In the early days of the Internet, hosting your own website was reserved for those in the know, but over time it's become easy for anyone to build and host a website. With it though, comes that initial question. Do you use a hosted service or roll your own solution?
Over the years I tried lots of different hosted services. When I first started blogging a few years ago, I jumped from Tumblr to Posterous to Github Pages and then finally settled on Octopress. In recent weeks I've once again been assessing if Octopress is sufficient for my needs. It's got me thinking about the decision to use a hosted service like Wordpress or to use my own version of Octopress that has served me well over the last year.
The Hosted Service
The benefits of using a hosted service are immediately clear. Sign up and your done. As soon as that form is submitted you're ready to go. It's hard not to argue with this instant benefit. For most people this is the only way. Maybe they're not willing to delve into servers and software or perhaps it's a time issue.
For a smaller group of people though, they have the knowledge to roll their own solution, so what makes them chose a service?
I choose services based on a number of factors but mostly it's the benefit I can get from being able to use them on a day to day basis.
Services like Todoist and Trello take the pain out of my task and project management by allowing me to move between devices without having to synchronise data between them. There's a number of other minor benefits but the big benefits is accessibility.
I don't run my own servers as I know it would take up too much of my time to learn how to configure these correctly and ensure they are secure and running smoothly so I look towards services like Cloud 66 and Heroku to ensure my clients sites run without any major impact.
These are just a couple of examples of how hosted services are beneficial but there are drawbacks.
One of the big issues I have with hosted services is my ability to get my data in and out of that service. It's probably the one single feature of any hosted service that ultimately makea me sign up or not. As a hosted service I respect that my data must be located elsewhere for that service to be effective, but I must be able to import my data and extract it in a simple way. This is still a issue with some services, but it is getting better. Sadly though, the services themselves decide on the format of the data and with so many out there, getting them to all agree on the one format is never going to happen.
The Custom Solution
The benefit of a custom solution is just that. It's your own solution.
Hosted services offer a product or service pre-boxed and used by hundreds of people, but they can only be made to fit your needs to a certain point. What usually happens then is you have a service that fits your needs most of the time, just not all of the time.
This is where custom solutions excel. They are solutions tailored specificically to your own requirements. The drawback though is that such solutions need maintanance, and in my experience, a little more effort to ensure they run smoothly.
So what about my blog then? Well as nice as a hosted service would be, I do prefer to have that element of control over how it looks and what it does. Yes, I might have to jump through a few more hoops to publish content, but it gives me more control in that process. I think I'll be staying with the custom solution for the moment.