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No matter how tempting it is, steer clear of free web hosting. I understand where you are coming from, and years ago when I was creating my first site I too didn’t want to pay for hosting. That said, there are some very solid reasons why you should not go with a free web host. Let’s cover these here:
1. Free web hosts often put their own ads on your site
This looks less than professional at the best of times. Even worse, having these sorts of links on your sites can make you look desperate, spammy, or low-quality. Ad networks or affiliate programs may not want to work with you.
2. Little to no customer support
If you have a tech support issue, or your hosting account is hacked, you’ll get little to no support from a free web hosting company. This is a much bigger problem than it first sounds, and I would stay away from a free web host for that reason alone.
3. Uptime is unreliable on free web hosting
Unreliable uptime is a common problem if your site is on a free host. By contrast, paid hosting companies usually have uptimes of over 99.9% – and you really do need that. Any less uptime than that, and you or your site will look bad when someone wants to view it and it’s not available. Even worse, your SEO could suffer if the Google bots try to crawl your site and find it’s down.
4. Free web hosts often use outdated versions of PHP
You are taking big security risks whenever you use outdated versions of PHP or other software. Most free web hosts use outdated software, putting you at greater risk of being hacked. In combo with point 2 (little to no customer support), you’ve got a bad double whammy there.
5. Many free hosts don’t have cPanel or Softaculous
When developing multiple sites, you really need cPanel and Softaculous to make it smooth and easy (I explain why here). Most free web hosts don’t have these.
6. Tight resource limitations – you’ll outgrow a free plan very quickly
If you do somehow manage to find a no-ads, free web host that offers cPanel and an up-to-date version of PHP, you’ll still wind up being constrained by tight resource limitations. You’ll bump up against at least one of the following issues very quickly: a) number of domains you can host, b) bandwidth, or c) disk space.
When you outgrow your free hosting plan – which I would bet would be in less than a few month’s time – you’ll have the extra hassle of having to switch web hosts to a paid hosting plan at another company.
If you start out with a cheap plan on a paid web host, you’ll get a nice long “runway”: it’ll take you a long time to outgrow it. When you do get to that point, you can simply upgrade your plan at that same host, which is fast and easy and doesn’t require you to do anything yourself – they take care of adding the resources and doing any necessary server changes for you. They will do it seamlessly, because if they don’t, they know they’ll probably lose you as a customer. By contrast, free web hosts don’t have any incentive to help you, and when you bump up against a resource limitation, your site goes down.
Now for some good news:
These are tips I wish I’d known when I was first making the plunge into paid hosting, which would have made it be less scary as a first-timer. Now I can share these with you:
- There are cheap reputable hosts out there. You can get shared hosting for well under $10 a month for multiple sites if you shop around. At Purely Space, we’ve done a lot of the legwork for you: there are 3 hosting companies we recommend for their cheap price point, great performance and solid customer service - these are A2 Hosting, People's Host and SiteGround.
- By the time you get to the point that you outgrow basic shared hosting for multiple domains, your sites should have enough traffic and monetization coming in that they should be able to pay for themselves in terms of upgrading to a fancier hosting plan.
- A reputable paid web host will not try to “trick” you with their limitations. Unless your sites have very unusual requirements from the norm, on a reputable host you shouldn’t need to stress too much over whether a hosting plan is OK for you resource-wise if you’re just starting out from scratch. Start on a small plan and you can always upgrade later if you need to. Tip: When selecting a host, do look ahead first to make sure that there are no large “jumps” financially when upgrading plans – some hosts are better at this than others. If this particular issue is of concern to you, I highly recommend People's Host - they keep price increases as small as possible between plans.
It’s not in your best interests to use a free web host for the reasons given above.
On a positive note, there are some safe, fast, reliable paid hosts out there starting at under $10 per month (some under $5): these are A2 Hosting, People's Host and SiteGround. If you outgrow your paid hosting plan, your sites should be bringing in enough traffic and monetization that they should pay for themselves when upgrading to the next level.
How to get off to a great start with a side business
Would you like to try your hand at a fun business: setting up and running a website? Let us show you how with our free illustrated tutorial. Follow along, and you'll be able to quickly set up your choice of sites: a forum, social network, blog, e-commerce store, or Q & A site. Take a look at our beginner's tutorial page and let us get you off to a fast-moving start.