Free or paid web hosting?
If you are looking for hosting your website, you have to make a decision: do you opt for free or paid web hosting. The correct answer to this question varies from case to case. Sometimes you can find everything you need with a free web host. However, the big exception to this is a good position in the search results of Google. A website that is hosted for free can hardly ever rank high in Google. More on that later in this article. So, for most sites you will really need to purchase a paid package. In this article you can read which factors are important when answering the question “How to host a website for free.”
The benefits of free hosting.
The biggest advantage of free hosting is of course the fact that you don’t have to pay money for the web hosting and for the domain name of your website. This means you save a few dollars to a few tens of dollars every month. You can invest this money in other things, for example advertising your company.
Another advantage of free hosting is that most providers of this kind of hosting also offer their own content management system (CMS). With this CMS you can set up and manage your website, without having to pay anything for it. Because most systems with free hosting are very easy to use, you don’t even need any specific technical knowledge to set up and manage your site.
The disadvantages of free web hosting.
Practically everyone who is involved in creating a website for the first time initially thinks of free providers. That makes sense. After all, you can experiment a bit and learn a thing or two about web design. In the past (the year 2000 and before) you could often also get a pretty good package from a free host. These were the times of the unlimited, ad-free, free providers. Those times are now over. The dotcom crisis also put an end to giving away such packages. Those who have recently used a free web host know that there are some disadvantages such as:
- Advertising. A common complaint about free web hosts are ads being placed on your pages. These are often banners, but some hosts go even further by placing pop-ups, pop-unders or ad frames. These ads certainly aren’t fancy, but it is the only way free hosts can survive. In any case, it’s a factor that may cause irritation with visitors and it shows that you do not have full control over the layout of your pages.
- Limitations in the amount of data traffic. The most recent development among free web hosts is limiting data traffic that an individual site is allowed to use. Some hosts set that limit at 500MB per month. This seems quite a lot and for many personal sites it actually is enough. However, if you have a popular site or a site with things that cost a relatively large amount of data traffic, such as flash, animations or downloads, you will quickly exceed 500 MB. Usually the result is that your site will be temporarily closed by the web host until you start paying.
- Limited web space. Most free web hosts offer a limited number of megabytes of free web space. Usually you get between 5 and 10 MB. If your site starts to grow this could become a problem. Especially if you want to offer extras to your visitors, such as downloads.
- Other missing services. There are a lot of other extras that you will hardly encounter with a free host, for example: WordPress, pop3 email accounts, a good help desk and access to Telnet, SSH, error and log files. WordPress, known as the easiest content management system, is NOT offered by free website hosting services and that’s a pity. After all, it’s one of the very few site builders not requiring any technical knowledge from its users.
- Low Speed and Failures. Many sites hosted with a free web host regularly suffer from major disruptions, making the site inaccessible to visitors for hours, sometimes even days. Furthermore, the speed of the site is usually low due to server overload.
- A long URL. The pages that you have hosted with a free host usually have a fairly long URL, such as: members.hostname.com/username/file.html. The biggest disadvantage of such an URL is that it is hardly rememberable for visitors. Your own domain name such as: domainname.com is much easier to remember and this gives you a greater chance that a visitor will come back. Of course, your own domain name also makes a much more professional impression.
- Invisible in Google. Last but not least, in general, Google discriminates against websites that are hosted by free hosting services. The reason for this is the fact that the search engine rightly assumes that free sites are usually not meant seriously and/or professionally. Google assumes that these types of sites are generally managed by hobbyists such as stamp collectors, coin collectors etc. who simply want their collection to be visible online. All this means that if you ever want to gain a high position in Google, the last thing you should do is host your website with a free web host.
So, how to host a website for free? The answer is “don’t do it”, since, in most cases, a paid web host will perform much better than a free host. Novice webmasters and people who want to create a small, personal site can often do fine with a free package, although they can forget a good ranking in Google. But a large site with a lot of data traffic and websites that want to use WordPress, Drupal, Joomla or Magento are forced to take a paid package. Also websites of companies or sites that deal with e-commerce or web services will be best off with paid hosting plans, because they must have a professional appearance. None of this is possible if the site is hosted by a free web host. In short, when choosing between free or paid web hosting, you choose a paid web host when quality of the hosting service, a professional look of your website and ranking in Google are important to you. Good luck!