The best things in life are free.
But does the old adage hold true when it comes to web hosting? Well, yes and no, but it really all comes down to what your needs and expectations are. There are plenty of free hosting services available today, which may be enticing for the blogger or entrepreneur in you trying to get your new website up and running, but let’s look at some of the pros and cons of using a free hosting provider versus shelling out some company money.
What Exactly is Free Hosting?
Before getting into the pros and cons of using a free hosting provider, what exactly is a free hosting service? To clarify, free hosting refers to space on a web server made available to users without paying a fee. This allows you to self-host your website, blog, or files on a web server rather than on your computer. You would be responsible for not only creating files and applications, but installing and maintaining them as well. A free host simply provides the space and tools to get up and running.
This can be an ideal web solution, especially for small businesses, individuals, or startups with little funds. However, hosting consumes a lot of resources, including bandwidth, disk space on servers, and even electricity, so what’s in it for them?
Here are just a few reasons:
- Marketing – Many hosts offer a free tier to get more customers to sign up, and then upsell other services such as domains, email, etc. It’s expected that many of their customers will upgrade to paid premium service plans later on. As a business grows, it makes sense that they will need better services to be scalable.
- Ad-supported – Free hosting platforms often make revenue from advertising, which can come in the form of banner ads or affiliate links. Not all free hosting providers place ads, but be sure to read the fine print.
- Testing – Some web hosts simply may offer free services to test a new feature or overall performance.
Benefits of Free Hosting
The most obvious benefit of utilizing a free hosting provider is, of course, the cost. It’s free! This is great if you’re a newbie looking to get your snazzy new blog up and running or a small startup with limited funds. Without paying a penny, you can poke around, learn the ins and outs of web hosting, and even test software scripts. Since there are no contracts, you can cancel anytime.
- Zero commitment with no contracts
- Perfect platform to test your website and other applications such as forums or blog pages
- Perfect tool for learning the basics on how to set up and host your own blogs, apps, or websites
Disadvantages of Free Hosting
Free hosting providers are often quite limited in the services they can extend their customers. Your free account will probably be lacking in many important features, such as software scripts, SMTP email, easy auto installers, DNS setting edits, root access, and other common features that the majority of reliable paid hosting providers offer.
No matter what your free hosting provider offers you, it will always find a way to limit your resources. For example, many free hosting services will limit disk space and bandwidth, leaving you unable to upload large files.
- Provider may place ads on your website
- Limited resources, such as disk space or bandwidth
- Limited features (may lack scripts or tools needed such as PHP, MySQL, databases, CPanel, SMTP and other common hosting services offered by the cheapest hosting plans)
- Security risks
- Poor customer support
- Limited control
Who is it For?
So who exactly is the target audience for free web hosting solutions? This would be: beginners testers, and learners looking to explore web hosting without having to pay, or individuals who simply do not want to commit to any web hosting contract.
Free hosting is definitely not for you if you are looking for a web host offering fast and high-quality customer support and performance. For most businesses, it would behoove you to at least consider lower-cost hosting plans versus a free web hosting service simply because by shelling out a few bucks, you are ensuring less downtime, server crashes, limits to your account, ads being placed on your website, and so much more.
The majority of businesses opt for paid hosting solutions because of their attractive features and excellent customer support (A2 Hosting is an awesome example) that makes web hosting seamless. While free hosting might sound like a great deal, be sure to assess your needs first and then do some research on hosting providers that fit the criteria.