How to Blog

Why Free Hosting is Dangerous

0 Comments 23 February 2012

At the end of the day, here is the argument I always return to about using a hosted site like Blogger (or even a WordPress hosted site where you don’t own your own hosting):

The problem with not owning your stuff (i.e. using free hosting) is that you don’t own your own stuff.

That sounded dumb, right? Like using the word in its definition? Well, I said what I meant and I meant what I said. See, here’s the thing.

If you decide to borrow space from Blogger that you don’t pay for, not only do they technically “own” your site, but they can decide to shut you down if they want to. They also control the name of the game, so can put ads on the top of your site, or ignore your plea for help when something goes wrong.

In general, you should only use free hosting if:

1. You don’t care about appearance/functionality.

The old adage “you get what you pay for” rings true as much as ever here on the Internet. Free sites are going to be limited in functionality (as I graphically displayed with my Blogger pages diagrams) and often less attractive (thanks to decreased functionality so a less streamlined design, as well as sometimes ads or other unattractive buttons that you didn’t ask for around the site).

2. You don’t care about performance or reliability.

Free is free. A free host is going to be slower, and may go down for maintenance more frequently. Just like anything else in life, you pay for speed, reliability, and ease of use.

3. You plan on your blog staying very small and aren’t concerned with ever growing it.

This is the area I beg you to give yourself more credit than you want to. Everyone, myself included, wants to start with a “free” blog because 1) they don’t know if they’ll suck at blogging and don’t want to invest a lot of money in it and 2) don’t know if they’ll suck at blogging and give it up in 3 weeks so really, really don’t want to invest any money in it.

Here’s the problem: if you do decide that you enjoy blogging, you’re going to be screwed stuck in your free, hard-to-use site. I also think that the boring, functionless nature of a free site can make the whole experience so boring and tedious that you don’t get to enjoy just how awesome blogging can be, and will be more likely to give it up.

I would encourage you, a thousand times over, to get into this like you mean it and get yourself set up with your own domain name and hosting.

But still, why not start free then move later?

When I knew that Blogger wasn’t working for me anymore, I decided to switch over to a WordPress blog, which has a phenomenal reputation and is used by the majority of big bloggers. What I didn’t anticipate was that Blogger essentially made it impossible for me to locate the information I needed to move my domain name (MissMorphosis.com) over to my new WordPress site (I had bought the name through Blogger’s set up, which integrated with a Google checkout cart).

I ended up becoming exhausted by the whole thing and bought the name MsMorphosis instead, which is where I set up my new WordPress site. This, although fine, was not ideal. The biggest problem was (and still is) my Facebook fanpage, which is still under the name MissMorphosis, which creates a lot of confusion. Facebook’s policy is that once your fan page has over 100 fans you cannot edit the name of the page and, since I was way over that at the time, was out of luck. So, if for no other reason, don’t use Blogger because they will hold your name hostage and make it incredibly difficult for you to move it anywhere else. Then, Facebook will refuse to let you change your name and you’ll be maintaining different spellings of the name of your website all over the Internet, making it harder for people to follow you, and frustrating yourself immensely in the process.

Now, that venting aside, I have had enormous success with WordPress, and would highly recommend it to anyone that is starting their own site from scratch.

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Jen, MsMorphosis herself, writes with a wisdom that belies her age (astoundingly only 25) and speaks from a place that seems like you’re listening to your big sister, or a dear friend that you’ve never met. For me, the connection was instant, and the material has always been almost so personally intertwined and touching that I feel like the singer-story-teller in the song, ‘Killing Me Softly.’ — Sheanna Caban

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