Free web hosting may seem too good to be true but it’s exactly as advertised. It actually costs you nothing to host your website with a free web host. The best free web hosting providers even throw in some extras that make it an even better deal.
Of course, with a free web hosting provider, you’re not going to get the same perks and performance that you would if you were paying a monthly or yearly fee. However, there are plenty of reasons why someone would choose a free hosting plan over a paid option.
This guide will help you determine if free web hosting is right for you. If you do decide that it’s the path to take, you will also learn what to look for in the best free web hosting plans as well as what to avoid.
By the end of this guide, you will have enough information to be able to choose a free hosting provider and plan that meets your needs.
Most web hosts charge a monthly or yearly fee to keep your website online. As the name suggests, this isn’t the case with a free web hosting plan.
With this type of service, you are charged absolutely nothing to upload your site to the web so that anyone can visit it.
The best free web hosting providers even offer many of the same services as their paid counterparts. Access to these features and services is usually free as well.
Of course, there are always some drawbacks. After all, paid hosting costs money for a reason. But you can find hosts out that that won’t charge you anything for a service that’s good enough.
However, even the best free web hosting providers aren’t offering their customers access to a server, bandwidth, and all the extras out of the kindness of their heart. They still exist to make a profit.
They make money by upselling certain features and services. They may charge extra for additional bandwidth, premium templates, and other features.
Often times a free hosting package is offered as a way to earn customer loyalty. Once the site outgrows the free plan the hosting provider hopes that the customer will stay with them and move onto one of their paid plans or purchase some premium features.
Free web hosting isn’t for everyone, though. For the most part, established businesses do not use free web hosting. These plans are generally for very small businesses or personal websites.
There are usually some restrictions and conditions associated with free web hosting plans. Due to this, people who are willing to make some sacrifices in order to avoid spending money on their website are more likely to be a good candidate for free hosting.
This can explain why free hosting plans are popular solutions for personal websites. It’s possible to host a resume or basic portfolio website without having to pay hosting costs or being negatively impacted by the lack of premium hosting features.
These sites rarely consist of more than a few pages, and often don’t contain many large images or multimedia files. Due to this, there is little chance that they will run over the set bandwidth limits.
Businesses that gravitate towards free hosting services often are small as well. With low start-up costs, people taking their first steps into the world of web-based businesses sometimes test the waters with a free hosting plan.
Affiliate marketers often use some of the best free web hosting sites to test how well an offer or promotion performs. Since they are not paying hosting costs, they can see if a niche or keyword is profitable before upgrading to a paid plan. If they aren’t seeing any results from their efforts, they can abandon the site without losing money.
The main benefit of free hosting is the cost or lack thereof.
There are other benefits as well. Despite the lack of cost, you can still have access to some useful features including:
All for no cost whatsoever.
The following features from Awardspace’s free hosting plan give a good example of everything on offer from one of the providers in this field.
As you might expect, even the best free web hosting plans have certain constraints on what you can do. Most of the time, this comes in the form of bandwidth and storage limitations.
For example, 000webhost.com is one of the best free web hosting providers you can find, but as you can see there are limits on the amount of bandwidth and storage they offer.
Another drawback to some free web hosting plans is that they display ads on your site. These ads don’t earn you money. Instead, the web host collects any revenue from clicks or affiliate sales that your visitors generate.
Other services, like Weebly, display a footer on your website that advertises their service. While this may not affect your site too much, it could have a negative impact on your professional image or branding. You could also be losing visitors who click on the link to visit the advertised website, leaving yours in the process.
The most important thing to look for with a free web host is whether or not they place ads on your site. Any hosting provider that uses your website to display their own ads is one you should avoid.
Another thing to look for is the ability to use your own domain. Even if you have to purchase it yourself, you don’t want to have your site hosted on a subdomain.
This is especially important if you are trying to establish a business or a personal brand. Subdomains can also be less memorable, increasing the chance of your visitor forgetting your website address.
Support for any software applications you want to use for your website should also be checked before signing up. For example, if you want to create your website with WordPress, you’ll need to check this free software is supported by any prospective free hosts that catch your eye.
Upgrade options should be on your free hosting checklist. While starting out on a no-cost hosting plan might be a good option for your website, you may well need to upgrade to a more feature-rich and higher-specced hosting plan in the future. Moving to a paid web host is one option, but moving from a free plan to a paid option from the same company might work better for you.
Finally, you are going to want to look for a hosting provider that makes things easy for you. This comes in two main forms: support and a control panel.
The best free web hosting providers will offer support to their customers. Even their free plan will have some sort of support you can rely on if things aren’t working as expected. Since it is a free plan, they may only provide support through a ticketing system and phone support may incur additional charges.
Many free web hosting providers also offer some type of control panel. It may not be one of the more popular ones such as Plesk or cPanel. Even if they use their own control panel, this will make the management and monitoring of your site much easier.
The most important thing to pay attention to when choosing a free web host is hidden charges. While many of these providers are extremely transparent about any costs you may incur, some aren’t so upfront.
One way they may sneak in a hidden charge is through ads. They may offer ad-free hosting for small sites. However, once your site picks up some traffic they start to display ads on your site. For a charge, they will remove them.
Something else to pay attention to is uptime. The best free web hosting companies will still provide their customers with 99.9% uptime guaranteed. If you don’t see this being offered by any services on your shortlist, avoid that free web host.
Finally, make sure you understand what the upcharges with a free hosting provider are before you choose them. There is no reason to avoid a provider that charges for premium services. You just need to know what the features and services that will result in charges are beforehand.
Some free hosts will start to charge you when you are using a certain amount of server resources such as storage or bandwidth. Again, this is common and shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
However, this is why access to a control panel is so important. You need to monitor usage so you can plan for any charges that result from your site growing past the limits of their free offering.
Free web hosting is an easy and cheap way to get a basic website up and running. Many good free hosting providers are willing to offer you enough server resources and features to help you get started.
Just know what you are signing up for before you start building your site. Read the fine print and understand what the plan includes, and what it doesn’t.
Many of these providers operate the same way as paid hosting providers do. When the time comes for you to move to a larger hosting plan, make sure that any free provider you decide to use helps you move.
Whether you choose to upgrade to one of their paid plans, or you decide to change providers altogether you want to make sure that you can move your site easily. Don’t make the mistake of going with a free provider that holds your site’s content or domain hostage. If you want to move, you should be able to without any problems from their end.
Below are the most popular hosting companies, all of which have both budget and premium services available.