scary. I assure you the scary part of server programming is over, here’s why:

Self-hosted blogs are not scary anymore

I remember the days in 2008 when I was trying to set up my first self-hosted blog (this blog)

Back then I was blogging in a free Blogger platform and everything was going fine.

Then one glorious day, a friend of mine suggested I should move to a self-hosted solution if I want to make money from my blog.

I searched on Google and looked at a few tutorials to see what are the steps needed.

To be honest, the process was overwhelming even for a technical person like me.

The process was horrible and it put me off for many months.

Finally, I bit the bullet and started the procedure of setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog. 

The entire process was painstaking,

I had to change my domain settings.

Use a file transfer software to upload WordPress CMS to my hosting.

Create and connect databases. Create database users and connect them with WordPress.

Do the housekeeping after installing WordPress.

In total it took me weeks to figure things out and the entire process made my blog unreachable for close to a month.

But when you are going to set up a self-hosted blog today, the process doesn’t look like the nightmare we had back then.

Today we have amazing web hosting companies like Bluehost who has made the process simple. What took me weeks, you can do it within five minutes just by following an installation wizard.

The process of setting up a blog website is the same as creating a Twitter account. If you don’t believe me, you can check out this article where I have shown you how easy it is to start your blog in Bluehost.

The bottom line is, we are living in awesome times now.

  • You don’t have to configure a server
  • Don’t have to download and upload any files 
  • No need for creating databases and file permissions

All of these things are being taken care of by your web hosting company.

Self-hosted blogs need a hosting account

The name suggests, the blog is self-hosted. But hosted where? In a web hosting service. When you sign up for a free blog at Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress.com, or Medium, these companies host the blog for you. Alternatively, when you are setting up your own custom blog, you will need to have your own web server.

A web server is a computer that serves the user with your website files. Every time a user types in www.yourblog.com, the request will hit your web server and it will serve the homepage of your site.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, many computer experts would have their own web servers in their garage to host their own websites, blogs, and forums.

If you wish you can too create your own server and start hosting your blog website. But this comes with some headaches for the non-technical folks.

For starters, serving a blog website means you have to have a specialized server computer and a fast internet connection to handle user requests. When this computer is running, you won’t be able to do anything else on it.

Configuring a server yourself requires knowledge of computer programming, server programming, and IT infrastructure. You will also be responsible for troubleshooting any bugs and errors that are common in this kind of setup.

Finally, you have to take care of power and internet bills. 

For these reasons only the computer experts who know what they are doing should have their own web servers.

Lucky for us, we can get away from all the hassle by paying five bucks a month to a web hosting provider.

A modern web hosting company has professional level server computers that are maintained by trained IT professionals. These companies also have a user-friendly web interface that allows anyone to sign up and host a website. Under the hood, your blog is being run on these physical machines that stay ON 24/7, 365 days a year.

On top of the web hosting account, another special kind of software allows us to create and manage posts: the CMS.

A self-hosted blog is powered by a CMS

CMS stands for Content Management System. The web hosting service provider only provides the interface to maintain your server, we also need another specialized software, a CMS to manage our content like articles, images, and pages.

Some of the popular content managers of nowadays are WordPress, Joomla, and Ghost. Each of these CMSs solves a unique set of problems, but for blogs, WordPress is the goto solution.

WordPress is the most popular content management system out there and all the top bloggers use the self-hosted version of WP. Other than the number of users, it also has a large ecosystem of extensions, themes, and services. You can start a blog with WordPress, but you can also turn it into a membership site, an e-commerce site, or even a job board.

I recommend WordPress because it gives us a nice user interface to easily manage the blog.

A self-hosted blog is a combination of your custom domain (blogkori.com), web hosting account, and the CMS. Together they create a blog that you can easily manage, extend, monetize, and transfer ownership.

A self-hosted WordPress blog is more than a blog

Earlier you learned that WordPress is a popular self-hosted blogging solution and it allows a non-techy person to easily manage their blog. I recommend you start with a blog website because it’s the easiest platform you can set up now. 

But what if you want to have more than a blog? Well, WordPress has you covered.

Although WordPress is a CMS for blogs, currently people are making all sorts of websites with this setup. WP sites have plugins (site extensions) that let you build a custom website.

You can build an e-commerce site using the WooCommerce plugin; turn your blog into an online ordering service using the Foodpress plugin; make your blog into a membership site using the Wishlist membership plugin, you name it. 

With a large ecosystem of custom plugins and functionality, there are endless possibilities of what can be achieved with a WordPress self-hosted site. You can turn your blog into a specialized site without having to do any custom programming.

When building with WordPress, you are future-proofing your online platform. 

Where to go from here?

Now that you know what a self-hosted blog is, you should definitely look into how to set one up for yourself. There is a lot more to cover so I suggest you take it slow. That being said, here are the next steps you should take,

  • Start a self-hosted blog using this step-by-step guide
  • Make a habit of publishing online
  • Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on self-hosted blogs

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