Moving to a self-hosted WordPress install

Motivated by the price of running a Droplet on digitalocean.com I started looking into what it would take to move from my WordPress.com-hosted version of this blog. Here are some thoughts that might be of value if you think you want to try this yourself.

The Cost part 1: Money

This was a big factor. I had just paid $99 for a year of WordPress.com premium to remove ads, etc. The problem for someone like me is that I like to have as much control as possible over my environment. Part of the reason for paying for premium was control: removing ads, being able to monkey with CSS, etc. I started thinking though that I could get even more control by moving to a self-hosted version of WordPress.

I have used Digital Ocean in the past and the service is fantastic. A 512MB VPS gives me more space and full control for only $5 a month. For $40 less a year I would have full control of my blog for significantly cheaper.

The Cost part 2: Time

Let me say right now that if you don’t like getting your hands dirty don’t bother trying this. The cost savings will not be worth it. In order to get WordPress running effectively on a 512MB Droplet certain things needed to be done and it was a lot of work. Thanks to Ryan Frankel getting a performant WordPress instance running in 512MB is easily attainable, just with some work involved.

Maintenance

WordPress.com is essentially maintenance-free. A VPS running self-hosted WordPress is not. Aside from doing setup you have to worry about backups, firewalls, and a host of other system administration tasks. This is not for the faint-of-heart. If you don’t want to bother with this stuff and want to use WordPress than WordPress.com premium is worth every penny.

Scaling

When Varnish is acting as a caching proxy to Apache you will get a significant number of simultaneous users that can hit the site. In Ryan’s testing he was able to easily get 200 users hitting the site at the same time with little impact. It took 800 before he ran out of CPU. For a small blog this is easily enough. I suspect even for a mid-sized blog it would be enough. For a large site you won’t be worrying about being cheap anyhow (or reading this article) and might be choosing WordPress.com hosting because that is what it’s designed for.

Final Thoughts

I knew what I was getting into doing this project and so far it has been worth it. The WordPress side is pretty much maintenance-free. The system side is not but I’m OK with that. I like getting my hands dirty with system administration tasks so the extra time spent is worth it to me. I now have a very performant, very cheap, very tinker-able blog setup.

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