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Moving to wordpress.com

After I don’t know how many years of keeping resellers accounts on various web hosting locations or running my own servers, I have decided to close down all that and move my remaining personal sites to various services.  This blog, for example, has moved from a self hosted wordpress site to wordpress.com.  Other things, like email, are going to Google.  Overall the move was very smooth.

The move comes with a few pros and cons.  On the pro side, I don’t need to maintain the sites like I do when I do my own.  Keeping sites upgraded to the latest version of Drupal or WordPress or Joomla or whatever is a pain.  I generally just don’t, which means I’m almost always a couple of versions behind, and I still feel like I’m always needing to fix something.  Using wordpress.com means I don’t have to worry about any of that.  Additionally, using services like this is considerably cheaper than doing it myself.  For just under $10 a year you can use your domain and let them do all the work.  That’s a bargain, not even counting the value of the time I save.  Overall, the management tools at wordpress.com work very well, they are easy to use, and its a very well done service (from all I can tell so far).

On the minus side, I lose some control.  On my own sites, I had a modified theme, on which I had changed the templates and customized the CSS.  On wordpress.com, you can customize the CSS if you pay a fairly nominal fee, but a far as I can tell you can’t use your own custom theme.  On a service like this that probably makes sense.  You also can’t load extra widgets, probably for very similar reasons.  I had a few on my old site, and historically I have been in the habit of tweaking their code slightly.  One of the biggest losses in regard to the widgets is the code syntax highlighting, for which I was using a plugin on my old site.  I lose that ability and give up some of the control of the sites.  I could probably get code highlighting back by signing up for the custom CSS option, but I haven’t done that yet.

I also was not that impressed by the domain hosting component.  Basically, wordpress wants to be the NS host for the domain.  That means you point your domain registrar to wordpress.com name servers.  This is giving up a huge amount of the flexibility of putting the web site in one place but using subdomains and other services on the same domain.  WordPress does support using Google for email, and will easily point your MX records there.  Since I was also moving all of my email to Google anyway at the same time, and am not doing a lot else with these domains, after some mumbling under my breath I went with it.

The move itself was very easy.  I was already using WordPress, so I exported the posts, pages, and comments from my old site and imported them into the new site.  The process of signing up and adding domain mapping, setting the theme, and all the other small things I needed to do was quite easy.  I’d be hard pressed to think of ways they could make signing up and getting going much easier.  I think just about anybody could have gone through the process smoothly, even if they were novices.  That part of wordpress.com, at least, is well done.

The investment is quite small, and if it doesn’t work out I can move on with very little loss.  My sites are predominantly personal with a small audience, so the risk of making changes is very low.  On the whole, I am fairly pleased with what I get from wordpress.com, and the cost is very reasonable even if you added in additional extras.  For me, giving up some flexibility and control was well worth the time savings.

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