The Pros and Cons of Free Web Hosting
Free web hosting is a tempting offer when you first start a website. Sites such as Wix and Weebly have great offers including a website builder. For a new, inexperienced website owner, it might be worth experimenting, but before you decide to build a monetized business on a free platform, read these pros and cons.
First, the fact that it’s free is one great reason. Maybe you just want to test out a blog or figure out if blogging is something you enjoy. Instead of investing money on hosting, you can try free hosting. Free hosting has very low commitment, so even if you decide to abandon the blog, you won’t need to do anything. The host might deactivate abandoned, inactive sites, but you still have your account if you decide to return to it.
With paid hosting, you usually sign a contract for a year. You can pay month-to-month, but hosts give you a discount if you prepay for a year. At this point, you’re tied to the host for a year even if you decide to move your website. Some paid hosts offer a 30 or 40-day money back guarantee. If you use the host for 6 months, you don’t get the remainder of your money for the unused 6 months. With free hosting, you don’t have any commitment to the host, so you can move without any extra costs.
Finally, free hosts are great learning platforms especially for people who have never owned a website. Since they cost nothing, you can make as many mistakes with your content, search engine optimization or site structure and not harm any large investment.
Free hosting can benefit some businesses, although you shouldn’t use free hosting with any busy site that requires user input such as shopping carts or customer portals. One benefit is marketing. The business can use a page for marketing a product without any major investment. Test the traffic for customer interest using a free, one page sales portal. If you see customer interest, you can then develop pages on your main site. If you see little interest, then abandon the free test site with no commitment or contracts.
Free hosting has several cons that paid hosting doesn’t have. Recently, the free host 000webhost kept quiet after 13 million plain text passwords were exposed. It wasn’t until the hacked list was posted publicly that 000webhost admitted to the issue. This problem isn’t unique to free web hosts, but using plain text passwords is a major security flaw in any system. Reputable paid hosts won’t use plain text passwords.
The root cause of the hack was from an old version of PHP installed on the host’s servers. Since hosting is free, there isn’t much urgency to upgrade systems. Free hosts usually have older hardware, older software, and don’t spend many resources upgrading hosting services.
Because free hosts don’t have the high-budget funds, downtime and crashes are common. If you need your site running at all times, free hosts are not a good option. Paid hosts also send you notifications when any planned downtime will occur. Paid hosts give you time to prepare and redirect traffic if you need the site operating during maintenance windows.
Free hosts have limited features even though companies such as Wix and Weebly have site builders. These builders are one of the main features for the sites, but site builders are very limited with what they can do. They can’t build robust, fully dynamic pages that take orders or let you easily work with new content. Most free hosts don’t offer databases, CPanel, FTP and email services. These tools are essential for business, so it’s better to work with a paid host.
Free hosts usually make their revenue using ads. These ads can be intrusive for visitors, so you shouldn’t use free hosting for serious business websites. Some ads are less intrusive than others, but free hosting loses trust with customers. If you don’t have enough money to pay $5/month for shared hosting, should customers trust you to secure their information? Most of the time, customers will bounce from your site if they see that you’re using free host accounts.
If you don’t have a large IT budget but don’t want to settle for free hosting, you can look into cloud hosting. Cloud hosting gives you full features, high security, and better customer support. It’s not free, but it is a cheaper option than many dedicated server plans.
The unique part about cloud hosting is that you pay for the resources you use. If you have a lot of traffic one month, you pay more. If you have seasonally slow traffic some months, you pay less. In other words, cloud hosting prices scale with your business revenue.
There are numerous cloud hosts available with different price points. These hosts make it easy to create new virtual servers, so you can have new sites provisioned within a few hours.
Another option is paid shared hosting. Most reputable hosting companies have low-priced shared hosting that’s much more beneficial than free hosting. You can pay as low as $3/month for affordable shared hosting. For $5/month, you get more resources including database access. Shop around for the best host, but some hosts include BlueHost, Host Gator, and GoDaddy.
If you don’t want to pay any money and don’t need a serious web commitment, free hosting is a good way to explore the web. If you need a serious site for a business or moneymaking venture, you should look into some kind of paid hosting whether it’s cheap shared hosting, VPS or dedicated servers. If you need a scalable option, look into cloud hosting.