Ultimate Guide To WordPress Self Hosting For Beginners

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Though WordPress.com offers hosted version of WordPress  but many bloggers like to have it hosted on their own servers. Hosting your WordPress site on WordPress.com is a breeze but if you want to go for self hosting of WordPress there are many factors that you’d like to consider. Here we list all such factors in sufficient detail so that a beginner is able to self-host his WordPress site on his own server.Wordpress Self Hosting

WordPress Self Hosting generally involves six steps:

  1. Buying the domain name for your WordPress site or blog.
  2. Buying a hosting account on a server to host your WordPress site
  3. Setting up the File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
  4. Setting up the MYSQL database for your WordPress install
  5. Downloading WordPress files, folders and transferring it to server
  6. Installing and configuring WordPress site

Though this post is quite lengthy, but it is worth reading because during the course of  this post each step will be explained in detail with all the complexities involved and things to take care while executing the perfect install.

1. Buying the domain name

 The first step is to decide on a domain name, checking the availability of that domain name and buying that domain name from the domain registrars. Here are some facts which will make understanding and deciding on a domain name easier for you.

  • A domain name is the unique Web address that you type in a Web browser’s address bar to visit a Web site. Some examples of domain names are Business.com, Alexa.com, WordPress.org, Blogger.com etc.
  • Domain name have various extensions like .com, .net, .org, .edu, .me, .mobi and various country specific extensions. .com is the most popular of them; decide on which extension you want for your domain.
  • To check whether a domain is available or not you’ve to go to a website like Who.is or your domain registrar’s site like godaddy.com, register.com, networksolutions.com etc. and check for its availability. Just enter the domain name and extension and search for availability. If the domain is available go ahead and buy it from your domain registrar. If it is not available, either choose another domain or try to buy it from the existing domain owner. This might cost you more than the standard price of domain.
  • If your domain is available and want to avoid cyber squatting you can go for multiple domain extensions like .com, .org, .net, and countries in which you have plans to expand; so that you are able to secure your brand across various top level domain extensions and geographical localities.
  • The cost of a domain can be anywhere between 10$ to 40$ and upwards depending on the extension and availability. There are various other services that come with domain registration like, business registration, domain privacy, domain security etc. each one of these services cost extra and it is entirely upon your discretion on which one to buy. As a beginner we would suggest that you go for a basic domain name, save costs and add other services as you gain more information about your domains.
  • One more thing to understand about domains is that you don’t own them. They are rented for the period you buy them, like 1 year, 2 years or 10 years for that matter. After the end of this period the domains have to be renewed at the cost prevailing at that time.  For example if you have bought a domain ‘yourdomain.com’ for 1 year, you’ll have to renew it after 1 year at the price applicable at that time.
  • Domain registrars are certified and approved by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Following are some of the popular domain registrars, because of the wide array of services they provide and popularity among the customers. Godaddy.com, networksolutions.com, register.com etc.

2. Buying the hosting space on a server

This is the second step to go for after you’ve bought a domain name. Buying space on a server essentially means that you’re buying some things for a hosting company to place your website and run it from there. Here are facts which will explain the process in more detail:

  • Many domain name providers also provide hosting service so it is better to go for a hosting service which also has good reputation in providing hosting services.
  • Web hosting comes at a price which depends upon what kind of services you want from the hosting provider a beginner account can start for as less as 3$ per month and run into 100’s of dollars per month depending on the bandwidth and hosting space required by your WordPress site. Some good hosts are Bluehost, Hostgator, Dreamhost, Godaddy etc.
  • To host WordPress on a server you’ll need a hosting provider which has Linux hosting account and gives you the entire privileges to host WordPress.  Make sure that the PHP, MYSQL versions are in confirmation of the requirements of WordPress. WordPress.org lists the latest versions of PHP and MYSQL requirements on its website, for WordPress to function properly.
  • If you are buying hosting space from your domain provider there is generally no need to change the Domain Name Servers, but in case you are buying hosting from one provider and domain name from another, you’ll need to point your domain to hosting provider. This can be easily done by changing the DNS information on domain control panel to the DNS values provided by your hosting provider. If you face any difficulties ask your hosting and domain providers, they would be more than happy to help.
  • One hiccup that you’ll encounter from most hosting providers is that as WordPress is a third party application they are reluctant to offer support related to WordPress. But WordPress has a popular and thriving community and you can easily get support on any WordPress related query.
  • Many WordPress hosting service providers also keep a dedicated team to help users out of technical and WordPress related issues. These might come at some price but if you are a beginner you can go for it depending on your budget.
  • The key to buying a hosting space is first estimating how much space you’ll need, what kind of traffic you are expecting for your site and how much control do you want on your hosting account. The space, bandwidth and type of hosting will determine the cost. If you are just starting out go for the cheapest one and upgrade as you grow.
  • Hosting and domain name providers both send regular messages and service information for your account; these can be like you’ve exceeded your allocated space or bandwidth or domain expiry date notice. Do keep a track of these and contact the respective provider as you get any such notice.
  • Expect the following from your hosting provider: The allocated disk space, bandwidth (data transfer both incoming and outgoing), mechanism to transfer files, statistics on your hosting data usage, PHP with latest versions and a latest version of MYSQL server.
  • Hosting is a very critical component of any web business so make sure that you get an excellent customer service from your hosting provider. Helpline number, 24×7 chat, comprehensive support ticket system maximum of 48 hours of response time are some things to go for.

3. Setting up the File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

Many hosting providers give the facility of one-click-installers for popular software like WordPress but sooner or later you’ll need a program to transfer files from your local computer to your server. This is done by using File Transfer Protocol (FTP). This section will deal with setting up FTP and configuring your MYSQL Database. The following points will be very helpful for this purpose.

  • Some hosting providers have their own browser based file transfer system and there are standalone software like Filezilla, CuteFTP etc which are very popular for FTP purpose.
  • These softwares can be downloaded from their respective websites.  Most of them are Free and quite trustworthy too.
  • The FTP details like FTP hostname, Username, Password and FTP port will be given to you by the hosting provider after the buying process is completed.
  • To connect your local computer to server you’ll have to insert the above details into the FTP program you’ve downloaded and click on the connect button. After some messages on the screen the FTP program will connect to the server and you are all set for transferring files from your computer to the server.
  • The left part of the FTP program indicates the files on your local computer and the right part of your server. If everything goes ok you’ll be able to see your home folder on server on the right and local files on the left side of the screen. If things are not going smooth check your FTP credentials, have you entered them correctly? If the problem still persists contact your hosting provider regarding the FTP and home folder on your server.cPanel for Hostgator

4. Setting up the MYSQL database

MYSQL server is a open source database and WordPress uses it to store the data and other meta information. Setting up the MYSQL database correctly is vital to successful running of WordPress. These steps will tell you how to set up MYSQL database successfully:

  • Hosting providers give you an control panel to accomplish various tasks like creating databases, changing name servers, creating users, creating other accounts, installing softwares etc. Some of the common control panels are cPanel, Plesk , NetAdmin etc. We’ll be using cPanel to create database for our WordPress install. The process is almost same with other control panels.
  • Log in to the administration interface with the username and password assigned by your hosting provider and locate the MYSQL database administration section in the cPanel.
  • Click on the MYSQL database icon, choose a database name and password for your WordPress MYSQL connection. Make sure that the password is strong enough. Use two special characters and a Capital letter in your password and note the database name and password down at somewhere safe place. Create the database by clicking on the create database button.
  • Go back to the main administration panel and create a new user with a password. Now you have to add the user you just created to the database section.  By selecting the user from the user drop down and the new database a menu appears which allows you to assign privileges to the user for the database.
  • Assign all privileges to this user because you being the owner of the database must have full control over the database. Apply the changes you just made. A confirmation message will appear that the changes have been made and the user with sufficient privileges has been added to the database.

5. Downloading WordPress and transferring it to server

Downloading the latest version of the most popular blogging platform WordPress is a cakewalk.

  • Just go to http://wordpress.org/download and choose the type of file you want to install.
  • WordPress gives you two files one is zip file and other tar.gz file.
  • Download the file to your local computer and unzip with a program like winzip or winrar.
  • Establish a FTP connection with your server by using the FTP software and go to the directory on your local server where you had unzipped the file. Choose a location on the server where you want to transfer the files. It could be the root of your domain like http://yourdomain.com or some folder like http://yourdomain.com/blog it is up to you to decide where you want to install WordPress.
  • Click on the WordPress folder on the local computer, select all the files in the directory then drag and drop on the right window which is the server folder where you want to install WordPress.
  • A point to keep in mind while transferring files from local computer to remote server is the type of transfer; whether is it binary transfer or ASCII. Most FTP programs can autodetect the mode of transfer but it is good to know that Binary transfer mode is how images (such as .jpg, .gif, .bmp, and .png files) are transferred via FTP.  ASCII transfer mode is for everything else (text files, PHP files, JavaScript, and so on).
  • Assign the right permissions to the directories and files so that WordPress can write the necessary information. This is especially important for the configuration file. Since wordpress has to write the database and other information on the configuration file. As a general rule, PHP files need to have a permission of 666, whereas file folders need a permission of 755. You can easily change the permission of any file or folder by the FTP program itself. Just right click on the file or folder and change the permissions. If it is a folder you can apply the permissions recursively to all the files and folders inside that folder.

6. Installing and configuring WordPress

Before installing and configuring WordPress make sure that you’ve done the following correctly.

  • Purchased the domain, Obtained a hosting , Configured the hosting account, got the FTP credentials, Downloaded a FTP program, Created a MYSQL connection, Downloaded the latest version of WordPress and uploaded all the files in the WordPress directory to the location on the server where you want to install it. This is a lot of stuff but it is essential.
  • Go to http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin/install.php if you want to install in the root of your domain or go to http://yourdomain.com/yourfolder/wp-admin/install.php to run the install script.
  • Click the create a configuration file button and provide the necessary information on the next page.  This information is about the database name, username password, host where the database is located (which is generally localhost), and the prefix you want to add to the database tables. WordPress uses wp_ by default but you can change it to anything else or keep it that way itself.
  • Click the Submit button. You see a message that says, All right, sparky! You’ve made it through this part of the installation. WordPress can now communicate with your database. If you’re ready, time now to run the install!Click the Run the Install button. That’s it, WordPress installer will do the rest.
  • Now you can choose the blog title, administrator password, timezone, permalinks and other settings that you’ve listed for your site. And you are ready with your WordPress install.

WordPress is one of the most user friendly CMS out there with a fast growing community and third party service providers contributing with thousands of plugins and themes to enhance the functionality and looks of this magnificent platform. It’s famous for the ‘Five minute install’ and looks like you’ve mastered the art of installing WordPress on a server.

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