I've maintained this blog since 2008. Since 2008, it had been hosted on wordpress.com, and I was paying around £12 a year for the domain mapping. That allowed me to point my domain (edspencer.me.uk) at my wordpress.com hosted site.
I was reasonably happy with the service I got.
- It was cheap
- I didn't have to worry about hosting (backups, uptime)
- I was quick to get going
However, there are some downsides when you don't host yourself:
No full administrative control over Wordpress
One of the awesome things about Wordpress is the amount of themes and plugins that are out there. When using the hosted platform at wordpress.com, you do not have full administrative control over wordpress, so you can't just install some of the plugins as you wish. And those that use wordpress a lot, know that there are some essential plugins, like WP Smush.
Additional features that are free when you self host, cost money on wordpress.com
If you want to install a non standard theme on a hosted wordpress.com site, you can't. You can however, pay for the option to install one of their premium themes. So you can't really style your site in the way you want, without getting your wallet out.
Also - ads. wordpress.com hosted sites "occasionally" show ads to users. Here's the thing - I really, really distrust ad networks. Aside to opening your site up to becoming a vector for Malvertising attacks and the creepy level of ubiquitous tracking, I also really dislike just how invasive ads on the web have become. I understand the need to monetise content on the web, but there are better ways of doing it rather than just indiscriminately littering ads around content.
In fact, this site is itself monetised where appropriate. Some articles contain useful and relevant affiliate links - but this may actually have contravened wordpress.com's terms and conditions. So I was also risking my site randomly getting yanked offline.
Performance on wordpress.com isn't great
Other wordpress.com hosts
There are a few of these about, but I've really gone off cloud based solutions and didn't want to spend hours researching other providers.
Other blogging engines
I looked at a few, but saw that the migration path would be painful, especially if self hosted.
medium.com isn't self hosted. Ghost can be self hosted but isn't anywhere as easy as self hosting wordpress. It's also funny that the ghost vs wordpress page says "Ghost is simple!", and the ghost vs medium page says "Ghost is powerful!".
I do not trust a paid blog site to keep it's pricing structure as is. I really don't want to be in the position where I need to suddenly pay up more money to host or to frantically have to migrate because some company decided to change their pricing structure.
So here we are, still running on wordpress, but this time we're self hosted. The migration was easy, and took me about 2 hours.
But wordpress isn't secure!
I hear you, along with everyone else that has been sucked up by the technology hype lifecycle. Wordpress does indeed get bashed a bit because there is an unfair perception of security problems around it. There are some things you should be doing if you are running a wordpress site in production to make it more secure. I'll address these things in a later blog post, but many of them will just be standard web security best practices.