Yes, says Ghost founder John O’Nolan. He argues that other blogging platforms, like WordPress, have evolved into something far beyond blogging and have become unnecessarily complex.
In this article, you’ll learn what’s truly unique about the Ghost platform. We’ll look at its features so you can better determine whether it’s right for your project.
And you’ll learn what to look for in a Ghost host.
I’ll make a few personal recommendations for Ghost hosts, based on my experience as a software engineer.
What is Ghost?
Ghost is developed and tailored for blogging, without all the features and options of a full-blown CMS needed to create complex websites.
The Ghost Kickstarter Campaign
The Ghost blogging platform was initially released on October 14, 2013, by UK-based nonprofit Ghost Foundation.
Actually, Ghost project founder John O’Nolan (former deputy lead of the WordPress UI team) started a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funding for the project because he found using WordPress as a blogging platform was becoming too complex.
Being a very young platform, Ghost benefits from the modern Node.js execution engine which makes it a very fast blogging solution. Ghost is currently available for download in version 0.7.5.
The Ghost split pane editor provides markdown on the left and a preview on the right. The UI is refreshingly minimalist. (Image via WhoIsHostingThis.com)
You can download the Ghost platform, install it on your hosting server and use it for free. The Ghost Foundation also offers its own paid hosting plans called Ghost(Pro) as an alternative for users who don’t want to install and configure Ghost manually on their servers.
There are no free Ghost(Pro) hosting plans available from the Ghost Foundation. All profits generated from paid Ghost hosting are used to fund further development and infrastructure related to the Ghost project.
Why Choose Ghost(Pro) Hosting?
Ghost(Pro) hosting is a turnkey blogging solution for users who don’t want to mess around their servers and install or configure Ghost on their own. Four hosting plans are available.
All four hosting plans offer:
Unlimited transfers and storage
Automatic updates and backup
Global CDN and security protection
Support for all themes and apps
Updating your Ghost blog on the go is a snap with the Ghost for Android app. (Image via Ghost.)
Ghost Plan Basics
The basic Personal hosting plan offers one blog and 25,000 views per month
The top Business hosting plan offers unlimited blogs and 1,000,000 views per month
Ghost(Pro) hosting plans also include 24/7 customer support
Ghost(Pro) hosting offers a 14-day free trial option, so you can try it before you make a purchase
How to Install Ghost
Ghost requires the Node.js execution engine to run, so install the latest version of Node.js first. Ghost is available as a zip download, so the user needs to extract the downloaded files, go to the Node command prompt, and start Ghost from there.
Installation on Windows, Mac, Linux Platforms
Detailed installation instructions are available online for Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms. Installation and launching require npm (Node Package Manager). Using Ghost as a public web server isn’t advised, so you’ll need to use server software such as Apache, Nginx, or IIS to deliver its content.
This fireside chat with John O’Nolan, the founder of Ghost, is preceded by his 2016 pitch video. That will give you an excellent introduction to the thinking behind the platform, and why Nolan believes Ghost is the future of free speech.
Install Ghost on Your Host
Getting Ghost up and running on your hosting package manually can be tricky. Your hosting server needs to have Node.js already installed, or allow you SSH terminal access to install Node.js. In other words, you need to make sure your hosting package supports Node.js or allows you to install it on your own.
The basic installation steps for Ghost are:
Download the latest version of Ghost
Unzip the file into your web directory
Run the installation script
Launch Ghost using npm
Verify that it’s running on your website
Edit (at least) your URL and mail settings in the configuration file
Set Ghost up to run on your web server
Upgrading Ghost is a manual process. You’ll need to check periodically for new releases, to make sure that you have the most secure and bug-free version.
Features of Ghost Blogging Platform
Easy to use: Ghost focuses on blogging and publishing, so it is easier to use and navigate than a fully-fledged CMS like WordPress. Managing and browsing through content is made easy through panes, similar to the way you use your e-mail.
Split-screen editor: Ghost features a powerful split-screen markdown editor with live preview, so typing and formatting the content is made easy.
Simple interface: The user interface is very straightforward; the design is clean, elegant and minimalistic.
SEO: Search engine optimization (SEO) features are built-in and fully supported in Ghost.
Themes and extras: Ghost supports different themes, Disqus comments, Google Custom Search, and Google Analytics.
User roles: If you have a blogging team, you can assign Admin, Editor, and Author roles to members. As the blog’s creator, you have the unique Owner role. The role system is simpler than in many blogging systems, making it less flexible but easy to manage.
Custom post types
Native comment support
With Ghost(Pro) hosting, your blog can be up and running in minutes, because you needn’t worry about configuration.
Alternatives to Ghost Blogging Platform
There are many alternative free blogging platforms available. You can get a WordPress or a Blogger blog for free, but you will have limited options in tweaking or customizing your blog. Weebly and Tumblr also give you free blogs.
On the other hand, Ghost is completely free to use and open source, so you can download and run it on your server within minutes.
Hosted options are available for many blogging software packages, usually as open source software. Most are full content management systems, more complicated to manage than Ghost.
WordPress and Drupal are two popular choices that come pre-installed with many hosting plans. Each has its own features and style, and you should compare them to decide which one suits you.
Ghost Pros and Cons
Not sure if Ghost is the right choice for you? Consider the following pros and cons.
Pros of Ghost
Streamlined open source blogging platform, free for download
Very fast thanks to Node.js execution engine
Designed specifically for blogging, easy to use
Clean and minimalist user interface
Easy to install and try on your computer, compact download
Built-in SEO capabilities
Supports multiple users for Ghost blogs
Cons of Ghost
Does not run on all hosting platforms
Ghost is free only if you download it, there’s no free hosting with Ghost(Pro)
Limited support for PostgreSQL databases
Points to Remember About Ghost
Ghost is a compact and very fast blogging platform, so it is not designed to run complex websites.
The user interface is very simple, minimal, and elegant.
It is very easy to download Ghost and try it out on your computer, it takes just a couple of minutes.
Ghost can be tricky to set up on servers that do not come with preinstalled Node.js; or do not allow SSH terminal access to install Node.js.
Ghost(Pro) hosting gets you a ready to use blogging platform, and it is an interesting option if you don’t have an existing hosting plan and you just need a simple and reliable blogging platform.
Server Requirements for Ghost
Ghost requires the Node.js execution engine to run (the latest LTS version is recommended).
Windows, Linux and Mac platforms are supported.
By default, Ghost uses an SQLite database without any configuration required. MySQL databases are supported, while PostgreSQL databases can be used, but support is limited.
A lot of traditional hosting plans will not work out of the box.
Therefore, Ghost is better suited to cloud hosting services or VPS plans.
My Top Recommendations for Ghost Hosting
Our tool at the top of this page will help you sort hosts by specific features. However, if you want to start your research with the top choices, consider the following hosts.
DigitalOcean allows one-click installation of Ghost on its SSD cloud servers. It runs on Ubuntu with the Nginx web server. DigitalOcean specializes in cloud hosting services for developers.
A broad range of plans is available, trading off between a basic monthly rate and an hourly charge for use of virtual machines. Ticket support is available 24 hours a day. There’s no phone or chat support.
A2 Hosting lets you install Ghost on its SwiftServer and extra-fast Turbo Server platforms, and the knowledgebase includes useful advice on managing it.
On both managed and unmanaged hosting accounts, you can install Node.js and npm, which will let you install Ghost. A2’s features include SSH access, international datacenters, and 99.9% guaranteed uptime. Support is available at all hours by phone, Skype, ticket, and chat.
SiteGround lets you install Node.js on dedicated servers with root access. Its dedicated servers all come with managed hosting plans, including ongoing monitoring. You can choose from several international datacenters. The servers run CentOS with Apache and Nginx. Phone support, as well as tickets and live chat, are available 24/7.
Finally, you can get hosting on Ghost(Pro). It’s blog hosting only, not full web hosting, but it’s the easiest way to get a Ghost blog running.
Ghost Features Summary
Some final points to remember about Ghost blogging platform.
Gary McGath spent years as a software developer before turning to writing. In addition to writing many articles on technology, he's the author of two crowdfunded e-books. His tech passions include data security and digital preservation.