Introduction To Blogging For Writers – How To Choose A Host

Welcome back to Introduction to Blogging For Writers.

This is the final week of this four-week clinic on blogging for writers. So far, we’ve discussed four ways to know whether or not blogging is for you and 7 things to consider before you start blogging. The first week was an introduction to the topic.

We’ll wrap up this introductory clinic by talking about your options for choosing a hosting service.

What is a Host Anyway?

Simply stated, your host is where you park your blog or website so it’s accessible to the internet. It might be a major service like 1&1 (which I use), FatCow, or some other nationally recognized hosting company.

It could also be a small, independent company. One person with a powerful enough computer to handle the traffic can technically provide hosting service.

Most hosting services fall somewhere in between.

Prices for services vary, too. Some are expensive. Some are free. The old adage, you get what you pay for, applies to hosting services as well as to everything else. The price you’re willing to pay determines the services you’ll receive. The less expensive a service, the fewer perks come with it.

There are several things to consider before choosing your hosting service. Chief among them are questions of paying for a service or using a free service. You might also want to consider self-hosting.

Let’s take a look at each of these options.

Free Services

This isn’t as easy a decision as it might at first appear. Most of us respond well to the word FREE, but it’s not always a good deal.

That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of good free hosting services available. There are. A few are listed below.

But there is no such thing as a free lunch. Nothing is truly free in this life and blog hosts are no different. It may not cost you anything up front to host with a free service, but there are limitations to the service and backdoor details (make sure to read the terms of agreement) that may make a free hosting service a little less attractive.

Such terms vary from provider to provider, but may include limited choices of blog templates, limited storage space (important if you plan to blog a lot, use a lot of images or video or other media), and limited functionality. Some may even assume part ownership of your content as a term of service.

As I already mentioned, you can find excellent free services and many may be exactly what you’re looking for. Just be aware that there may be strings attached somewhere.

WordPress is the most popular blogging platform currently available. It’s easy to use, versatile, comes with hundreds of free design templates, and you can get started in ten minutes or less. You can host your blog at no charge with WordPress or download WordPress at no charge and self host your blog.

Blogger is probably the next most popular blogging host available. It’s the platform I began with and a lot of top-rated bloggers still use it. Users have access to a fine collection of ready-to-use templates. I found Blogger difficult to use and not quite as efficient or functional, but it may be exactly what you’re looking for.

A simple internet search will provide other free blog hosting sites (and there are many).

Paid Services

Paid services range from as low as a few dollars a month to as high as several hundred a year. For example, Typepad, which many people use and swear by, has a blogging package for $8.95 a month with a 14-day free trial.

No plan is going to be ideal for everyone. The key is to do enough research to find out what is a available, what the prices are and what packages are available.

WordPress. The commercial side of WordPress integrates many services designed for writers into the program. Perks to paying for WordPress hosting include excellent sales and marketing tool integration, automatic WordPress updates, a collection of themes (free and premium), and too many other things to list them all here. Getting started is as simple as opening an account, selecting your service level and selecting a theme.

Typepad has three packages. The basic package with basic services, something they call an “unlimited” package with more services, and a “premium” package. As you might expect, that is their top-of-the-line package. As of the writing of this post, the premium package is $29.95 a month. Among it’s list of services is an unlimited number of blogs.

Even the basic package allows you to maintain up to four blogs, so check the details on all the packages no matter which service you use.

Do an internet search for additional service providers.

Self Hosting

The third option is self-hosting. When you self-host, you find a hosting service you like (1&1, Fat Cow, etc.) and a package you like, and you pay for the service. The company provides whatever the package you purchased provides, but everything else is up to you.

You can put whatever you wish on that host. A web site. A blog. An integrated web site or blog. Whatever.

It’s a lot of hands-on time and some effort, but it is the option I prefer and recommend. Why?

  • When you self-host, all your content is 100% yours.
  • Self-hosting allows you more latitude and fewer limitations
  • It’s often easier to maintain your blog, upload images, and do other routine functions if you’re self-hosted.

There are also drawbacks to self-hosting and I would be remiss to omit them here.

  • You are responsible for everything.
  • You will have to deal with a hosting service in addition to the template provider
  • You will need to research service providers as thoroughly as you research blogging providers. That’s double the research targets. Research time and effort could increase exponentially.

Self-hosting will most likely require spending money. Some hosting services offer free services, but these services are limited. They may either not fit your needs or you may quickly outgrow them.

If you self-host, you’ll also have to purchase a domain.

Conclusion

I know what you’re thinking. This is a lot of information to sort through and I’ve really only skimmed the surface. You’re wondering if blogging is really all worth the effort.

My emphatic answer is, “Yes!”

I realize, however, that all the research I’ve recommended can not only be a huge time drain, but discouraging. So do what I did when I got started. Find someone who has been blogging a while and whose blog you enjoy and ask them who they recommend.

Or just take a look at the bottom of their blog. Nine times out of time, there will be a link to the company providing their service. It may just be that all you have to do is click on that link and get started.

That concludes the IPT Clinic on Blogging for writers.

The discussion doesn’t have to end here, though. If you have a question or would like to share a personal experience, leave your comment in the comment box below. I will continue to answer questions as they are asked.

The next IPT clinic is all about time management for writers; a fitting subject to follow this clinic. Join me in April for tips and tools to help you make those precious writing moments more productive.

Clinics in This Series
Introduction to Blogging For Writers
Blogging For Writers – To Blog or Not to Blog
Blogging For Writers – 7 Considerations Before You Get Started
Blogging For Writers – How To Choose A Host

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