As you may have guessed, this is a WordPress site. WordPress powers over 72 million websites and growing. It is free, functional, and offers a variety of plugins integrated into the user interface. And like many other WordPress users recommend, I opted to self host. After doing some research, I found that WordPress can be easily installed onto CentOS in about 5 minutes. Next, I utilized one of DigitalOcean’s promotional offers to start an account with credit loaded onto it. I just wanted a service to host my website on, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that their service also comes with many useful, professionally written guides on how to setup things like your WordPress install, Apache, MySQL, and so on. With these resources available, launching this website was a breeze.
The good news didn’t end there. I found that you can submit support tickets with DigitalOcean as well – the support reps responded professionally and politely in a timely fashion. This was really helpful because of the gaps in documentation, FAQs, and how-to’s scattered across WordPress’s website and forums. It appears as though DigitalOcean is creating their own quality knowledge base, made up of professionally written documentation and freely contributed tutorials. Their website is aesthetically pleasing and seamlessly integrated. It has the small things that make geeks happy, like text fields containing generated URLs with one-click copy. You can also monitor how your “droplet” is performing:
I won’t continue the praise without having any critical comments though – Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) can be cheaper. I calculated my usage at their rate and the bill was a few dollars cheaper, with the ability to run a smaller instance for half the cost. AWS also has a “Free Tier” which offers basic instances for 750 hours a month, up to one year. In any case, you do need a credit card and billing address to sign up with DigitalOcean or Amazon’s web services. For both these services, you are your own site administrator. You will have to boot the operating systems from their installation media and configure everything yourself. Also, you will need to create backups, change files system permissions, and work from the command line in general (via SSH or PuTTY). As I mentioned earlier, DigitalOcean provides documentation with clear instructions, but it does take a little more work. Nothing good ever comes easily! Although I did google this PCMag article which lists many other web hosting solutions (but not AWS or DigitalOcean) that may also include features and tools to help the layman create and maintain their website(s). Up to you!
Plugins. These are versitile add-ons for your WordPress site that augment the way you can interact with it, often times providing an essential function for free. Other times, the best features require a “Premium Membership”. Plugins can help you design your website by creating custom templates and widgets. They can also ease the burden of administrative duties by providing simple yet effective solutions for security, backups, and spam deterrents. Most plugins are designed for the average user by having default settings and an easy to use interface consisting of check boxes, drop down menus, and text fields. The process of adding a plugin is as simple as this: from your WordPress menu bar, click Plugins –> add new plugins –> search and select from a list of all plugins. You can decide for yourself which plugins are good based on how many people use them, the rating (0 through 5 stars), and the reviews – all accessible from the WordPress web GUI.
Conclusion: People ask very frequently what to blog with, whether to self host or not, who to host with, and so on. I did the research and went with WordPress, self hosted with DigitalOcean. It was easy and pain free, as well as money free (so far). If you read this and are still wondering about any other details concerning launching a site, feel free to ask me! I’m happy to incorporate any pertinent questions into this short guide. Cheers!