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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 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.
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, and all of them offer unlimited transfers and storage, automatic updates and backup, SSL support, global content delivery network (CDN) and security protection, and support for all themes and apps. The basic Personal hosting plan offers one blog and 25,000 views per month, while 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. Detailed installation instructions are available online for Windows, Mac and Linux platforms.
Getting Ghost up and running on your hosting package manually can be tricky because 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.
Ghost focuses on blogging and publishing, so it is easier to use and navigate than a fully-fledged CMS like WordPress. Ghost features a powerful split-screen markdown editor with live preview, so typing and formatting the content is made easy. The user interface is very straightforward; the design is clean, elegant and minimalistic.
Search engine optimization (SEO) features are built-in and fully supported in Ghost. Managing and browsing through content is made easy through panes, similar to the way you use your e-mail. Ghost supports different themes, Disqus comments, Google Custom Search and Google Analytics.
With Ghost(Pro) hosting, your blog can be up and running in minutes, because you needn't worry about configuration.
Alternatives to Ghost
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.
Ghost Pros and Cons
- 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 good looking user interface
- Easy to install and try on your computer, compact download
- Built-in SEO capabilities
- Supports multiple users for Ghost blogs
- Does not run on all hosting platforms
- Ghost is free only if you download it, there's no free hosting for Ghost(Pro)
- Limited support for PostGreSQL databases
Points to Remember
Ghost is a compact and very fast blogging platform, so it is not designed to run complex web sites. The user interface is very simple, minimalistic 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.
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.