There are two ways for you to use WordPress. To appreciate the differences we need to get acquainted with two terms: Domain & Hosting.
What is a Domain?
A domain is a reserved name on the internet. For example “iamronen.com” is a domain that I have reserved for myself. It’s really just that – a reserved name that appears in the “yellow pages” of the internet. A domain is not a web-site! If we want to create a website we first need a place to put the web-site. Essentially what you need is a web-server – a computer that can run the WordPress application with all of your posts & pages. This brings us to Hosting.
What is a Hosting?
Hosting is the term used to describe a storage space for web-sites on the internet. The simplest way to think of it is as computer that you rent for your web-site. You maybe asking yourself “Why do you need to rent a computer, why can’t I simply have my web-site on my home computer?”. The truth is that you can, but you would run into some problems such as:
- Connectivity – you would have to make sure that your computer is on and functional at all times, because you don’t know when people may be visiting your website, this could be at any time.
- Bandwidth – your home internet connection has a limited capacity, you can only send & receive a limited amount of information to and from the internet. Remember when you chose your internet connection speed – it was 1.5MB or 2.5 or something like that? That number indicates how much information you can transfer at any given time and it’s fairly limited. Your internet site may attract lots of visitors and some of them may not be able to get through because of your limited internet connection.
- Security – all of your website visitors will be accessing your computer and that could lead to some security issues – such as (1) exposing all of your private information to the world; (2) allowing people to place damaging software – such as viruses on your computer
- Backup – if your computer malfunctions, your site will not be available (it will offline) and if you lost any information (people are not too good at making backups!) you may also lose the information that is required to run your website including all of your web-pages.
Hosting takes care of all of this for you. The word “hosting” comes from the idea that your web-server computer is hosted in a place called a data-center. These data-centers are designed to ensure that your web-server is always connected to the internet, that it’s connection is fast enough to handle all of your visitors, that your web-server is secured, backed up and even protected from electricity failures.
What is Shared Hosting?
Most web-sites, especially personal web-sites that are just starting out don’t really need an entire computer (which can be prohibitively expensive) to operate. They probably use only a fraction of the capabilities of a web-server. So along came some ingenuous people and companies and invented Shared Hosting. What they do is magically transform a single powerful web-server computer into smaller virtual computers – which are just right for most web-sites and much more affordable. It’s kind of like renting an office-space in a large office-building. You don’t need an entire building to run your business, a one or two room office is more then enough.
The simplest & fastest way to get started with WordPress is at WordPress.com. This is hosting service dedicated to WordPress. They offer a basic service that is free of charge and what you get is:
- An automatic, secured and updated (WordPress releases new version 3 or 4 times a year) installation of WordPress.
- A domain name of your choice at WordPress. For example: myname.WordPress.com.
- A (limited) set of themes- visual designs (we’ll talk more about later in this series) for you to choose for your blog.
This service imposes some limitations to what you can do with your WordPress. Matt Mullenweg (the lead WordPress developer) once described it as living in an apartment complex – you have to be considerate of your neighbors. It’s very easy to get started – all you have to do is write your content – everything else is automatically taken care of by the team at WordPress.com. You can check out the free features here and the premium (paid) features here.
WordPress.org – Self Hosting
Remember we mentioned that WordPress is open-source and free for you to use? WordPress.org is where you go to get it. But getting it is the easy part and unless you are technically proficient in computer and internet technologies – you will probably need help to pursue this option.
You will need to get your own domain, find a hosting service, install WordPress, install & customize a theme, install & activate plugins, etc. If you encountered a few words in that last sentence that you don’t recognize, that’s OK, it just means you’re going to need help. If you are inclined to do it – you may try to tackle these issues on your own. There are many resources online on how to do this, you will need patience and perseverance.
There are many people who can help you create your self-hosted WordPress installation, I am one of them. You can find others here, or on freelance sites such as Guru, oDesk, or you can search the internet for WordPress freelancers.
Next up in the series – laying the foundations for your WordPress web-site.