July 20, 2021

Comparing WordPress to the Competition: Hosted vs. Self-Hosted

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WordPress is the defacto market leader for website content management, but is it the best? This week we are comparing WordPress to the competition. 

Today we are looking at hosted vs. self-hosted solutions for your website. 

Right off the bat, the literal terms hosted vs. self-hosted may have a lot of meaning to you or sound like greek, so what do they mean? 

Hosted:

Hosted website solutions use a software-as-a-service product like Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, or WordPress.com. The service provides the servers, files, and infrastructure for you to create your website. You pay them directly for this, and they take care of the rest (besides building the actual site). 

WordPress.com is a source of confusion for many users. It is a similar codebase to self-hosted WordPress that you download from WordPress.org, but they handle the serving of the files and bundle management of essential pieces to your website. Why wouldn’t everyone use WordPress.com? More on that in a bit.

Self-hosted:

Self-hosted solutions are any website management software you install on a server you pay for directly and manage the files. 

Examples of some popular hosts include:

Self-hosted sites let you choose a bit more about the computing power behind your website files and allow varying degrees of access to the file structure. In other words, on hosted solutions, you cannot edit the actual files; everything is done via a graphical user interface and only if they allow it. 

Hosted vs. Self-Hosted

Self-hosted websites are great for beginners – the service you pay for handles all the technical details. If you hope to do a complete website without professional help, hosted solutions will get you there. 

The caveat is that there are limitations to even what even professional designers and developers can do in a hosted environment. Without full access to the files, there is always an end to what is possible. 

With services like Squarespace and Wix, you are locked into how their page-building experience works. You can’t just switch tools. I have expressed frustration before with the Squarespace experience (The Brutal Truth About Squarespace), but I still believe there is a time when it may be the perfect tool. For example, if you are looking for a way to turn your hobby into a business, Squarespace or Wix may be the ideal place to start. But suppose you are a growing business with a discerning customer base. In that case, a custom website solution will set your offering apart from the vanilla templates you can find on hosted solutions. 

Break It Down: Pros and Cons

Hosted Pros:

  • Ease of management
  • Technology is handled by the service provider, i.e., no code updates.
  • Limited features mean there aren’t unlimited choices to sift through.
  • Security is the service provider’s problem.

Hosted Cons:

  • That custom function you wanted, if it isn’t supported, you won’t get it.
  • Add-ons frequently cost extra money, so ongoing costs add up!
  • If you need to scale to a large amount of traffic, it is going to be expensive.
  • Performance is low for the price at a certain point.

Self-Hosted Pros:

  • A skilled developer can pretty much do anything you want with your website!
  • Ease of scaling server/computing power based on needs, especially on servers like Digital Ocean.
  • With WordPress, you can switch tools for your theme and page builder and get a whole new experience. 

Self-Hosted Cons:

  • Security is your problem.
  • If something goes wrong, you may need a developer’s help. 
  • Most of the time, core and plugin updates are up to you.

Most of the time, for established businesses and blogs, self-hosted makes the most sense. But if you are trying to cut your teeth in the world and need a website, a hosted solution will get you there! Just know that you may be investing in a self-hosted solution in short order – but when you need to, it is a fabulous problem to have because it means growth!

WordPress v. WordPress

Of course, there is one comparison we didn’t fully dive into here; WordPress(.com) v. WordPress(.org), an epic battle that has many confused. Which one is better? Why are there two WordPress versions anyway?

Come back tomorrow to get the complete breakdown of the two WordPress solutions. 

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