[Update – Sept 16, 2014 – Reclaim Hosting has changed their automated backups to use a different server, such that your backups are no longer counted in your quota! This is an example of the awesome level of customer support they provide – although I still say, if you are using a lot of photos, you want to consider hosting them on a site that specialized in photo hosting!]
I decided to try out Reclaim Hosting for my BC Becky blog. I felt that I could not adequately critize without having actively tried out the experience. There is a lot hype about Reclaim Hosting and a Domain of One’s Own within the Ed Tech community. It was Jim Groom’s keynote at the MRI conference that inspired me to have my students create their own website/blog as part of the course I was teaching. I believe the ability to create content on the Internet is an important digital literacy, so even if my students never use the website or blog that they created, they at least now know how they can do it.
I have been a critic of Domain of One’s Own because I don’t think creating a website and managing it is as simple as the hype makes it sound. But, to be fair, I had not used Reclaim Hosting or tried it when I wrote the original post. Now I have.
First, I would like to say, they provide excellent support. Whenever I had a problem, at any time of day, I got an email response often within the hour. I’ve rarely seen that type of turn-around for support (except with Bookends by SonnySoftware – the developer there is awesome too).
I happily blogged away on BC Becky since June 16th, often writing multiple posts in a day. Given the nature of my blog (about the breast cancer patient experience), I also include a lot of photos. I choose to do what any non-techy new blogger would do (intentionally), I dragged and dropped my photos directly onto the WordPress blog. It worked brilliantly until about August, when I started getting errors. My automated backups were failing because I didn’t have enough disk space. When I enquired about this, the support I got was not what I expected. I was told I could go in cpanel and delete and older backup, and that I could pay an extra $20/year to get more disk space. The default is 1GB, which when you include two full site backups, means you have effectively about 300MB for blog content before you start to run into errors. Personally, I think this is a little small given the types of projects students are encouraged to do. I suspect that after a single semester students will run into this same problem. 1.5 or 2GB would be a better “default”.
Part of the issue is that when you drag-and-drop a photo into WordPress, by default it recreates your four or five versions of your photo in multiple sizes. This makes it easy for you to include the right size in your post, and link to the full size image, but it also quickly uses up your limited disk space.
The price of the domain is already $25/yr, which seems high to me, but then my other domains have already outgrown minimalist hosting services. The option to go to $45/year isn’t the best choice for me. So, my alternative for now is to remove all the photos from my BCBecky site, and place them in Smugmug, which is a service similar to Flickr, that we already use and pay for (we have used Smugmug since our 2008 bike tour for our GoingEast Blog). Once I’ve done this – it will take several hours of going through each post and replacing the photos with embedded links from Smugmug – I shall see if my site is small enough to get the automated backups to work. If that isn’t the case, then I’ll be looking at moving away from Reclaim onto one of my other host providers – because $45/year is just too much extra given I’m already hosting other domains.
I am writing this in part as a word of caution to those using Reclaim (or any hosting service with 1GB of space). If you like to include pictures in your posts (or video), you should consider immediately using something like Flickr or Smugmug for your photos. You can get free accounts there to host your photos, which will then allow you to stay within the 1GB allocation on your blogging platform of choice. If you host a lot of professional quality photos, you’ll want their professional services anyways (like the ability to sell photos).
My general option of Reclaim Hosting is it is a great place to get started. They made it really easy to get something up and running quickly, and they provided great user support. However, I think if you are going to do anything long term, you need a to plan for growth, and there are strategies you can enable early on to make that growth less painful. I don’t think there is enough education in that area. The answer from support should not immediately be “pay for more disk space”, because that is a very short-term solution to the problem. Had I made that choice, I would run out of disk space again within the next six months and still would not have a good strategy for embedding photos in my blog.