If you're ready to take your blog to the next level, or if you want to set up a business website using WordPress, it's important to know what "self hosting" means and why it can help you.
WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com
WordPress comes in two flavors: WordPress.org (self hosted) and WordPress.com (hosted). In a nutshell, using self hosted WordPress from WordPress.org means that you download the code and store it on a server you control. That could mean you actually have your own server sitting in your office, but 99% of the time it means you pay someone to host your website.
Using hosted WordPress from WordPress.com means you have set up a free account on WordPress's own servers. This is fine for personal blogs, but you don't have as much control over your site. You can only use themes that are available for WordPress.com, and you can't install any plugins.
So unless you're just starting a personal blog and you don't need many options, it's best to pick self-hosted WordPress.org.
Self-hosted WordPress is the equivalent of buying your own PC. It is yours to do with as you wish – you can add components, install software, browse the internet unrestricted – the world is your oyster. Meanwhile, WordPress.com is the equivalent of using a library computer. You're operating within a controlled environment. You do not have the same freedom as you would have with your own PC. - Tom Ewer
How self hosting works
When your site is self-hosted, you download WordPress, upload the files to your server, and create a database where it can store information. From there, you can add all kinds of plugins, themes, and customization. In order to self host WordPress, you'll need a few things:
- A domain name
- A web host
- A FTP program
Your domain name is the address for your website, like CodeBabble.com. You will need to register your domain through a company like PowerPipe or GoDaddy.
Next, you need to select a web host that supports WordPress. Lots of hosts can do this, but the main things to look for are a host that uses Unix/Linux-based hosting (not Windows), has a cPanel so it will be easy to set up your database, and supports MySQL databases. We've been happy with BlueHost (this is an affiliate link, which means you actually get a cheaper price than usual), and WordPress runs well on their servers.
Finally, you need a way to upload files to and from your site. FileZilla is a good free FTP program that works on Windows, MacOS, and even Linux.
If you're starting from scratch, follow these simple steps to get your site up and running:
- Buy web hosting first. When you set up your hosting account, they will give you nameservers, which are basically addresses that point to your web host's servers.
- Buy your domain next. That way, you can type in the nameservers right away. (If you've already bought a domain, you can log in to your domain account and set the nameservers afterward.)
- Wait 24-48 hours. It takes a little time to link your domain to your hosting account. You can tell when your site is up and ready to go by typing in your domain - when it goes somewhere instead of giving you an error message, it is successfully linked.
- Download WordPress to your computer.
- Unzip the WordPress file.
- Use your FTP program to upload all the files to your new site.
- Log in to your website's cPanel and create a database.
- Open "wp-config-sample.php", resave it as "wp-config.php", and enter in your database access information.
- Go to your site, and you will see the WordPress installation screen. Fill out the form, hit submit, and your site is born!