This article is part of my series on how I set up my website and blog.


This article focuses on why I went with the self-host option instead of a hosting service, specifically ghost.org.  As I already chose the ghost blogging platform, the question became whether to leverage ghost.org's hosting options, or to use their open source solution deployed to my own server.

I previously discussed in detail why I decided to go with self-hosting, in general.  But would going with ghost.org's hosting have worked out as well?

The most overriding reason to not go with self-hosting is to avoid all of the technical back-end work that goes with running your own web server.  The server that delivered this article to you is 100% supported and managed by me and me alone.  If I had a large website, or a commercial website, likely I would be paying a separate party to manage this site, or be driven by necessity to seek a hosting service.  Still, as it stands today, I and I alone have to address all facets of keeping this site operational.  If paulstephenjournal.com goes down, it's all on me to get it back up.  The certificates, web server configurations, server maintenance, domain registrations, integrations to mail and Zapier, and every program and process running to make my website and blog work, are squarely my responsibility.

If you do not wish to be involved with any of the above, then likely a hosted solution is your way to go for your own website and/or blog.  Via that route, your focus would be exclusively on the content you create and publish.  And outside of possible custom header and footer code injections, all of the technical management of your website falls to the hosting service provider.

For me, I wanted to go the "all in" route and set up everything from the ground up.  I allocated the server from Digital Ocean.  I registered the domain name.  I performed the installations and customizations to my open source ghost install.  It was a great learning experience, and offered a sense of accomplish.  For here stands, or sits, or simply exists, my own private corner of the Internet, under my complete control, to do with as I please.  I choose to make this my blog, and I also now have the knowledge and understanding to build other sites, or to branch out in some fashion, if I so desire in the future.

None of the "power" options would have been available to me if I did not self host.  And among such power options are the ability to customize your website.  I have tweaked the theme templates that my ghost install uses, adding various minor adjustments to every page, at the HTML level.  This degree of customization would not be possible with a hosting service, because you could not have access to the back-end server and file systems.  Your ability to customize your theme would rest with what is provided in the ghost theme itself.

As a caveat, it is possible to offline modify a theme and then repackage it to your hosted ghost.org website.  However, this is more suited to a production arrangement where a developer has a true test environment to modify the theme before "promoting" the theme updates to the production website.  For me, I only have my one website, not even a local dev system.  I felt this simply too much work for my tiny blog.

Self-hosting also offered me the opportunity to implement my own comments system, residing on the same server.  I use Commento, another open source solution, and it runs side-by-side on my web server with ghost.  Again, this arrange would not be doable if I chose a hosting option with ghost.org.  I would either have to create a separate Commento server, or leverage a hosting service for comments, like Disqus, which I absolutely did not want to do, as that would have injected privacy issues and ads to my site that I would have no control over.  With self-hosted Commento, I am fully in control of the system and data, the use of which is dictated by my privacy policy.

There is also the cost angle to the decision to self host, but I plan to cover all cost-related decisions in a separate article.


What it truly comes down to is that I enjoy the tinkering, the building, the sense of accomplish that everything on this blog was assembled and made reality by me.  As circumstances and priorities change in my life, it is possible I could migrate later to a hosting service.  But for now and the foreseeable time to come, I plan to take every advantage to maximize my leverage and ongoing learning of my self-hosted blog.