As you probably noticed over the last few days, the look of Right the Writer has changed. I’m now spending $43 a year for a couple of premium upgrades (customized CSS and domain mapping). Domain mapping was something I started doing last year. Yes, I know the trick for not having to pay for that, but when people go to the rightthewriter.com domain, I want them to have a seamless and comfortable experience of staying there. I was okay with the theme not being as customizable as I wanted it until I discovered that I could jazz it up with some fonts from Typekit. I also didn’t like the size or formatting of some elements in the theme I recently switched to.  I could have used inline CSS to take care of that, but it would have meant doing it for every post and even then I would have only been able to control the post itself and not anything else.

Why spend the money when I can just install WordPress on my own hosting account somewhere else and have everything I need? That’s just it. I don’t.

Sure, I’m limited in what I can do on a hosted WordPress.com blog because I can’t install any plugins and if I want to do more than a basic blog, I have to pay for the features I want. Things I don’t have to pay for, and what means a lot to me, are security and a very dynamic community. WordPress.com has a dedicated tag page where I can see what people are “categorizing” their content as. Freshly Pressed has the posts which have grabbed the attention of the WordPress editors. Then there is the Publicize feature, which allows me to post to my social networks with little fuss. I have yet to see a plugin that can quite match that functionality. There are one or two that come close, but they cost money.

Security comes in three forms. First, I’m always running the latest version of WordPress. Second, WordPress.com has to be protected from spammers and hackers because if it wasn’t, Automattic, the company behind the software, would lose some major credibility and money, given the fact that they support such large clients as Time and CNN. Third, backups are automatic and don’t have to be thought about.

With a self-hosted site, there is more freedom, but also more responsibility. I am responsible for making sure that all the plugins and the core software remain up to date. Support is community-based or part of the paid package of whatever premium plugin I might buy. I’m lucky I’m friends with the president of my web hosting company or I’d face the harsh reality of the fact that most web hosts don’t offer support for the software since they classify it as a 3rd party creation that doesn’t directly affect their operations. Hosts who make hosting WordPress sites their business will have different support options, but I’ve never used one, so I can’t speak to what they can and will do. I don’t even want to think about what happens if a self-hosted site gets hacked or overloaded from becoming too popular or having a script or query go rogue.  Trust me, it’s not pretty.

I like running my own WordPress sites because I can dig into the code and formatting to make a site do what I need it to do. More customization I do, though, the bigger risk I run of incompatibility issues or things breaking when a new upgrade comes out. Of course, I like to go the plugin route when I can.  However, I’ve seen a change over the years where WordPress is becoming more like Joomla. The core might be free, but all the good functionality is being shifted to premium themes and functions. The thing I really like about running my own sites is the multi-site feature . Once I complete the project I’m working on, I will be running at least four sites, if not more, on separate domains from one install. Will this site be one of them? No. I like what I’ve established here.

WordPress has a detailed comparison between hosted and self-hosted blogs, but I’d like to hear from others about their experience. Where do you host your WordPress blog and why? Also, what is the craziest and most robust thing you have every done with the Worpdress platform? Leave me a note in the comments.