For my personal web hosting, I use a service provider (Bluehost), and in the spirit of using a hosting provider, try to use their tools to actually manage the site. Figure that’ll give me the best feeling for what folks who don’t just “pop into the shell” go through. So, I used Fantastico on my hosting provider to install WordPress, even though that tends to keep you one or two versions back from the latest and greatest, since after a new version is released, the hosting provider has to try it, then after they try it, they upgrade the information for Fantastico to install. Well, I’d waited long enough that Fantastico was sending me “you need to upgrade” mail. OK, fine, I’ll do it.

No matter which route you go, however, upgrading things can be a challenge. I use WordPress for my personal blog here at Kencasting, and have done a small set of customizations. Put them all in a separate theme to keep them easy to keep track of. And, I have a small set of WordPress plugins as well. Nothing wild, customization-wise, pretty minor, actually. But, I went to the wordpress upgrade page and went through all the steps, making sure I had plenty of backup in case something went wrong.

So, it took me about 40 minutes, and I did pop into the shell to tar up some files, since it was just faster to back them up on the server, rather than ftping them off the site, then putting them back if I needed to. For the rest, I used the online SQL backup tools (phpMyAdmin was provided by Bluehost, but was glad I had the step by step to walk me through it, too many options, really needed a basic “backup all my stuff” route).

This really drove home again the potential benefit of “appliance-izing” (or should it be appliantizing?) various common web-based tools, who’s management should be offered more or less as a service. I don’t want to giving up *all* management by using a blogging host. A software appliance version of WordPress, with built-in management tools, could do a “backup and try it” in one step, checking things like plugins for known good (or bad) versions (just like Firefox does for me all the time), and should be able to keep track of what I’ve changed, so I don’t have to remember. After all, I’m jumping from “editing php in a management window” to “now backup those files”, which I can navigate, but I’m an old Unix hack. I shouldn’t have to know what I had to know to simply upgrade my blog. That’d make the basic process much easier. And, that’s just something relatively simple, what if I also wanted to manage the a variety of other hosted apps in the same way? Then it gets much more compelling.

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