Moved blog to Ghost(Pro)

blogging ghost

I've always used WordPress for this blog, and hosted it in a variety of platforms - starting out with the original free wordpress.com, then moving to a low-cost shared website with a WordPress install, and eventually IaaS in Windows Azure.

Ghost

When I moved to Windows Azure, I used a BitNami WordPress VM image and a Multsite install of Worpdress - at the time I had multiple websites with custom domains that I wanted to host, and a low powered VM worked out to be cost effective.

The downside to this is the WordPress (or maybe the VM) seemed to crap out every now and again. I hadn't been keeping it up to date, or patching the WordPress install. I was using IaaS but not doing the necessary hygiene activities to keep everything running smoothly - worst of both worlds. I recently had a 20 hour outage - from Windows Azure the VM seemed fine, and rebooting it brought the website(s) back up momentarily, but they went down pretty quickly.

I didn't have the time or patience to sort it out, and it could have just as easily been a Linux / PHP / WordPress exploit or something. I only wanted the http://blog.craigharvey.me website to survive so I quickly imported it into http://wordpress.com and then signed up for WordPress Premium at $99 / year. This worked pretty well, I could map my custom domain and all the headaches associated with keeping the WordPress platform went away.

But so did my features. I could live without running plugins, and I could survive without using Disqus for my comments (WordPress had a copy of all those comments as well and imported them), but I was sure going to miss Google Analytics, and probably Google AdSense. Sure WordPress.com comes with it's own nice analytics, but I had years of history in Google Analytics. WordPress has a Business Plan that supports Google Analytics, but that's $299 / year, more than I wanted to spend.

Then a timely post from Troy Hunt about how he'd used Ghost(Pro) for his non-techie wife's blog came along and opened my eyes. While I'm technical enough, the reasonable price of a completely hosted SaaS solution plus with the ability to use Google Analytics and Disqus all for $8 / month - cheaper than WordPress.com premium if you pay for 12 months and get the 20% off.

Ghost prides itself on being just a blogging platform, which is all I was after to be honest. When you sign up, you get access to the Pro features for 14 days for free which is great, because it enabled me to attempt to import my content, map a sub-domain and try a few different themes. Using an alternate sub-domain I could then check out the performance and see if I was happy with it.

In the end I made the switch because I like the simpler editing in Markdown, and it's more cost effective - and I get to use my beloved Google Analytics + Disqus again.

Migration process

For me, the import process involved:

  • Export content from WordPress.com
  • Import into a temporary 'self-hosted' WordPress installation
  • Install the Ghost Export plugin for WordPress
  • Export my blog content from temp WordPress using Ghost Export
  • Import into Ghost(Pro)
  • Switch over DNS

OK, so the import step took a few goes - over the years I'd made a mess of my WordPress categories and somehow a duplicate existed that was breaking the import. So I had a few cracks at the export-import process but managed to get there.

Is it right for you?

I was lucky that the WordPress URL format of /year/month/day/post-title was also supported in Ghost(Pro). The default URL format is just /post-title and if you need a format other than that your hands are tied. A self-hosted Ghost install can probably use some re-write plugin, but try and stick with SaaS to minimise your headaches.

I was also lucky that I'd already been using Disqus and so my comments were already in there. Ghost does not support comments, so you have to start with Disqus. I didn't have to import any comments because they already existed, but there are migration tools to get you started.