Blogging

Another new beginning – Self-Hosting Choices: BlueHost or SiteGround

I did it!! I made the big move! After tinkering around with the idea of going the self-hosting route, I finally took the plunge into the unknown a few days ago. It has been quite the arduous task and jubilation of new learning. The entire process continues to be simultaneously intimidating and exhilarating. There were a number of reasons why I decided to go the self-hosting route. In this post, I’ll try to outline the whys, hows, what-ifs, and a range of other emotions I was and am still going through.

Note: This is a REALLY long post. 

The Before

For a long time, I was happy with just having the (blog).wordpress.com tag. Then, as I started blogging more regularly, I decided to purchase my own domain name. Thankfully, it was available and before I knew it, with a few clicks of a keypad, I was the proud owner of a “website” – my blog, my space.

I had toyed the idea of self-hosting my site but it seemed to be too much of a daunting task. Also, because I neither have the traffic nor revenue to justify this move, the most practical thing for me to do was to stay put with my free plan. Still, in order to give myself more flexibility, toward the end of 2016 – beginning of 2017, I decided to try WordPress’s Premium Plan. I enjoyed it while I had it. I particularly appreciated the Live Support and actually availed of it a couple of times. Pleasant experiences, both. In fact, I was so pleased with this experience that I decided to go completely in and buy the Business plan.

After paying nearly $300, I was extremely excited to do two things: (1) experience the SEO tool, and (2) benefit from Google Analytics. Unfortunately, I never got around to tinkering around with either of those. One of the first things that had me giddy with excitement was the ability to change my theme to absolutely any one that I needed since all themes are free on this plan. I picked one I liked and switched to that one. Sadly, it broke my very, very carefully created widgets and sidebar. I was so frustrated with this process (it was also late into the night, I had had a long tiring day and was in no mood to be patient or appreciate the process), that I immediately downgraded to the Premium Plan again.

WordPress is pretty amazing in how quickly they will work on your issues. So, I was issued a refund mighty quickly. No problem.

Like I wrote, I liked the Premium plan and wondered why I didn’t do the switch sooner. Oh yes…that thing – MONEY, and no sane justification for spending it on a blog. Supported by Aaron and encouraged by my techie bro-in-law, I was happy to keep this going.

The In-Between

Then, I got a little ambitious. In my plans to host my own linky, I decided to try InLinkz. Turns out, it does not work with WordPress.com sites. This was a pattern I was observing with a lot of new things I was trying to learn and do. For example, Click to Tweet. I found a workaround to do this with my regular non-self-hosted blog but that would take a lot of more time and energy. Click to Tweet works like it should only on WordPress.org where it embeds a little twitter bird-like icon into the editor and from where you can add the content you want tweeted straight into your content area.

Thus, one glorious night, I told Aaron that I was going to do it, that I had, had it with frustrating limitations of my space. I was going to go self-hosted. He agreed. Bless this man for almost always being willing to ride my emotional roller coasters with me.

So..where do I begin?

I was vaguely familiar with BlueHost having tried my hand at it two years ago with DesiMomandBaby, an attempt I made at self-hosting back in 2014 but gave up within months, and which has since become the current thephdmama. Even then, I had NO IDEA what I was doing. This time, I had an air of confidence about this whole thing. So after much Googling of BlueHost Vs. SiteGround, two companies I was considering to serve as my self-hosting platforms, I decided to go with Blue Host.

Why I decided to go with Blue Host

  • Lower initial costs, lower costs even after the expiration of the initial deal
  • Because I had previous familiarity with their dashboard, I assumed I’ll stick with what I know
  • Unlimited storage

In my moment of excitement to get this process going and to abate the frustrations I was feeling with the limitations of the WordPress Premium Plan, I logged on to the site, and with a swoop of checks and clicks, I had bought my self-hosting plan. Just like that.

After debating over it for months and probably driving Aaron crazy with all my rationales and justifications (that were totally unnecessary for him because he was going to support me regardless, but more to make it seem all right to myself), I had paid $237…WHAT!!!! How did I sign up for something SO DARN EXPENSIVE!? I thought it was $2.99 a month and I was only going to give this a go for a year…

Oops…in my frenzy, I had signed up for every single one of their default plans – I checked the three year deal for self-hosting, I had bought SiteLock Security, and I had bought Site Backup Pro as well. Yikes!! I immediately started a Live Chat with a customer service rep and had the last two cancelled. As for the three-year plan, I decided to keep it. $2.99/month was a pretty darn good deal even though I know prices go up after that initial contract. One of the best things about BH that I still like is how they let you cancel whenever. I literally had the charges reversed within 5 minutes. No questions asked. No pesky sales tactics to keep me on.

The BlueHost Experience 

Within seconds I had access to the beautiful and mind-boggling behind-the-scenes set up of what would be my blog. Now, I needed to transfer over my blog from wordpress.com to BH. I installed the one-click WordPress…and that’s when things started to get stressful for me.

I am by no means a techie. I was venturing into the relatively unknown based largely on the fact that my brother-in-law was going to help me figure all this out but I also knew it was unfair of me to burden him with my calls all the time and he was definitely NOT my personal Self-Hosting 101 24/7 customer service rep. Just because he is kind enough to offer and ALWAYS willingly helps me figure these things out, does not mean I bother him with every nitty gritty.

I hate to have to be the person who called customer service just because I didn’t realize I could turn off and turn the machine back on to get everything fixed!! Anyway, so between trying to figure out all the crazy jargon, the techie mumbo jumbo, the multiple failures on BlueHost’s part to install my WordPress (apparently it was some kind of a glitch on their part where even after my WP platform did get installed, it kept telling me the installation was at 0% driving me absolutely insane!). Besides, going with BH meant that I would have to pay for site content transfer. I could do it on my own but then I’d have to wait for the stupid installation progress pop up to be done with and that wasn’t going anywhere because BH was in no hurry to fix that glitch. Aarrgh!

I tried contacting BH numerous times and I disliked getting the feeling like I was being talked down to. The wait times were also ridiculously long. The only good customer service person was a Vivek, with whom I was connected one late night in the US (which means he probably was at a call center in India since it is daytime there) and who was the one to tell me about the glitch and nice enough to suggest that maybe I should check a different browser because according to him, they had already installed my platform. All the other customer service reps, while answering my questions, still seemed to assume that I knew what I was doing.

Perhaps the assumption is that if you are taking such a big step as self-hosting, you really do know what you are doing. Except, I didn’t. I still don’t. I will, one day. Just not yesterday, today, or tomorrow.

In the end, I gave BH 48 hours. Maybe a little less. When my admin log in page continued to say “Installation in Process” (or something like that) – Progress 0% even after leaving it overnight….I was officially DONE with BH.

Between this glitch, the not-so-friendly customer service, and the insanely long wait times to reach customer service, I was done. I also did not appreciate being constantly given links to places that could answer my questions – I understand someone took a long time to build those instructions and FAQs but before you do that, how about first addressing my concerns on a human level instead of just saying, you have what you think is a HUGE issue but we don’t think it is a big deal (because you clearly are stupid to think it is) – here is a link that will answer your question… Even something as simple as…here are two things you can do but hey, if you want more, here is a link…it’s about presentation, a kind word of empathy, even a fake one, and then assistance.

While I was still under the BH plan, I browsed around SiteGround and decided to chat up a member of their Pre-Sales team.

The Site Ground Experience 

Now, I get that a Pre-Sales person has to be over-the-top nice to potential clients to turn their chats/leads into actual paying customers. I get that. The guy I chatted with did not disappoint. He was supremely nice, completely understanding of my frustrations, and even didn’t mind when I asked him to explain to me what the difference between his employer and BH was – he mentioned speeds, downtimes, wait times – basically, it appeared that SG had done their research on their competitor and knew the right things that bothered potential or existing BH clients and where and how they could gain advantage or converts over to their base. This is smart and how all businesses should operate.

He also addressed my concerns over site transfer. The biggest advantage I saw with SG was their complementary site transfer. Between my bro-in-law’s expertise and my practical execution, we would have been able to do a lot of the transfer ourselves – not sure about the deeper database files and stuff, but to sit back, let someone else who knows what they are doing do it, and not worry about messing everything up, was a huge deal for me. He even said they could transfer over all my stuff from BH to them even if I was already with BH. Except, all my stuff was still on wordpress.com because guess what…that pop-up saying my installation (just the platform, not even my content. We never even got that far) was at 0% was still going strong even though technically, it had already been installed – due to this pop-up, there wasn’t much I could do in terms of accessing my cpanel and stuff.

Another thing he clarified was my confusion between self-hosting websites and WordPress.Org. Upon my asking, he confirmed that basically, sites like BH or SG are merely the medium between the end user (e.g., blogger) and the platform (e.g., WordPress). The real work is done by the blogger on the platform and a self-hosting website provides the underlying foundation to hold the two together.

He addressed my concerns over themes and widgets, over transferring subscribers and all the little questions I had, extremely patiently, with a lot of empathy, and expert knowledge. He won me over. Even as I was still registered to BH, I went ahead and signed up to selfhost with Site Ground.

I later did another Live Chat with BH and asked to cancel my plan entirely. The rep tried to convince me of their help and assistance but I just wanted out. I was moving over to SG.

I did just that and haven’t looked back.

The customer service at SG has been extremely helpful so far. They are super quick with responding to all my questions with suggestions, instructions, and doing things at their end to alleviate my stress levels. They are a little more expensive than BH and they provide 10 GB of space compared to the 50 GB that BH provides which could make a huge difference to some. In my chat with the Pre-Sales guy, I was assured that very, very few bloggers come close to the 10 GB space, not even dedicated photography bloggers. So as a content blogger, I should be absolutely fine with 10 GB.

The After

I switched to SiteGround on January 9. Since then, I have undertaken the educational journey of re-establishing my blog with a a new theme, getting new widgets (or ones I used before but had to reinstall and set up and all that), using content enhancing tools and such.

I am really happy I made the switch to SiteGround. It has only been 4 days so I am still testing things out. I apologize in advance if my blog looks different each time you look at it for the next few days or if something doesn’t work. I am learning along the way and it is a process. It is an exciting and as I wrote, a very educational experience too but it is still a process and I appreciate your patience and understanding during this phase.

Web Hosting
All in all, I am really glad I switched to self-hosting and even gladder to have gone with Site Ground. If you are thinking of making the switch to self-hosting, give them a go.

I know the process seems overwhelming and intimidating and it can be. It was and in some ways, still is for me but in the end, a few days in, and perhaps still in the honeymoon phase of it all, I am still happy to have made the switch. I can’t believe how much control I have over what I can and want to do with my blog. There has been a lot of learning that has happened along the way. A LOT.

If all else fails and I decide not to pursue this after 3 years, it’ll be like I paid a little over a $100 for a crash course in self-hosting and personal blog development and I am completely and totally okay with that kind of learning where I am the student and the teacher, with a lot of guidance from the amazing folks on the Internet and of course, Site Ground’s customer service and support team.

If you want to learn more, please click on the image link above or even this link HERE. This is an affiliate link and based on my post, should you decide to go with them, I’ll get a small commission.

If you have come this far in reading this post, thank you. Please consider sharing the post if you think it might help someone.

I will be returning to regularly scheduled programming (read, posts on mothering, parenting, multicultural living, and all that good stuff) with my next post.

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