[By Nic Lindh on Wednesday, 10 August 2011]
It used to be, publishing your content on the Web was technically challenging. If you weren’t a pretty hardcore nerd, you needed one to help you out, and you needed to be willing to cope with a lot of tsuris.
These days, it’s easy. Most Web hosts offer one-click installs that perform the twiddly bits of installing blog software like WordPress and then WordPress allows you to do almost anything you need from inside your Web browser. Easy-peasy, right?
The problem is the hackers, scammers, and general scumbags who haunt the Internet. As soon as you hoist a website, it becomes a target for miscreants. Even blogs nobody reads are attack targets. Loathsome people from all over the world want to take over your site and use it for link farming, spamming, spreading malware, and Lord knows what else. The solution is the same as with any software: You have to keep updating it as patches come out and keep an eye on your logs for suspicious activity.
Which very few people do.
So if you want to publish on the Internet, you need to ask yourself: Do I really want to take on the responsibility of updating my software myself? Do I really want to have to keep looking over my shoulder for hoodlums?
This is a lot like when your child wants a puppy and swears he’ll take it for walks every day! I swear! Think about it. Are you really going to be spending the time to apply patches and stay informed of security issues? If not, you paint a big fat target on your back for hackers and their ilk. It really, really sucks when you lose content you’ve sweated over because some tool wants to share the joys of his V1AGRA shop with the world.
If the answer is no—as it is for most people if they’re honest—you should not get a Web hosting account. Just don’t. Sooner or later, pain will find you.
Pain like getting an email from a reader that your site is just showing a blank page all of a sudden. Pain like installing a really cool plugin that will integrate your social-media-brand-awareness-seo and finding you can no longer log in to enter content on your site. Pain that will take many hours of tech support calls to sort out.
Instead, use one of the fire-and-forget services that have sprung up all over the Web. WordPress, Tumblr, SquareSpace et al provide built-in platoons of nerds who get paid to worry about all the geeky stuff. They update the software whenever exploits are found. They back up your data. They worry about the hackers. You only worry about creating content—the reason you wanted a site in the first place.
As to which one of the services is right for you, that’s a question only you can answer. Check them all out. Kick the tires. Do some googling.
Granted, you lose some flexibility going with a hosted system, but chances are if you’re the kind of person who gets sweaty palms at the thought of updating your content management system, you don’t need the flexibility anyway. Think of it as buying a Hummer just on the off-chance you’ll need to go off-road to take on an invasion of crazed Jihadists. You know what? It’s not going to happen. And if it did happen, you’d have forgotten to fill the tank anyway, so the Hummer wouldn’t help. But, to stretch the analogy past breaking, one of the many beautiful things about the Internet is that if you buy a Prius and decide, dammit, the Jihadists showed up and you do need the Hummer, you are not SOL—moving Web hosts and taking your data with you is a slightly annoying but completely doable exercise (albeit one which will involve a nerd or at least some calls to tech support. Nevertheless, doable). All of a sudden, there you are in your Hummer, ready to take on the world.
So if you have an urge to publish your content on the Web, go with a hosted solution that will allow you to get your content out there without worrying about the technical stuff. At some point you may decide to go with a more flexible solution. In that case, you can take your content with you. In the meantime, you’ve focused on telling your story to the world instead of spending late nights fighting technology.