Recently, it was time for the annual renewal of the web hosting for my website. Actually, I was a couple of weeks overdue and had received a warning indicating that I would be shutoff soon. Amusingly, the auto-warning software my web host had been using was, apparently, malfunctioning; it sent the first and second warnings twenty minutes apart, and three days later sent the final cutoff notice.
When I received the first warning, I realized that my postponement of my web hosting decision could no longer continue. For awhile now, I have been considering leaving my web host and hosting with GoDaddy. Not that I had a real problem with them, but their once competitive pricing scheme could no longer compare to the new hosting plans being offered at other places. Before switching, though, I remembered seeing a feature at Blogger that I had meant to investigate.
Blogger has three ways of displaying its blogs. You can host on your own website using your own domain, which is what I had been doing. You can also use the free BlogSpot hosting, where your blog is hosted at a site with the format "blog-name.blogspot.com", which is something I've used for some temporary and testing blogs. The third option is what I ultimately decided to use: "Custom domain" allows you to have your blog hosted with blogger, like a BlogSpot account, but you can use your already registered domain name in place of the blogspot address.
So, when you now go to stampor.com or www.stampor.com, it will take you to this site, which is hosted, for free, at Blogger. The steps to get here were not that complicated, but did require a little finagling.
The first step was to download my existing files from the previous web host; while Blogger behaves as an effective backup and effortlessly republished this blog, there were images and other files that I had placed there that may or may not have been backed up. Just to be safe, I downloaded the entire contents of my site and stored it on my computer.
The next step was to investigate an email option; Blogger can host the site, but using my old email address won't work without somewhere to host it. Google to the rescue again, this time in the form of Google Apps.
Google Apps is a series of Google's free applications, such as Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs, that can be applied to a particular domain. So, for example, instead of getting email at an address that includes "gmail.com", using Google Apps, I can get Gmail email at my "stampor.com" address. Configuring this was fairly straightforward, especially since there was an application that configured the MX records at GoDaddy for me. In addition to setting up the Google Apps accounts (for Kendra and me), I also logged into my old web host to configure the email to forward everything to our alternate email addresses; this way, we would be sure to get all our email while the MX records change propagated and we would know when it was full complete when we stopped getting the emails on the alternate accounts and started receiving them on the "stampor.com" accounts.
After switching the email, it was time to configure my blog. I changed from FTP hosting to "Custom Domain" and entered "www.stampor.com" for the name. Then, I parked the stampor.com domain at GoDaddy and used their "Total DNS Control" option to configure a CNAME for "www" to point to "ghs.google.com". That meant that www.stampor.com would now point to the new, Blogger-hosted, location for my domain. I made a test post there (which has since been deleted) so I could tell when the old location was no longer being accessed and the new one (with the test post) was.
The one snag I ran into was that I couldn't find a way to have "stampor.com" point to the same location as "www.stampor.com". I thought that I would need to use a wildcard as the host alias for my CNAME, but GoDaddy does not support wildcards for CNAME aliases. I made an inquiry at the Blogger Help Group and opened a support ticket at GoDaddy. Eventually, after being extremely persistent and insisting that I get the support I needed from GoDaddy, five emails later, I am able to use "stampor.com" as the actual CNAME host alias and point that to "ghs.google.com", just like I did for "www.stampor.com". (The lesson here is to politely and patiently insist on getting support you require from a company who is providing a service to you.)
After that final change, my email now works and my website domain and www subdomain works. So, instead of paying $60 a year for webhosting, I am paying nada. So, if I ever wanted to host another blog with a different name, I could do so on the cheap for just the cost of the registrar.