Free blogging service or hosting on your own?

Millions of new blogs are launched every month. Of these, many are published through blog-hosting providers such as blogger.com, Tumblr, Squarespace, or a hosting service from Wordpress.com. Opting for a free blog-hosting service is an especially popular choice for beginners. Getting started is easy with this option, and bloggers are freed from having to pay a monthly fee for use. These hosting services provide consistent updates and backups, so a strong technical background is not necessary to get your blog up and running. Despite these advantages, those wishing to use their blog for professional or commercial reasons will find that setting up a self-hosted blog often proves to be a better option.

Free blogs from free blog-hosting providers.

Free of incidental registration fees or monthly charges, blog-hosting providers offer those aspiring for some additional internet exposure a comfortable outlet on which they can gain experience. Such platforms are attractive options for beginners looking to make their first strides with a content management system (CMS). While such blogging services are free of charge, adding extra features (additional templates, more design options, etc.) normally involves paying additional fees.

The advantages: free of charge and easy to use.

In addition to its free use, there are numerous advantages associated with choosing to publish your blog on a free blogging service. These blogs are very user-friendly and can be set up in just a few easy steps. Publishing and updating content is mostly hassle-free and is even manageable for bloggers with only modest technical backgrounds. Users can choose from a wide range of layouts and templates that match their respective blog topics. Further customization options can be carried out after the initial set-up, and most updates are automatically carried out for the user.

Advantages of using a blog-hosting provider

  • free
  • easy use and set up
  • automatic updates and external security

The disadvantages: limited functions and capacities

Although they are free and easy to set up, blog-hosting providers do come with some disadvantages, mostly in the form of technical drawbacks. Many helpful functions only have limited use or may not even be available at all; the selection of layouts and free plugins is also limited. These shortcomings affect more than just the blog’s technical performance — optical features also take a hit:

The biggest disadvantages for blog-hosting services

  • imited selection of plugins and layouts
  • limited storage
  • restricted number of webpages
  • usually no data backups

A further disadvantage: websites like Blogger.com don’t have their own domains; the sites are only available via the provider’s subdomain. For example, the following proprietary format is needed to reach a blog created on Blogger.com: www.[blog-name].blogger.com. While this formatting does not necessarily translate into disadvantages for private users, those wishing to start a blog for professional use should consider options that allow private domains.

Advertisements on free-of-charge blogs

Free blog setups deny user the possibility of independently displaying advertisements. Instead, the provider sells advertising space and finances the blog-hosting service through these proceeds. The blogger has no means of influencing the frequency or content of these ads. Switching to a fee-based premium version or a self-hosted blog is the only way around these ads. No matter the option, bloggers registered with free providers will always be subject to their respective terms and conditions. A self-hosted blog therefore remains the only option for users wishing to control ad-related features.

A self-hosted blog? What possibilities are out there?

In principle, there are just two required things needed for a self-hosted blog: web space and a CMS. Bloggers with limited programming backgrounds should find out which CMSs their providers offer and how user-friendly they are prior to renting web space.

Many providers also allow users to design their blogs with the freeware, WordPress. This option enables bloggers a quick and easy set-up. Virtually all hosting packages contain web space, one or multiple domains, and a database. Packages with 10 or more gigabytes vary in price, but are generally available in the four-to-six-dollar price range.

The advantages: countless options for customization.

In recent years, many web hosting providers have begun including a customized blog editor or supporting the blog software with WordPress. This feature makes installation and set-up for self-hosted blogs a matter of a few simple clicks. Self-hosting does not require expert-level IT and programming skills. This is due to the presence of on-site tools that complement CMSs, allowing even beginners to design their sites. More technically-inclined users will find themselves hindered by fewer restrictions.

The advantages at a glance

  • no IT knowledge needed for set-up
  • wide array of possibilities for customization
  • negligible costs

Professional presence and flexible advertising.

Self-hosted blogs offer users the chance to operate multiple pages under individually selected domains. E-mail addresses connected directly to the website’s domain make communication more professional, something that blog-hosting providers lack. Bloggers who decide to host their own sites are their own bosses and shape their web presence around what suits them best. More flexibility in selecting the best options for advertising delivers a further plus when opting for this route. Whether selecting banner advertising or a similar solution, the decision always rests in the hands of the same person: the blogger.

The most important features for a reputable internet presence

  • unique, individual domains  
  • e-mail address connected to domain
  • independent ad placement.

The disadvantages: much time and responsibility needed

Hosting your own blog or website does not come entirely without its cons. The biggest disadvantage for many is the monthly bill from their hosting provider. While it isn’t a large sum, it is still somewhat of a deterrent for newcomers who have yet to secure any income through advertising. Extra tasks stemming from increased responsibility for the blog’s security, file backups, etc. make maintaining the blog a considerable investment in time and energy. Compromises, such as managed hosting, allow the provider to take care of the blog’s technical matters. And while easier, they are usually associated with higher costs.

Conclusion: Free-hosting is best suited to private projects

Those looking to start a blog should closely examine which features and possibilities are most important before finally deciding what route to take in terms of hosting options. Blog-hosting services should prove adequate for small, private projects without any large commercial ambitions. Private bloggers are able to focus more on content by leaving technical aspects up to the provider.    

A blog-hosting service is best when

  • Users want to be able to launch their blog quickly
  • they possess little technical experience
  • the blog is started for fun and not for business practices

Blogs intended for professional projects should always be self-hosted. This ensures for more than just a convincing appearance — it also increase flexibility and allows blogs to cater to specific needs.  

A self-hosted blog is best when

  • a professional blog is being planned
  • there are future plans for commercial use
  • maximum free rein is desired in shaping and designing the site.