WordPress.com vs. managed WordPress hosting

There are some well known “managed WordPress” platforms like Page.ly and WP Engine. And the reviews I’ve seen compare running a WordPress instance yourself vs. using one of these. But wordpress.com is another option, lying in between these two extremes. Here’s how it adds up, money-wise:

WordPress.com 6
Page.ly 24
WP Engine 29

The WordPress.com price includes the three essential upgrades: Domain Mapping, No Ads, and Custom Design. This last one includes Fonts, Colors, and Custom CSS. But it can get even cheaper: this blog (robb.weblaws.org) is just $3.58/month because I skipped the Custom Design upgrade. I’m happy with this theme as-is. As far as speed, security, and uptime, wordpress.com is on par with any of the more expensive services, IMO. But for $6/month (or $3.58!) you do give up a few things:

The List of Cannots and the Mitigating Factors

How important are these to your project?

  • Cannot use your own analytics such as Google Analytics, but WordPress.com provides its own analytics which delivers the essentials. The biggest problem I have with it is that I can no longer view my blog and Rails app analytics from within the same app.
  • Cannot use plugins, but the common feature sets are built-in, negating the need for plugins.
  • Cannot use custom or child themes, but many pre-tested themes are provided. This is important. Did you know that innocuous-looking themes can crash your site? Plus, access to the fonts, color scheme, and CSS provides a lot of flexibility: Font Upgrade Colors Upgrade CSS Upgrade
  • Cannot use Feedburner URLs, but we shouldn’t be using those anyways — no telling how long the service will stay around.

In my case, these weren’t showstoppers. I was cleaning house and moving two blogs, this one & blog.weblaws.org, off of my Linode server. (My Linode now only runs production Rails apps. It was a fantastic feeling to uninstall the PHP.) The biggest factor for me was the difference between a new $10 monthly expense vs. $50 or $60 for my two blogs.