WordPress is an application used for creating Websites or Blogs easily. The possibilities when using WordPress are pretty much endless! WordPress powers more than 37% of the internet. That means, one of every three Websites is powered by WordPress and it 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 has its 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 the 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 a company called Automattic, which is owned by Matt Mullenweg. 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 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, 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.
It also has predefined functionality. In WordPress.com, you have the functionality that’s available in the system. 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 a self-hosted version, and from other services. So if you already own a blog somewhere else, and you can move it easily.
The key benefits of having a website on WordPress.com
- 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 come 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 a hassle-free environment. You don’t need to worry about updates, backups, speed, or downtime of your website, they will take care of that.
The key disadvantages of having a website on WordPress.com
- There are 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 plugins.
- You are not in full control of your website! They can delete your site at any time if they think it violates their terms. Your site users will see ads in the free plan and 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.
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 site depends on the host and optimization. For this reason, host your site on an optimized server and pick up themes and plugins wisely. I always recommend SiteGround hosting as 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. You may not 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 web.
Because it is a 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, the 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 a self-hosted version, you can simply grab the content from the WordPress.com site and move it over to your self-hosted site.
The key benefits of having a self-hosted WordPress website
- The sky has no limit, you are free to add any feature. You can create a portfolio website as a developer and a business website as a publisher/company. Adding features like Google Analytics, Google AdSense is so easy in a self-hosted WordPress version.
- You are in full control of 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 until you are satisfied.
The key disadvantages of a self-hosted WordPress website
- 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.
- 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.
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 space included with unlimited bandwidth.||There are no such features like Com in a self-hosted solution. Bandwidth and space depends on hosting plans.|
|Functionality||Com comes with predefined functionality. You can’t edit built-in functionality.||You can add/edit any functionality by using millions of plugins available.|
|Performance||It lives in 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 with 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 prices vary on hosting configuration, generally costs 10-100$/month.|
|Guidelines||You can’t publish everything you want, you must follow their guidelines first.||You can publish anything you want (be careful!), no guidelines available.|
|Design||You have to choose from a pre-configured theme library and that’s it. You can’t make your own a theme.||You can make your site whatever you like. Endless possibility, millions of themes available on the web.|
|Maintenance||Maintaining a WordPress.com site is so easy, a newbie can handle it easily without having many problems.||You must have basic knowledge of WordPress. Whatever problem comes, you have to solve in most cases.|
|Security||Com is pretty secure. It has built-in two-factor-auth to ensure better security. Updates install 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.||Just choose the best options. You can try different monetization features to determine the best options.|
|Support||You can get support from community forums and official support docs.||There are hundreds of sources available besides official forums and docs.|
Enough of discussions! Let’s make a final decision considering the above discussions in which WordPress solution is better for your needs.
Which is Better for You?
The confusion created by 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 to the 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, if you don’t care about making money from your website, and if you don’t want to make your hands dirty in customizing your website. If your main focus is publishing in a hassle-free environment, then WordPress.com is the best option 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 self-hosted WordPress. It gives you the freedom and flexibility to grow your website the way you want. If you want to run a membership website or eCommerce website, then self-hosted WordPress is the best option surely.
Made the 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 page contents (comments, media, taxonomy, etc.) after migration, but will miss most of the other things! So the initial decision is important!
That’s all folks! If you need my help making the right decision, please let me know in the comments. I’ll do my best to help you make the right decision.