Free vs. Paid: Choose Your Hosting Wisely
It’s in human nature to use something for free, when possible. If you wish to find free Web space, ‘Net gives you many choices, to select from. The closest example is right here, known as Host1Free.com.
But we are told many a time that free cheese can only be found in mousetrap. Is free hosting indeed something to stay well clear of, or it can be used just as paid one – as reliable and convenient service?
Yes and no. Let’s travel to the past, when hosting as public service was being born, we will see how that affected current state of free Web hosting.
One of the biggest free hosting services, namely GeoCities, was started in 1995. It served millions of users; easy to use in-browser editor allowed creation of Web pages quickly and without deep knowledge of HTML and related standards and technologies.
GeoCities lived for almost 15 years, and was suddenly shut down (I encourage you to learn more about its history in Net encyclopedias). Many other free Web hosting services have appeared since that moment. I will not list them, there are literally thousands of hosting providers offering free hosting. Most of approaches they use have evolved out of GeoCities and similar services of XX century.
Some of them offer in-browser management of user content. Others offer modern tools to manage sites (control panels to manage many aspects of Web and other hosting), for free. You will hardly find any other types of free Web hosting nowadays.
Now let’s stress what’s wrong and what’s right with free Web hosting.
Wrongs and rights
I assume you always read terms of service prior to using any service. If you don’t, please start doing that as soon as possible.
In assumption that you do, you may notice that there are virtually no guarantees for free Web hosting offered to you. In short: you are on your own. It’s your task to keep copies of all your files. It’s your responsibility to check for your site being alive. Only few providers do offer real technical support for free hosting; most probably, you will be directed to some form of knowledge base (or to search engine, to look for all answers you need).
There are few hosters that offer free Web hosting really for nothing. Most others will place advertisement on your pages (and yes, they can be quite ugly), or require you to post on certain forums, or do something else to use their free services.
Also, free hosting isn’t suitable for popular sites with much traffic. The reasons are obvious. Hosting provider has bills to pay – for traffic, maintaining servers and all other aspects of hosting. Popular site means intensive resources usage. So if you plan to host site that should become very popular, get ready to receive one day a notice that you exceeded the limit of resources allowed for free hosting, and you are required to switch to paid option.
Also, not all free Web hosting providers give the pleasure of using your own domain name with free site. After all, if you managed to buy domain, most probably you can afford paid hosting as well. And if you use third-domain address given by provider, you are at his mercy entirely – if you choose to migrate to other provider, all the links to your site’s pages will become inaccessible.
Also, please remember that free Web hosting provider is under no obligation to you. It means that all your carefully crafted free sites can vanish into thin air one wonderful day. So, please be ready to move your site to another provider at any moment.
What is the right side of free Web hosting? The only one: you do not pay for it with money.
For free, or not for free
At this moment you perhaps started to think that free hosting isn’t worth efforts. Again, yes and no. Choose free provider wisely, for proper type of tasks. There are few people who uses free hosting only, yet keeps busy and well-known sites.
How did they managed to do that? Well, you can pay hosting providers with something different from money, and receive, in return, resources to host your site. If you are willing to follow this way, visit hosting forums often – there are various events when free hosting can be offered (for good reviews, for interesting content and so on). It means spending much time, but in this imperfect world you pay either with money, or with time.
Another piece of advice is to check whether free hosting provider offers paid hosting as well. If it does, that’s a good sign – they perhaps can afford being that generous. If there are no definite source of income – keep away from such a provider.
I like free hosting. I do not keep my commercial, or mission critical sites on them, but I still like using anything for free. By the way, I have “encoded” the name of a site dedicated to free hosting resources in this post.
However, I do understand that nothing in this world is really free, and good support and customer care can only result from paying for them.
And the final piece of advice. Do not forget to say “thanks” to free Web hosting providers, when starting to use their services, and when leaving them. I hope I shouldn’t explain why.