All the bloody basics in 3 non-intimidating posts
If you’ve been blogging on a free platform for a while you must have heard, time and again, many “experts” and “not-so-experts” telling you you need to self-host. In my previous post we broke down some essential info you need to be aware of and I also gave you a run-down list of major pros & cons on self versus free hosting.
So with that tip out of the way, here’s my two cents on the rest of the mountain…
If you’re just setting up your site, all you need to do is pick up a plan that best suits your needs with a well-known company, and you can get your blog up and running, following a tutorial, in a jiffy. Same thing is true if you’re migrating from a subdomain address or if you’ve decided on a new web-address altogether. But…
If you’re already paying for a custom domain name within a free blogging platform there are a couple of things you need to be aware of. Namely one: Domain Name Server (DNS) data propagation takes time.
What happened to me was nothing major at all, actually it was a pretty common glitch. My issue was resolved within a couple of hours but it played an immense role in how (and why!) I chose the hosting company that I did. Let me explain further:
I had initially registered with a different hosting company than the one I’m using now. I’m using screenshots provided by my current host (SiteGround) for demonstration purposes, but hosting plans are very similar and registration steps are pretty common in all platforms. Step.1 is “Choose Plan”. The start-up package is usually a great choice for a blog.
Step 2. is “Choose Domain”. When you register a “New Domain” you type in the name of your choice between the www. and .com fields (you can tweak the .com extension into any country-specific or other popular extension you like, but experts say .com is the wisest route to follow) and hit “proceed”.
If the name you’ve chosen is already taken you will get a message saying something like this: “The domain name you have chosen is not available. Please choose a domain from the suggestions below”… If your name of choice is quite unique, congratulations, moving on to step 3.
You will be asked to provide your client and payment information (if you have not already signed up for an account at the beginning), you will review your hosting plan info, and complete the purchase. You will then be redirected to your Customer Area (you may need to re-log in using the username & password you’ve recently provided). Follow any step-by-step tutorial, or walk-through you can find on YouTube (like this great one) to complete the process. Go on My Account, then on to cPanel. From cPanel, download and install your blogging platform of choice (like WordPress or Joomla) on your domain name. Once the process is complete you’ll get a username, password, and login url. Copy and save your username & password. Click on the login url to be taken to your blogging platform’s log-in page. Enter the info you just saved, and well… log in! Congrats, you’re on your dashboard and you can start building your blog!
But let me back-track a bit:
See above where it says “I already have a Domain”? If you’re migrating from a free blogging/hosting platform and you’re already paying for a custom domain name within it, you’re going to need to click on that instead of registering for a new one. The next of the steps remain the same. But… oh, but –as I said before DNS data propagation takes time. And you just changed your Domain Name Servers, but kept the same address! To give you a silly analogy, you moved house, stayed on the same street but you now have a different street number. Wouldn’t you bet that many friends and acquaintances, and even service companies would mix up your old & new addresses?!
So the glitch in my case was, that even though I was using my new username & password to log into WordPress.org where I should be able to see my new dashboard, I was being redirected to the old one instead! Again and again, attempt after attempt my WordPress.com dashboard kept popping up! I tried to troubleshoot by researching online. Tutorials said you need to go onto WordPress.com settings and restore your old subdomain name, then set that old blog on “private” instead of “public”. Then, after signing up with your new host, go back to WordPress.com settings and change the name servers on your –already– registered domain (all info being available in your host Customer Area, under My Account). But these suggestions were all about helping others find your new website instead of accidentally bumping onto your old one. There was no mention, anywhere, of the problem that I was encountering. I also made sure I deleted any old blog bookmarks I had on my browser(s) and then cleared all browsing history, including cookies/cache. Still, nothing.
I logged into my hosting panel again and asked to live-chat with tech support. I had to wait for about 20 minutes but I didn’t mind that. Said host is very popular and they support hundreds of thousands of clients 24/7 all over the globe. In fact, given how big they are, I think an average 15-20 minutes on hold is really ok. When the tech came up he was patient while I explained everything in full detail. And then right away he proposed something that was, I guess, a great solution but left me a bit stunned… He said, “you can pay us and we will fix this”. Period. Literally. That was it! No questions asked, no suggestions or hint that we could try to troubleshoot otherwise, not a mere attempt to maybe explain to me what could be causing the problem, not even the slightest implication along the lines of “listen rookie, this is not up your alley, let pros handle it”. I mean, he could have sold this to me so much better, right? I typed in “Ok, thank you. I will have to think about it” but right then and there something compelled me to try another host. I sent an email and cancelled their service (and I have to say I was refunded almost immediately). Then, I singed-up with SiteGround. Sure enough the same thing happened with them too. After I deleted everything and cleared up my computer to the core, I set up my account and registered, and repeated all the steps involved. And when the time came to log into my WordPress.org dashboard the dreaded WordPress.com one popped up again.
Well, hello SiteGround support! Tech was with me on live chat in under 10 minutes. She said I had done everything by the book and had already troubleshot greatly on my own (she did give me one more tip that I will share with you in my next post). Then she took the time to explain to me what I have already shared above. The servers need time before they start propagating new data properly and it can take up to 48 hours. But, she said, in the meantime, let me give you a temporary link that you can use to successfully log into your dashboard and start working on your site if you wish to. Boom! Clicked, logged in, dunzo! Ehm, SiteGround, I love you!
From then on they have been wonderful, in resolving whatever issues I have had (all of which involved me messing up my blog). Of course they have paid services to help you set up and transfer all your content from your previous site, if you choose to! I have experienced no downtime at all within a year (except for scheduled, minor intervals, during maintenance, usually well into the late night hours). Their loading speed is amazing and they have top-notch security features. Their prices are awesome and they even generated a custom PayPal link for me, back in the day, to help me complete payment when I couldn’t use my Greek credit card online due to capital controls. Phone support picks up immediately, live-chat can resolve an issue within 5 minutes, the first reply to an open ticket comes within 8 minutes (the average industry first reply comes in nearly 8 hours and only 2 companies are below 1 hour). Need I say more? Ok, they called me back, at home (in Greece, from The Netherlands) after the 48-hour-data-propagation-frame to make sure my site was up and running properly and that I had had no other issues. I was, and still am, like… seriously?
SiteGround has three plans and you can currently sign up for any of them with a great discount. In fact, on March 16th they’re launching new uniform discounts across all shared plans. This will lead to even better prices for the GrowBig and GoGeek packages (60% discount for all the prices in USD and GBP and 50% for EUR and AUD while the lead price for the StartUp plan will remain unchanged – 3.95 USD/mo, 3.95 EUR/mo and 2.75 GBP/mo).
- The StartUp plan is perfect for people with one website that are just starting out
- The GrowBig plan is a great value for money offer, including the option for multiple websites and the SuperCacher feature that greatly improves a WordPress and Joomla website speed
- The GoGeek plan is perfect for people with e-commerce and larger sites, or more geeky development needs like staging and GIT integration
I can honestly rave about them all day long. I highly recommend them, can you tell? Make sure you hop on to the 3rd and final post of this small blogging series, where I’m giving you one more run-down list with my final tips and I’m also answering some of the most common questions we all itch to ask, when migrating sites, but hesitate to!