Moving your site to paid hosting, and a more secure platform, (like WordPress) might be something you’ve considered from time to time.
There’s news floating around lately about Google deleting ‘spam blogs’ from Blogger, part of their ongoing campaign to clean up the Internet. It started about 2009 with the FTC giving them a hard time about deceptive advertising and has passed through phases like shutting down YouTube accounts and sending tens of thousands of affiliate marketers on AdWords into oblivion, myself included. (And, like many others, I wasn’t doing anything wrong!)
They’re still working on banning ‘spam blogs’ except their robots aren’t perfect and some legit writers are getting wiped out as well with no easy way to contact Google and say, Hey, people, do you mind? Marian Pierre-Louis wrote of one genealogy blogger coming under the gun.
Here’s the obvious. If you use free services to build websites, blogs, spreadsheets, social networks, polls or full-on businesses there’s no guarantee. They can switch gears at any moment and pay you no mind at all. You’re collateral damage and, as in war, a sad statistic.
First of all, you should be making a regular backup of any content you put online unless you already have copies on your computer so if it disappears from the cloud suddenly you won’t care. Look around in the Admin area of whatever it is for the backup option. If it’s not possible to protect your work and you do care, don’t use that service.
Blogger, platform of choice for many genealogists, does have backup options for your posts, comments, templates and widgets. You should be making backups regularly and you should be able to reinstate your content if there’s a technical problem. If Google has decided to shut you down, however erroneously, you won’t have that option unless you can convince them otherwise. You have to be able to find them first.
I understand Blogger is free to use so that makes it attractive for people who are online for strictly recreational purposes and it’s relatively simple to put something together there. And I’m not saying they want to but they do have the power to make your whole Google life go poof! anytime they want to. And they’re not known to communicate fairly about this kind of thing. They decide they’re moving in some other direction and if you’re in the way you get very-unsentimentally toasted.
Just to let you know, WordPress (both free and self-hosted versions) has an import option for various other platforms, including Blogger. You can import your posts and comments from your Blogger site and carry on.
Self-hosted WordPress has gotten very user-friendly over its years of development. In fact, in the latest update they’ve added a section for WordPress newbies, a checklist to take you through the setup process.
If you want control of your blog, i.e. barring the demise of the Internet altogether, you need three things; a domain name, web hosting and a WordPress installation.
I own the domain name of jgen.ws for about $15/year. You can buy names from GoDaddy or Namecheap. If you’re familywhatchamacallit.blogspot.com you can probably buy familywhatchamacallit.com or whatever extension you want. GoDaddy is very aggressive with their checkout process so try to stick to just buying a name and not get distracted by every other roadside stand along the way.
Then you sign up for a hosting account, your very own slice of the sky. I use Hostgator. That costs me about $120/year. DreamHost is also reputed to be good. They hook your name up with your hosting account and there you are.
So, that’s a total of about $12/month for my own web real estate.
After that it takes about 2 minutes to install WordPress (which is free) through the control panel in your web hosting account. If you just can’t figure it out, Hostgator will help you. Then you can import (Tools/Import) your content from Blogger. It will ask you to install a plugin and give it access.
There are default themes included and many other free ones so you don’t have to worry about that part unless you want more in which case there are a lot of premium themes for sale. Like Thesis used for this site, (with all the components backup-able) Solostream, WooThemes and StudioPress to name a few.
The rest is your private Admin area where you carry on however you please with plugins and widgets.
I’ve used WordPress for about 3 years now and I back up my posts, pages and comments every time I make a change to my site and I keep the three most recent. Every Sunday I also back up my entire site in a zip folder and download that to my computer.
The point, for this post anyway, is that I don’t worry about waking up one morning and finding my blog has disappeared.