Blogs are a great way to share news and opinions online. In the first article in our two-part series, we show you how to set one up and update it
Blogging is fast becoming a household word and one thing is certain: the internet is like a soapbox and many millions of people have stepped up to have their say via a blog – the word is a contraction of ‘web log’.
In most cases, this means making use of a ready-made blogging service that enables users to start posting articles more or less immediately.
However, while these services are quick to set up and simple to use, they can also be restrictive when it comes to customisation. For example, the selection of designs on offer may be limited and the web address for the blog may be something unwieldy, such as http://mypersonalblog.tumblr.com.
One way to overcome such restrictions is to build a ‘self-hosted’ blog. This means buying a website address (also called the domain name), such as www.computeractive.co.uk, paying for some storage space on the web and then using the combination to create a blog in your own mould.
While it might sound complicated, it’s actually very straightforward – and we’ll tell you everything you need to know in this first instalment of a two-part article on creating a self-hosted blog with free software.
Before you begin
There are two elements that must be in place before a self-hosted blog can be built. The first is to register the domain name, and the second is to arrange the hosting: that’s effectively rented storage space on a server computer that remains permanently connected to the web so your blog will always be accessible.
Though not a requirement, it makes sense to purchase both from the same company. Besides, many web-hosting firms include a web domain with the hosting package.
Options for your site
Though there are countless companies offering domain-name registration and hosting services, there isn’t a whole lot to distinguish different providers. However, there are a few things worth checking before signing up with one.
How long, for example, is the contract period? Web-domain registrations usually need to be renewed every two years, but some companies offer discounts on longer durations.
As well, check for an option to hide your postal address from being published in relation to the registration: in the UK, non-trading individuals (normal consumers, in other words) registering a domain name ending in .uk have the right to opt out of their address being added to something called the Whois database, which can be used by anyone to look up the details of .uk domains.
Also, make a note in your diary as a reminder of when the renewal is due. The company with which the domain was registered (known as the registrar) should send a reminder, but missing the date can be a complicated and expensive mistake – and could even result in the permanent loss of your domain name.
The website hosting – that’s the renting of storage space on an internet server that will store your blog – is where it gets a little more complicated. That’s because there are many different options.
Counter-intuitive though it may sound if you’re using a Windows PC, we recommend a Linux-based hosting package, because the blogging software we’ll be using – Wordpress – is designed with this in mind.
Note that choosing a Linux web-hosting package has nothing whatever to your PC setup, so there’s no need to worry. As well, ensure that the hosting package includes support for PHP version 5.2.4 and MySQL 5.0.15.
Again, don’t worry about what these actually do, just check that they’re present.
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