WP101 Training

Beginning With WordPress: Deciding Between and


I do a fair bit of training WordPress users, be it in classroom situations, one-on-one with clients, or in meetups. I find running these sessions rewarding and challenging and I really do love seeing people leave at the end of the day or the session with that "I think I finally get it" look on their face.

In all that training one of the conversations that comes up consistently, centres around the difference between and Specifically, the difference between a free, hosted WordPress service and downloading a free copy of WordPress and hosting it yourself.

While at its core the software is the same and the look and feel of everything you do in the dashboard to manage your site will be the same, there are some critical differences you should be aware of if you're in the process of deciding which of these options is appropriate for you.

At its most basic the difference between the two is that is putting your site into a network of sites all running from, essentially, one WordPress instance whereas is taking your very own copy of WordPress and running it for yourself.


On the face of it is really attractive, not the least of reasons being the fact that it's free.  It's also really attractive because it's fully managed, you don't have to worry about things like behind-the-scenes security (of course, if your password is password1234 then you're on your own), updates and maintenance; take care of those things for you. Finally, the dashboard on is secured behind SSL, another useful security measure.

There are things that you have to trade for the free factor though, I'm afraid. Free is ad supported, so you'll have to live with ads unless you pay to have them removed. Your server space is limited to 3gb which isn't too bad if you're not using heaps of photos (or you're posting your photos via Flickr or some external site), but if you did want to add things like audio files you'll have to host them elsewhere, or upgrade your account as you can't host audio files on without a space upgrade.

If you want your own personal domain - such as - pointing people to your site you'll have to pay for domain mapping. Truthfully, it isn't expensive at $13.00USD per year, and if you buy that domain name from then that will cost you $5.00 per year, as well.

That said, there are a lot of additional features you can add to to make it better/smarter/more feature-rich such as space upgrades, VideoPress, custom CSS, ad removal, premium themes, and so on. Getting across what those features are, and their associated costs may help you decide. You can get more details about that here.

The biggest drawback of is that that you can't extend your site with plugins or much of the cooler functionality available for self-hosted sites.

You are also restricted from serving your own ads like Google AdWords or other ads from affiliate type services. It may be considered a downfall that you have to pay to upgrade features on whereas with self-managed, one-off annual hosting fees should cover you altogether (except for where the add-ons you're wanting to include may be premium ones).

Finally, there are types of code (like JavaScript and iFrames) that you can't paste into your site or widgets - it's a trade off against functionality to preserve security for you and other users.

This may be an issue if you're wanting to paste something like a funky Twitter widget, or sign up form from some other provider. Basically, with you're locked into using only those things that they deem safe for the whole network (and fair enough, they've a lot of people to look out for). - Self Hosted

If you want full control, self-hosted WordPress is the way to go.


When you set up an installation of self-hosted WordPress, you gain a whole measure of flexibility that you don't have with There is a huge library of plugins and themes - both free and premium - available with which you can extend and customize your site. You can do whatever you want with your WordPress install!

The con with full control is that it comes with full responsibility for maintenance and for security. Keeping things like plugins, WordPress core, and themes up-to-date will be up to you or your web developer.

You are allowed to customize your theme as much as you like without any additional costs to add that functionality, you can install plugins for e-commerce, membership, and any number of other things you'd like to make WordPress do.

However, if the plugins you use introduce security vulnerabilities it will also be up to you to fix up and clean up after any breaches that may occur. Finally, you'll also have to be responsible for keeping your site backed up. Whether that's using a plugin, or using the tools that your host offers (check this with them so you know what their backup plan for you is).

To make a self-hosted WordPress happen you'll have to buy a domain name and web hosting yourself as well as set things up yourself. There are articles and tutorials out there to make that easier, but do your research before you launch in. Cheap hosting comes at a cost, so find reputable hosts with good reviews and remember, you get what you pay for. More than a few people I know have paid for cheap hosting and needed to move from it in very short order because their hosting didn't keep up with the demands of their site.

So while with self-hosted WordPress you have a whole lot more of the world at your fingertips, you're introducing a level of complexity and responsibility to the process. For some, like me, that's the fun bit; if it sounds like a nightmare, well, again, maybe is your best bet.


The biggest pros for are that it's free, secure and managed for you and a great place to get started, with the flexibility to upgrade (for a price) as you need it. You can then move from .com to .org when you're comfortable getting into some of the finer, more technical aspects of website management. The biggest con is that there are restrictions on what you can and can't do.

The biggest pro for is the sheer extent of options you have to do whatever you wish with your site, the con being the learning curve and the responsibility that goes with that freedom.

Related Posts
  • Code
    Introduction to WordPress App ThemesApp theme 400
    With the increasing growth rate of WordPress powered websites, the need for WordPress themes is rising. Multi-purpose themes are becoming highly popular among website owners. Many existing themes are built mainly to address blog functionality. But with the growth of WordPress web application development, we are in need of specialized themes for different purposes. These themes are known as app themes. In this article, we going to familiarize with the concept of app themes and their usage in real world.Read More…
  • Code
    The Beginner's Guide to Selecting a WordPress ThemeBeginnersguide
    When you're first starting out with your site or blog, it's easy to rush into things because of the desire to get things up and running as quickly as possible. In some cases, that works fine, in others it's not always the best idea. And in this case, it's the latter.Read More…
  • Code
    A Guide to Providing Quality Customer SupportQuality customer support
    If you’ve ever released free or premium WordPress Themes or Plugins, you know that launching your new product is not the end of the process. In fact, it’s just the start, and raises a lot of questions: How do you provide support? How do you support customers after they’ve used your product? How do you manage email, social media and forum support easily? Should you support your free products, or just your premium ones? Read More…
  • Code
    Choosing the Right Plugin for Your Next WordPress ProjectPlugin icon 400
    Ever needed a plugin for your WordPress-based website? Of course! After all, that's how WordPress is extended, isn't it? If you're a beginner to WordPress, or even a power user, then you're likely familiar with the WordPress plugin repository, premium plugins, and so on. The thing is, there are so many plugins available that do many of the same things, it can be difficult to determine which is best suited for your particular needs. This raises the question: What do you do to find the perfect plugin for a particular need? In this post, we're going to see how to find the best plugin for exactly that.Read More…
  • Business
    The Top WordPress Plugins You Need for Your Authority Blog5 preview authority blog wordpress plugins
    In the last post we got your blog setup with a unique-looking design courtesy of the Canvas theme framework. But aesthetics are just one piece of the puzzle -- in reality, any successful blog needs to function well in order to succeed. Although WordPress has great functionality out the box, its true power lies in its extensibility, which is exactly what we're going to cover today. I'm going to take you through the top WordPress plugins you can use to elevate your authority site to another level. We're going to cover everything from backups, to security, to search engine optimization, to post promotion and more. This step-by-step guide will show you how to install and setup each of the WordPress plugins I consider to be must-haves for authority site owners. Enjoy!Read More…
  • Business
    App Training
    How to Set Up a Free Blog (A Blogging Beginner's Guide)Preview how to set up a free blog
    Blogging is a great way for freelancers and small business owners to market their services. Blogs are a lead magnet to pull in clients. The more blog posts, videos and images you have on your blog, the better your chances of potential clients coming across you when they're searching Google or browsing social media. Not every visitor to your blog will become a client - only a tiny percentage will. But the more visitors your blog gets, the more people will get in touch to ask about your services. In this article, I'll show you how to get started creating a blog for free, using the website But first, it's time to go back to basics. What is a blog?Read More…