Why I do not gloat over Typepad’s woes

As you may or may not be aware, Typepad has been experiencing some troubles as of late.

Since I run BlogHarbor, a hosted weblogging service, and our service is in roughly the same space as Typepad, I thought I’d take a few moments to run down my reaction, as one excellent customer of our BlogHarbor service asked me privately – jokingly – if I would want to gloat over the troubles they are having…

I would not want to gloat over the troubles, not merely because we’ve had our own performance issues in the past, and I certainly know how difficult it can be to solve them quickly and provide timely information to our customers during such times.

In fact, we’re currently in a development cycle aimed at increasing the performance, scalability, and reliability of our service for this very reason: individuals and businesses depend on their sites. These are not vanity weblogs; they are run by people who are serious and passionate about their weblogs, regardless of whether they are for personal or business use.

But I would not want to gloat mainly for the reason that I think some bloggers are drawing the wrong conclusions from this situation.

Some Typepad users are asking if Typepad is the wrong tool for business bloggers. I think these folks are asking the wrong question.

First, the alternative that some people here are proposing is that business bloggers should switch to WordPress… And they do in fact mean WordPress the “find a hosting company to host it and then download it and install it and make sure you maintain it” WordPress, not the hosted version.

That really doesn’t make sense at all.

I’ve been a web developer for over a decade and doing all the downloading and installing and debugging and maintaining would certainly be within the realm of my expertise.

But how about the typical small or medium sized business that simply wants a reliable blogsite: the do it yourself WordPress may be free as in speech, but not free as in beer. It will still cost you money to host your blog.

It will now cost someone some time – and that someone will likely be billing for their time – to do the downloading and installing. When a vulnerability is discovered or a bug found and that Word Press install needs an upgrade, someone is going to have to do that maintenance.

Don’t forget most Word Press installs will be on a shared hosting server. Any of the other users of that shared server start hogging CPU time and the performance of your site will suffer. Are you sure you would want to take that risk? Isn’t that why you claimed leaving a hosted blogging service was necessary for your business?

On a hosted platform like ours which is built to handle thousands of simultaneous sessions for hundreds of thousands (or more!) of blogs, your blog will not be affected by someone else’s sudden popularity.

If another user of your shared server affecting your site’s performance or availability is not something you want to risk, then you should probably get yourself a dedicated server, right? ServerBeach, EV1 Servers, Rackspace are all great companies which can lease you a dedicated server. Expect to pay $150/month for a small server or $300 to $400 a month and up for something with lots of RAM and a redundant RAID drive array. I mean, it is your business, right? You’re not going to skimp here. That RAID controller is a necessity in the event of a drive failure!

And if you’re not already experienced in managing a dedicated server, don’t forget to factor in the cost of having a professional Linux admin manage that server! Wait until you have to wake them up in the middle of the night because the server is getting flaky. You’re going to love that bill.

Our administrators are already monitoring your site around the clock.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many folks for whom WordPress (or any other download-and-install-it software) will be a perfect fit. It’s a great product. I met Matt, the Word Press lead developer, at Gnomedex this year and I was amazed at his commitment to doing the right thing for his users and the net in general. But just because WordPress is right for some people doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right for you.

Typepad burped for a few days, but that is not a reason to dismiss hosted blogging for your business out of hand. If you’re a very large company that is already paying an IT staff to be on call 24/7 and manage hardware and software, then very little of this applies to you. Your business has already made the investment and can amortize it accordingly. Word Press or Movable Type may be right for you.

But chances are a good managed hosting provider is going to be able to give your blog far more attention and work harder to keep it online and performing well than you personally would be able to, and for orders of magnitude less money per month.

And if your provider can’t do that, then look around for another managed hosting provider who can… Our BlogHarbor service can import your Typepad content. 😉

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