My $50 WordPress server lives!

A few years ago, I set out to see how inexpensively I could create a decent-looking author’s website, one over which I had complete control. Yes, I’m both cheap and a control freak. To this end, I spent approximately $50 on a cute little Raspberry Pi 3 and downloaded and installed Raspian OS and WordPress (both free). Other than paying for ongoing monthly ISP charges, which I was already doing to cover all my other Internet needs, $4/month for a static IP (an unnecessary expense, but since I was being so cheap elsewhere, I decided to splurge), and a few cents for a trickle of electricity, there were no other costs except my time. Thus, you are reading this post courtesy of a cigarette-pack-sized Raspberry Pi 3 currently sitting under my TV.

But you couldn’t have read this only a few days ago because in December I accidentally bricked my little Raspberry Pi 3 with a system update. I procrastinated, and hence was without a website for the last few months. But when I rolled up my sleeves and got down to rebuilding everything from scratch, turned out it only took a few hours to get everything back to where it was. One reason resurrecting my server was so painless was that I’d created a Google doc detailing the install process during my very first install, and then I’ve religiously updated that document each time I’ve had to reinstall/reconfigure/recover the server and/or WordPress. And with each iteration, I’ve learned something new – the latest being that one can obtain free, automatically renewed certificates through Certbot and Let’s Encrypt. Very cool. And much less expensive than paying an endless, annual fee for a certificate, as well as better than using a self-signed certificate – which is what I was doing previously. So thank you Electronic Frontier Foundation!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the EFF, it’s a non-profit organization, “defending digital privacy, free speech, and innovation”. I learned about it initially though Cory Doctorow, and have since seen how important it is to anyone interested in digital rights and (internet) civil liberties. In gratitude, I shall be sending this worthy organization a donation. And, if you’re interested in such things, you should too. Below are links to donate to these two most excellent projects:

Anyway, if you’re interested in setting up your own server, and don’t mind being your own sysadmin and webmaster, it’s a surprisingly straightforward process and doesn’t require a whole lot of technical expertise. I did it for fun, and because I wanted to see if the Pi was up to being a WordPress server (initially I used the original Pi, but it proved too slow so I bought the Pi 3). Having now run my server for a few years, I don’t think I could ever go back to a hosted environment, if for no other reason than I’d find it too inflexible. Yeah, Iike I said, I’m a control freak. But even if you aren’t a control freak, setting up your own server is a hell of a lot more satisfying than dealing with hosting sites and their help desks….and did I mention it’s a lot cheaper?

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