Do you always get what you pay for (or don’t pay for)? Most of the time that’s the case, and that extends to web hosting. You can virtually pay as little or as much as you would like for web hosting, but of course these different options can be on very different playing fields. For the entrepreneur, cash strapped business, startup and others on a shoestring budget, going with a free web host is a great way to save—assuming you choose a host that is still reputable. However, you simply won’t get the same features as you will with a paid host.
There are five major differences between free and paid hosting to consider. For many website owners, such as those who simply want a platform to blog their Game of Thrones fan fiction, free hosting is probably perfect. For others, they may want a little more than what a complimentary option offers. Are these five issues a game changer for you?
- Various reliability
Reliability is also known as uptime in the web hosting world. Most web hosts will guarantee a certain amount of uptime, and you want as close to 100 percent as you can get. Securing over 99 percent uptime is very reasonable, even for free hosts. However, it should be spelled out in clear language in the contract what happens if the host doesn’t deliver that uptime. Do you get a partial refund, a complimentary upgrade or another perk? Make sure the agreement is favorable towards you.
- Your URL
Having a unique URL that’s exactly what you want (assuming it isn’t already taken) is a big deal for most businesses. With free hosting platforms, you will probably have a URL that features the host’s name (like those www.example.wordpress.com sites). However, you will probably be able to upgrade to a standard .com, .org or the like for a small fee. Most people spring for a unique URL because they want their website to reflect them, and them alone.
- Support services
Free web hosting doesn’t automatically equate to poor or limited service, but it can. Make sure you can connect with support staff 24/7. There can be big problems, particularly with sites that use PHP, Perl or MySQL databases. You don’t know how much you need technical support until you’re in a crunch, and that’s the worst time to figure it out.
Every website owner wants to get as high in the search rankings as possible. Some free hosts require ad displays or poor links on “your” website, which can negatively impact your rankings. You may not see the ads and other spammy materials when you log in as an admin, so make sure you check out your site from an outsider’s perspective. It may be worthwhile to pay a little extra for no ads.
- Size matters!
You’ll get more storage and bandwidth with a paid host, which is a necessity for some people. However, for some website managers, the free bandwidth and storage is more than enough. You can always upgrade packages and get more bandwidth/storage down the road. Check with your host to make sure upgrades are easy and can be done as you wish.
In many cases, free hosting is a fantastic choice for website owners. Do your due diligence and make sure you’re getting everything you need, whether it’s from a free host or a paid service.