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Get a budget-minded blog platform (and more) with WordPress

Ryan Boudreaux goes over the basics of installing the WordPress blogging platform -- an open source alternative that could save dollars for budget-minded organizations.

WordPress is one of the most widely used blogging tools available today. It has exploded in terms of the numbers of blogs that run on its platform and has also shown huge gains in terms of websites that utilize its power for supporting content within a managed system.

Why WordPress?

Perhaps you or your customer is looking for a content management system (CMS) solution. The requirement is to solve the content nightmare that has plagued the organization's website, and you need a rapid turnaround before things go south. Your quick answer could be the implementation of WordPress, the open source blogging platform designed with functionality, customization, accessibility, and Web 2.0 already built in. It can also be used for powering websites that do not necessarily have a blogging style or format. WordPress is a powerful, user-friendly CMS tool as well, and it permits novices and advanced programmers alike to gain access to a method of creating content-rich website experiences with rapid deployment and development. What started out in 2003 as a way to enhance typography with code has turned into a blogging platform and is now the largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world, with thousands of available plugins, widgets, and themes. WordPress is easy to install, manage, and maintain.

Requirements and recommendations

While there are several well-known hosting services that play better with WordPress than others, typically the implementation requirements for getting started include: PHP version 5.2.4 or greater for the scripting language installed on a Linux/Unix-based web server and MySQL version 5.0 or greater as the database for the back end of the solution. Recommended, but not required, are that the Linux/Unix web server be running with Apache HTTP Server or Nginx, as they are the most robust and full-featured servers for running WordPress -- but any server that supports PHP and MySQL will work. Another feature that is not required, but recommended for security, is that suPHP be running on the web server allowing you to use your account's username instead of the server's default shared username to access WordPress in an administrator role.

Another option for hosting WordPress is to utilize the WAMP stack, which means a Windows server with Apache, MySQL and PHP. WampServer software is also available, and it will install Apache, PHP5 and MySQL on a Windows system. WampServer comes with a service manager as a tray icon, and it will allow you to easily manage your server. You can install all releases of Apache, MySQL and PHP as add-ons.

What appeals to many business stakeholders is that the WordPress stack of applications, servers, software, and database are open source, and basic licensing typically has no fees involved. With the current business and economic climate, it makes sense to take a serious look at open source implementations as the answer to otherwise costly business solutions.

Install WordPress

The latest stable release of WordPress is version 3.2.1 and is available for download from the WordPress.org website. Many hosting solutions will have WordPress available for install from within a control panel, or similar online tool; however I always find it better to install my versions of WordPress from scratch -- that way I know where everything is and that all the files and folders are set up correctly.

The famous 5-minute install is WordPress's answer to getting your platform up and running quickly. Before you install WordPress you need to have a few tools readily available and they include:

Things you will need to do to begin the WordPress installation:

  1. Make sure your web hosting service has the minimum requirements as noted above, PHP, MySQL, etc...
  2. Download and unzip the latest version of WordPress.
  3. Be prepared with a secure password to edit the wp-config.php file. In step 4 of the next section, you will need to update the following:
    • Database name used by WordPress
    • Database username to access database
    • Database password used by username to access database
    • Database hostname of the database server

Here is the install procedure in a nut shell:

  1. Have the downloaded and unzipped WordPress package ready.
  2. Create a database for WordPress on the web server, and then create a MySQL user with privileges for accessing and making modifications.
  3. Rename the wp-config-sample.php file to wp-config.php.
  4. Open the wp-config.php file in your text editor and fill in the database details as described in step 3 from the "Things you will need" section above.
  5. Upload the WordPress files and folders into the desired location on your web server.
    • If you want to integrate WordPress into the root of your domain, upload or move all of the contents of the unzipped directory into the root directory.
    • If you want to have your WordPress installation located in its own directory, rename the "wordpress" directory to the subdirectory you wish and then move or upload it to the web server.
  6. Run the WordPress installation script by accessing wp-admin/install.php in your web browser.
    • If you installed WordPress in the root it would be found at something like www.yourwebsite.com/wp-admin/install.php.
    • If you installed WordPress in a subdirectory it would be found at something like www.yourwebsite.com/blog/wp-admin/install.php.

WordPress should now be installed! Check here for more detailed WordPress installation instructions.

Using WordPress

Once the installation is complete, you can now log into the dashboard with the administrator user name and password that you assigned during the installation. Here is a representative view typical of the latest version:

Figure A

Click to enlarge.

Typically and for the most basic use of blogging with WordPress, all you need to do now is go to the Posts tab on the left sidebar and click Add New; then, you can create a title; body including text, images, embedded video, and such; add some tags or keywords and a category. Once the post has been drafted, you can either schedule the post to publish at a future date and time, or click Publish for an immediate update onto the website. But, what if you want to take WordPress to the next level for a content management strategy?

Beyond blogging: Using WordPress for CMS

Now you know that WordPress is one of the most popular and widely used blogging platforms. But what you might not know is that WordPress has gained traction as a CMS tool utilizing the power of PHP and MySQL to manage content and website experiences. According to W3Techs, WordPress is utilized by 53.8% of all websites which use a CMS tool to power their web, and it also means that 15.1% of all websites utilize WordPress for their website platform.

In the next installment on the topic of WordPress, I will review how you can leverage the blogging platform into a perfectly good content management system.

About

Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal g...

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