Not surprisingly, I run a self-hosted version of Ghost. I was reluctant enough to leave the simplicity of a static-generated site. I wasn’t willing to give up even more control to a managed service. Running my own server gives me some measure of independence. I may still be reliant on my provider, DigitalOcean, but I also maintain backups of my content, my database, and my server locally. I’m not relying on a someone else to do that for me. Plus, the work that I do already requires that I have a DigitalOcean account. Paying for Ghost(Pro)—which is surprisingly expensive—just didn’t make economic sense.
That said, I do want to commend their on-boarding process. It was impressive. I liked their no-pressure approach. The emails they sent out were useful and non-intrusive, and they even offered me more time to evaluate the platform.
I almost always recommend managing your own sever, but I understand that can be a challenge for some users. If you can’t or don’t have the time to learn, Ghost(Pro) may be a useful option. The price is obnoxiously high, though. There really is no other way to say it. You can price the premium version of a hosted WordPress site for less than half the price of a Ghost(Pro) site. Ghost(Pro) gives you more options, and the CDN is nice, but that cost is serious barrier to entry for a lot of potential users.
Self-hosting has its own challenges. A self-hosted package may be more affordable, but it requires more work. Even if you use a pre-built image, you still have to set up the server, the SSL certs, and keep everything current. I maintain a regular patch cycle for both the server and the application. This means diving into the system. It also means not being afraid to break things.
My suggestion: BREAK THINGS.
One of the reasons I like DigitalOcean is the fact that you can take a snapshot of your system, muck about, break things, and then be right back to where you started with a simple restore. Use it to learn and explore the technology you are using.
I tell my students the same thing when it comes to writing. Be willing to make mistakes. Explore different ways to play with text, image, and form.
For me, technology is an extension of that. It is the material we create with, and yet we let so much of that material be defined and structured for us.
Now, I’m not suggesting we all start developing everything from scratch. After all, just using the Ghost application creates a set of constraints, and I willingly accept those limitations. What I do suggest is that we strive to develop an awareness of those constraints so that we can make informed decisions about what we decide to use and why.
Ghost(Pro) has a lot of advantages, solid features, an excellent support system and on-boarding process, and a hefty price-tag. A self-hosted Ghost application requires more management, work, and a willingness to get your hands into the server. You may find the Ghost(Pro) advantages worth the price. I can certainly see their value. For me, however, the self-hosted option provides the better balance of price, control, and management.