WordPress is a hugely popular content management system (CMS) because of the simplicity and flexibility it offers. Getting started with this platform can get a bit tricky when you have to choose between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. After all, the two seem almost identical.
To clear up the ambiguity surrounding this topic, we will address the similarities and differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. We’ll also go over the cost, upgrades, maintenance, and limitations of each solution. But before we begin, let’s briefly look at both options…
A Brief Overview of WordPress.com
WordPress.com is a complete website hosting and maintenance solution. Having your site hosted on this platform means no hassle on your end. It is as simple as signing up, choosing a blog name, and jumping into building your site. You don’t have to worry about hosting, security, spam, or updates since WordPress.com takes care of all this for you.
The standout feature on offer here is that it’s completely free until you want to avail additional perks. For instance, when you want your own domain name (www.yoursite.com, instead of www.yoursite.wordpress.com) or require more than 3GB of server storage, you will have to fork out a few bucks to get access to each upgrade.
A Brief Overview of Self-Hosted WordPress.org
If you’re looking for a self-hosted solution then you’ll have to head over to WordPress.org. From there you can download the core WordPress software and use it to create a website. However, with a WordPress License comes the responsibility of designing the site, getting the domain, finding a good hosting provider, and everything else that’s part of the package.
Downloading and using WordPress is free since it is open source software. Given the rise in popularity for WordPress, many hosts offer easy 5-minute installations for WordPress on your server space. Opting for WordPress.org gives you complete control over your site and puts you in charge of its hosting, security, management, and updates.
Free WordPress.com vs. Self-Hosted WordPress.org
To determine which one best fits your needs we’ll cover some of the pivotal factors of both solutions.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org Pricing
The price you will ultimately end up paying for your website depends on a number of factors. For this post, we’ll compare the three most fundamental factors:
- Domain registration.
- Hosting plan.
- Storage space.
- Domain Registration: WordPress.com does offer a completely free option. If you are happy for your site address to be yoursite.wordpress.com then it is free, but I would think very carefully about the long term impact of that…if you are successful then you are really going to want to have your own domain name. You can have a custom domain name on WordPress.com, but this means opting for one of their paid plans…
- Hosting Plan: As mentioned WordPress.com does have a completely free hosting plan that includes most of their excellent services. That said, while hosting is completely free, WordPress.com may display its own ads on your webpages. Their paid plans start at $2.99 and this provides you with a custom domain, removes the adds and provides some more advanced customization options.
- Storage Space: All users can start off with 3 GB of server space for their site on the free plan. When you run out, you’ll have to pay for more server space. You’ll be charged depending upon how much gigabytes of space you need. For instance, the Personal plan comes with 6GB of storage space, Premium plan offers 13GB, and you get unlimited space on the Business plan.
- Domain Registration: Domains can be purchased from domain registrars or from your hosting provider. Averaging around $10-15 a year, you can purchase a domain name complete with your choice of extension (.com, .org, .net, .biz, etc.) from a hosting provider that offers them. Some hosting providers offer one free domain registration when you sign up with them, but my advice is always to register your domain name separate from your hosting company. That way you are not locked into any given host. I like Hover.com for domain registration.
- Hosting Plan: When going for a self-managed setup, it’s important to opt for a hosting provider with a solid reputation in the market. Although the cost of hosting varies from one hosting provider to the next, it averages around $5 per month. We've undertaken a big performance comparison of the best shared hosting providers. Check out the results here.
- Storage Space: A basic hosting plan usually comes with around 50 GB of storage space which is plenty to get thing up and going. The cost of additional storage and processing power will depend on the host you opt for.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org Maintenance
Sooner or later your WordPress website is going to require some sort of maintenance. Here’s how much work you’ll need to put into it if you go with WordPress.com vs. WordPress.com.
Maintenance on WordPress.com
With WordPress.com there are no worries when it comes to maintenance. Your entire website’s maintenance is carried out by your host. This is incredibly helpful if you’re not particularly technically inclined or simply don’t have enough time to maintain your website.
Maintenance on WordPress.org
Self-hosted WordPress requires you to be in charge of all maintenance-related factors – from updating your themes, plugins and the WordPress core to keeping your site secure. While these tasks do not require a high level of technical expertise on the user’s part, you can always outsource the maintenance to a third-party service for a fee or sign up for a managed hosting plan.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org Limitations
There are a few limiting factors in both platforms. Making your decision just might be easier depending on how much control you require over your site’s core files, customizations, and database.
Limitations of WordPress.com
Free WordPress.com has a handful of limitations imposed by default. Since you don’t own the site, you cannot install premium plugins, run an online store, or display advertisements of your choice on your website. In addition to this, you’re also limited on server space and have no way of accessing your site’s core files.
One way to get around these restrictions is to pay for one of the paid plans which offer more flexibility. Or if you have the budget you could go VIP – WordPress.com offers a VIP platform which comes with a plethora of advanced features and functionality.
Limitations of WordPress.org
Your limitations when going for a self-hosted solution are going to be your own skills and the resources allocated by your host. With your own copy of WordPress you are free to harness the full potential of the platform. You can build a blog, an ecommerce store, a multi-site network – the sky's the limit.
In short, if you’re willing to put in some time and effort into building your site then self-hosted WordPress can offer you much more.
Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org are great options. The best solution for you depends entirely on your requirements, your level of technical expertise, and how much time you can invest in site maintenance.
If you aren’t tech savvy, want to run a simple blog, or wish for your hosting provider to manage your entire site then the free version of WordPress.com, or one of their paid plans might be right for you. VIP is also ideal for large-scale organizations that wish to outsource their website’s management. CNN and NBC Sports are two examples of large corporations that utilize WordPress.com.
On the other hand, if you want to avail all the functionality that the open source WordPress software has to offer, implement non-standard features and functionality, or set up a WordPress powered e-commerce store then self-hosted is the way to go. Large organizations that have their own web management teams often prefer to opt for leveraging the full CMS capability.
When it comes down to WordPress.com vs WordPress.org, which one do you prefer? Let us know in the comments section below!