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[Digital Simplicity] Why I ended up on a self-hosted blog platform

Last week, I was struggling to fix the nagging security upgrade problem of my blog. To find a way to update an encryption security protocol, I studied dozens of online documents, but I felt clueless as they were filled with too much jargon and complex code-related instructions.

I had no other choice but to take up the technical problem myself and somehow manage to stop the warning message popping up, since it’s a self-hosted blog. In other words, there is no kind technical assistant to rely on when such issues arise.

I am paying a monthly hosting fee to Amazon (yes, Amazon is flexing its muscles in Korea’s cloud computing sector) but I have to take care of all that’s necessary to keep my WordPress blog running.

These days, there are a number of options that do not require blog owners to do such tiresome maintenance tasks, much less studying latest documentations about Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL. I have to update SSL on a regular basis to get my site address to start with more secure “https.”

Instead of self-hosted blog platforms, I could switch to other popular social media as a main reserve for my writings. Twitter, Facebook and blogging services on major portals such as Naver handle almost everything about security and backside operations for free.

But there’s no free lunch in such seemingly enticing portal-based blogging and social media platforms. First and foremost, I have to put my personal data and piles of my posts including photos and drawings on their systems. When something goes awry, all the data could evaporate, and it’s unlikely that I could get back my writings accumulated over the past years.

A case in point is Cyworld. Although the micro-blogging site is getting ready to reopen, many users do not expect much about recovering their personal posts, as Cyworld had been out of service for many years.

It was in 1999 when I set up my personal homepage. At the time, I used a simple HTML editor to create a community board and pages about English learning. Since there were not that many personal websites, I was able to attract far more traffic than I had expected and explored the possibility of connecting with people via a personal website.

In the following years, a new breed of online service made debuts and, before I knew it, disappeared. As the popularity of personal homepage was long gone, I found it hard to maintain my personal site, but still kept it running, moving the host from the now-defunct Dreamwiz portal to Apple to Daum’s Tistory to Wordpress.com.

After going through a variety of homepage and blogging platforms, I’m now convinced that there is a critical issue that users have to consider before they commit their writings to today’s major platforms.

Not only data security in the long term but also freedom of speech is at stake. As for data security, backing up personal data from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is complex but doable. The formats of download files are either HTML or JSON, which means ordinary users not familiar with such formats are likely to struggle to convert the files into the formats they can handle with ease.

In case the user does not have a regular backup system, their writings on Facebook or other social media platforms could be stolen by hackers and thrown into the dark abyss of cyberspace for good. With luck, some of the lost articles might be recovered, but it is a time-consuming task to navigate complicated and time-consuming procedures to reclaim the data.

Facebook, for instance, does not process recovery requests quickly for stolen accounts, citing a slowdown in operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Automatic backup of data is rare and security breaches are all too common. Users themselves are required to save the copies of their posts somewhere else, but the majority of reliable backup services cost money.

Freedom of speech is another reason why I have settled down in a self-hosted blogging platform. Currently, the most popular blogging platforms are run by Naver and Tistory, neither of which offer a full-fledged backup system that allows their users to migrate to other services. All the writings, photos and video generated by bloggers of Naver and Tistory are virtually locked in the systems. Furthermore, portal-linked blogging tools have a set of strict writing guidelines, so posts that violate such rules are often forced to go private and bloggers tend to engage in self-censorship to avoid any disadvantages imposed by portals.

I’m not sure how long I will stick to a self-hosted blogging system, but I’m now relieved that I have finally fixed the security update issue.

By Yang Sung-jin (insight@heraldcorp.com)
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