WordPress is an application which is used for creating Websites or Blogs easily. The possibilities when using WordPress are pretty much endless! That’s why, 33% on the Internet is powered by WordPress. That means, one of every three Websites are powered by WordPress and the ration is increasing day by day!
WordPress comes in two varieties; free cloud hosting via WordPress.com, and a self-hosted option that you can download from WordPress.org as an open source application. Both run the same program and have the same basic features, but each have their advantages and disadvantages. Choosing which option is better for you is a matter of mapping out the needs of your site and where you want to take it in the future.
The good thing is, whichever option you go for now does not have to be final. You can build a site on WordPress.com and then move it to a self-hosted solution down the road if need be or you can build a site on a self-hosted solution now and move it to WordPress.com later.
But it’s better to choose the best option while start to avoid complexability of moving one platform to another. Not sure which way to go? Let’s find out your needs and clear out your problems.
WordPress.com is managed by company called Automattic, which is owned by Matt Mullenweg. That means, anything that happens on WordPress.com is managed by them and any updates come from Automattic. Because WordPress.com is managed by Automattic, you have automatic maintenance. You don’t have to worry about anything that happens there, all you have to worry about is your own content.
WordPress.com lives in the cloud. Now the cloud is this trend word that everyone uses. Basically, the cloud means that it just lives on the internet, usually on a distributed network of multiple servers. And for you, as a user, that means that it’s pretty fast, pretty secure and if a server goes down for some reason, it doesn’t mean that your Website is just going to disappear off the Internet in the process.
However, because WordPress.com is owned by Automattic, there are content restrictions. Automattic won’t let you publish anything you want, and of course, most of the stuff they don’t allow you to publish really shouldn’t be published anyway. But there are cases where you may want to do something on your Website, like for instance, add Google ads, that you just can’t do, you’re not allowed to do that.
WordPress.com comes with a pre-configured theme library. In WordPress, a theme is what decides what your Website looks like, and how it behaves. In WordPress.com, there’s a large library, but it’s limited, and you can’t really make your own themes, and redesign your website exactly to your liking.
WordPress.com also has predefined functionality. In WordPress.com, you have the functionality that’s available in the system, and that’s it. They add new functionality all the time, but you can’t add them on your own.
WordPress.com is pretty much a zero hassle environment, which means all you have to care about is publishing your content. Automattic will do the rest of the hard work.
And finally, WordPress.com allows you to import content from self-hosted version, and from other services. In fact, a lot of big blogging services have gone belly up as of late, and many of them have moved all their blogs over to WordPress.com. So if you already own a blog somewhere else, and you can move it easily.
# WordPress.com Key Benefits
- It’s absolutely free for up to 3GB web space. After that you’ll have to get a paid plan for more space. Paid plans comes with several extra features with more storage space.
- It’s super fast and hassle free. That’s the main reason someone chooses WordPress.com as a host, because everyone loves hassle free environment. You don’t need to worry about updates, backups, speed or down-time of your website. WordPress.com will take care of that, 100 percent up-time guaranteed.
- WordPress.com has beginner friendly environment. A newbie can handle a WordPress.com site without having much problems. Easy interface will help you to find everything under your eyes.
# WordPress.com Key Disadvantages
- There is limited customization options. Free plan users can only install from the limited free themes collection and free themes will always display powered by WordPress.com link. You cannot upload/install plugins, business plan users can install from a selection of compatible plugins but still limited!
- You are not in full control of your website! They can delete your site at anytime if they think it violates their terms. Your site users will see ads in free plan and you don’t make money from it. You cannot add custom scripts as your own and it’ll apply for Google Analytics or other verification services also.
Self-Hosted WordPress Overview
A self-hosted WordPress site is managed and owned by you. That means that you’re responsible for everything like buying a domain name and hosting package or having a server up and running, and pay whatever bills come with it, and it generally costs 10-100$ per month based on server company/configuration.
A WordPress self-hosted site is, therefore, also maintained by you. That’s why, you must have basic knowledge about WordPress for Website maintenance. If anything goes wrong, you’re on the hook for it, and you have to fix it yourself, or you have to hire someone else to do it.
The performance of a self-hosted WordPress depends on your website host and website optimization. For this reason, host your site on an optimized server and pick up themes and plugins wisely. I always recommend SiteGround hosting as it is our host and they offer the best performance and support at a low-cost.
However, it’s not all bad. Because it’s managed by you, there are no content restrictions, and you can do whatever you want. You can post any kind of content you want (be careful of doing crime!), it won’t cost anything extra, and you can add features like Google AdSense without any problem.
WordPress self-hosted version also allows you to install and use any theme or you can build your own theme. So for instance, you want to create a unique website, and what you can do is, set up a WordPress self-hosted site, and then create a custom theme just for the site that no one else has, and that fits exactly what you want.
You can add new functionality to WordPress self-hosted sites, through plugins and through functions. That means that you don’t get all the advanced features of WordPress.com but you can build even fancier features yourself or you can find the same features in one of the millions of plugins available on the Internet.
Because it is self-hosted solution, you get all the hassle and all the control you want. That means things can go wrong, and you’re on the hook for them, but at the same time, you can really control what’s going on your Website and set it up exactly the way you want it to get the most out of it.
And finally, just like with WordPress.com, WordPress self-hosted version allows you to import and export content. If you have a blog on WordPress.com already and you want to move to self-hosted version, you can simply grab the content from WordPress.com site and move it over to your self-hosted site.
# Self-Hosted WordPress Key Benefits
- The sky has no limit, you are free to add any feature. You can create a portfolio website as a developer and business website as a publisher/company. Adding features like Google Analytics, Google AdSense is so easy in self-hosted WordPress version. Different features can be added through different plugins.
- You are in full control, you own your website and all its data. Your site will not be turned off because it goes against someone’s terms of service. You can make your website unique by making your own theme or through customization options. You can customize your website as much as you need.
# Self-Hosted WordPress Key Disadvantages
- It’s not easy to maintain a self-hosted site. Problems come so often and you have to fix the problems. An update can break your site and attackers can damage your site with the help of vulnerable plugins. That’s why, Keeping your site 100% online and safe is not easy, it can make you upset in the long run.
- Costs might be too much for you! You are responsible to bear all costs including hosting and domain costs. If you want to add features like premium subscriber tools, premium visitor tracking tools, premium backup tools etc. everything will add to the costs. If you can’t fix problems, then you have to hire someone.
You’ve learned most of the information about WordPress.com and Self-hosted WordPress.org in the overview. Now it’s time to compare them in a nutshell and make it more easy for you to go for a decision.
WordPress.com and Self-Hosted WordPress.org Comparison
|Criteria||Com / Cloud-hosted||Org / Self-hosted|
|Features||It comes with built-in features like Publicize, Stats, Portfolio etc. 3GB web space included with unlimited bandwidth.||There are no such features like Com in self-hosted solution. Web space and bandwidth defends on hosting plans.|
|Functionality||Com comes with predefined functionality. You can’t add/edit built-in functionality.||You can add/edit any functionality by using millions of plugins available on the web.|
|Performance||It lives in the optimized cloud servers. No need to worry about performance and speed, just focus on writing quality content.||Performance depends on you, server-side optimization, code optimization. Difficult to keep-up better performance.|
|Pricing||It is absolutely free with basic features. You may also go with premium plans if you need advanced features like backup, security etc.||You need to buy hosting to install the free application. Hosting price varies on hosting configuration, around 10-100$/month.|
|Guidelines||You can’t publish everything you want. You must follow their user guidelines first.||You can publish anything you want (be careful!), no guidelines available.|
|Design||You have to choose from pre-configured theme library. You can’t modify a theme.||You can make it whatever you like. Endless possibility, millions of themes available.|
|Maintenance||Maintaining a WordPress.com site is so easy, a newbie can handle a WordPress.com site without having much problems.||You must have basic knowledge about WordPress. Whatever problem comes, you have to solve in most cases.|
|Security||WordPress.com is pretty secure. It has built-in two-factor-authentication to ensure better security. Update installs automatically.||Comes with basic security, but you can implement advanced security by plugins to strengthen website security.|
|Monetization||Limited scoop for monetization. You can do affiliate marketing but you can’t serve AdSense ads or other networks ads as your own.||Just choose the best options. You can try different monetization features to determine the best options for your site.|
|Support||You can get support from community forums and official support docs.||There are hundreds of sources available besides official forums and docs.|
Let’s make a final decision considering above discussions which WordPress solution is better for your needs.
Which is Better for You?
The confusion created by the similar domains and similar functionality. Another reason for the confusion is Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress application and founder of Automattic, which owns the cloud-hosted service WordPress.com, a lot of the Automattic employees are regular contributors of WordPress.org application.
Which solution is better for you depends on your needs, skill and strategy. The best way to think about the differences between WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress is the analogy of renting a house vs owning a house.
WordPress.com is similar to renting a house. You have limited power and control over what you can and cannot do. WordPress.org is like owning a house, where you have full control and you can do anything that you want.
Go with WordPress.com, if you are a personal blogger and you don’t care about making money from your website, if you don’t want to make your hands dirty in customizing design and website behavior. If your main focus is publishing in a hassle free environment, then WordPress.com hosted version is the best for you.
If you are a full-time blogger or developer and want to make money in every possible way from your site, then I recommend the self-hosted WordPress. It gives you the freedom and flexibility to grow your website the way you want. Want to run a membership website or eCommerce website? Self-hosted WordPress is the best option surely.
Made wrong decision? Don’t worry! You can jump to another platform and can import previous content there. It’s very easy to move data between cloud-hosted and self-hosted WordPress. In most cases, you will find all of your posts and pages contents (comments, media, taxonomy etc.) after transfer, but will miss most of the other things!
That’s all folks! Please share this article and make comments, I can help you to make the right decision.