Basics of Non-Hosted Blog Software

By Amy Lupold Bair, Susannah Gardner

If technology freaks you out, you can make life easier by using hosted solutions, but bloggers who require more flexibility than hosted solutions offer may choose non-hosted blogging packages. Configuring software to your own tastes and requirements can really improve the overall quality of your blog, making it more attractive to readers and ultimately more successful.

Flexibility can make or break your blog. If you have the money and the skills to install your own blog software, doing so can give you better tools and control over your blog, enabling you to do things like customize the design, add third-party widgets for serving ads, or dabble in customizing the publishing interface.

Choosing a non-hosted blog isn’t a plug-and-play solution. Unfortunately, choosing to install blog software, rather than to use a hosted service, means that you need a whole bunch of other technical services to make it all work.

Benefits of blog software installed on your own server

If you use non-hosted blog software, you’re in full control. You can do just about anything to the software after you install it:

  • Personalize the design: For those who have web design skills, stand-alone blogs generally are very adaptable. Some blogs have incredibly diverse and clever designs, many created by the author of the blog to match the style and topic of the blog.

    Installing the software on your web server gives you access to every part of the blog software’s innards, from templates to graphics, so you can make your blog look exactly as you like.

  • Customize functionality: A lot of the blogging software available is open source (meaning the code for the software package is available to developers so that they can manipulate it). Programmers can add, remove, update, and improve functionality for each package. Some packages offer many different options, and independent programmers might also offer additional functionality either for free or at a low cost.

  • Look smart: The blogging world, like any other world, has social divisions, and at the top of the blogging heap, you find geeks. If you want to play with the cool nerds, you need to install your own blog software. Technical bloggers will recognize your prowess and give you props.

Limitations of blog software installed on your own server

The first stumbling block you discover when installing your own blogging software is… installing your own blogging software. Somehow, you have to get the software files onto your server, run the scripts, modify the code, and generally muck about in the ugly innards of the software.

This process can either be simple or a complete nightmare, depending on your technical savvy and the complexity of the blog software package that you choose.

You can shortcut this issue by choosing a web-hosting company that offers blogging software. Most blogging software companies provide a list of web hosts who have in-house expertise in handling their software; just browse around on the software company’s website to find that list. You can also have the blogging software company install the software for you.

For a fairly reasonable fee, you can put that job into the hands of an expert. This solution makes sense for one big reason: You need to install the software only once. If you don’t already know how to do it yourself, you don’t have to spend hours beating your head against a wall to obtain knowledge you’ll probably never need again.

Of course, all software requires some level of maintenance, and most web hosts don’t handle software upgrades and tweaks. Be prepared to handle those requirements when they come up by doing them yourself or finding an expert who can handle them for you.

Using non-hosted software has some other downsides as well:

  • Design personalization and code customization: Making your blog look pretty sounds great, but you need a cornucopia of associated skills to make that happen — everything from graphic design to HTML coding.

    If you don’t have these skills yourself or access to someone who does, you don’t actually have the ability to customize your blog, despite your software. The good news is that online resources are nearly unlimited if you want to learn these skills!

  • Domain registration and web hosting: Unlike the hosted systems, you can’t avoid spending money to host your own blog software. Several costs automatically kick in, such as domain name registration and web hosting.

  • Technical support: Even if you pay to get the blog software installed for you or sign up with a web host that does it automatically, if the software breaks (and doesn’t all software break at some point?), many web hosts can’t or won’t fix it.

  • Backing up: If you install your own software, you’re responsible for making sure that the software and data get backed up or for finding a web host that includes backups as part of the hosting package.