Stephen Ostermiller's Blog

Myth: Free web hosting is a good deal

You probably shouldn't consider using free web hosting. It has a number of problems that may not be apparent to you when you are starting out. I don't know of a single free web host that I would recommend.

Free web hosts don't last

Even if you find a good free web host, it won't be around very long. The history of the web is littered with free web hosts that no longer exist. GeoCities used to host millions of sites for free, but it isn't around today.

Nobody has made free web hosting into a sustainable business model. If you use a free web host, be prepared for it to be a temporary arrangement. At best, free web hosts seem to last a few years.

When a free web host closes they may allow you to pay for hosting going forward, or they may just delete your site.

Own your URLs

If you don't own your own URLs, you don't own your reputation. Be very wary of any hosting company that gives you a subdomain or a sub-directory for you to put your content. If your URLs look like these, you have a problem.

  • http://yourname.hostingcompany.example/
  • http://www.hostingcompany.example/~yourname/

You want your content on your own domain name: http://www.yourname.example/. If you have your own domain name, you can point your domain to a better host when the free host no longer works for you. If you use the hosting company's domain name, you probably won't be able to redirect to your own URL later.

Be able to migrate your site

You want to be able to move hosting companies at any point. To do so, you need the ability to get a full, working copy of your site. Ideally you would set up an automatic backup process for your site.

Free web hosting companies often don't give you the ability to export your site. That is especially true if they also offer a paid hosting service with more features than their free tier. The free tier is often a hook to get customers to pay for upgrades while not allowing them to export their site.

Limited features

Free web hosts often don't allow sites to do everything. You probably won't be able to run server side scripts. You may not have full control over the pages or the content.

Poor performance

Free web hosts are often very slow. At their price point, they can't invest in giving their sites fast servers with dedicated resources.

Privacy concerns

Free web hosts usually have their own tracking on your website. This raises privacy concerns for both you and your users.

Alternatives

Hosting at home

One of the most popular alternatives to free web hosting is running a web server at home. Even self-hosting isn't free. It requires paying the utility costs of leaving a computer running all the time. There is also quite a bit to learn about running a webserver, setting up dynamic DNS, and keeping everything secure. Some internet service providers block the ports that you need and won't allow home-hosting.

Low cost hosting

You can find reliable shared hosting for a single domain in the $50 to $100 per year price range.


This article was written as part of a series about SEO myths.

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