Why cheap hosting instead of free hosting? Why would you pay for something you can get for free? These are questions that are often on the mind of a new webmaster. You have probably heard the saying “You get what you pay for”, meaning if you didn’t pay anything, you can’t expect to get much. This is also true when it comes to free web hosting. Sure, it didn’t cost you anything, but it probably isn’t worth much – that is why you didn’t pay anything for it. You may say, “I’ve done a lot of research and some of the free web hosts offer just as much as the cheap hosting options!” That may appear to be the case from only looking at the features list, but looking into reliability, support options, customization, credibility, and domain options may reveal a different story.
When considering why cheap hosting instead of free hosting these are the top few things that every potential webmaster should consider. First, let’s talk about reliability. Free web hosting is notorious for being unreliable. Most free hosting providers are resellers of another web hosting company, as such they really don’t have any control over the hardware, uptime, server maintenance, or really anything. They often oversell, or put too many customers on one server, and because they aren’t making any money off the free host they are not proactive in making sure clients follow the laws and terms of the web host, which results in a lot of undesirable content and in turn bad performance for other customers. With a paid hosting account these things are all very closely monitored and there are guarantees in place in regards to uptime and security making sure the overall reliability of the service is top-notch.
Next, let’s talk about design, functionality, and customization. With a paid web hosting provider there are usually a lot of options. From good script installer software and website builders to top level domain name registration and search engine optimization (SEO) services, a paid hosting provider should be able to provide you with the best in the industry for a very affordable price. Some free hosts may claim to offer these services but, if they even do really offer them, they will likely be buggy and hard to use, which brings us to the next point.
Free web hosting providers, in general, provide little to no support. Support options are usually a FAQ page, ticket system that no one looks at, or a community forum where they hope users will help each other. So unless you are really proficient at figuring out buggy software or are willing to put a lot of time and energy into getting someone to help you figure it out, you probably aren’t going to get very far with these free web hosting tools and features. In contrast, the best web hosting services offering cheap hosting will have video tutorials, live chat, phone support, and guaranteed response times. They understand that keeping the customer happy and helping him/her create a successful website is what keeps them in business.
Other concerns include domain options, site credibility, and a little SEO, again. It you want anyone to be able to even find your site, let alone trust that you are a legitimate business or credible source of information on anything, this is going to be hard to achieve with a free web hosting account. Unless you are a teacher using it to share information with your class, in which case a free blog account or shared Google Docs would likely be easier and more effective anyway. With a free web hosting account you will most likely have to use a free subdomain or free domain that is not a top-level domain. Optimizing these for search engines is nearly impossible, meaning your site will likely never show up in the first 50 pages of search engine results for any keywords relating to your site. Users will have to type in your direct web address, which will be even harder for them to remember if it is a long subdomain. With some free web hosting services you can still register your own domain name – if you insist on use a free host it is well worth the small fee to get your own domain, at least you can take that with you and maintain the branding for your website. If visitors to your site are looking at your domain name, seeing a long subdomain with some obscure domain in the middle that is irrelevant does not encourage them to put any faith in your business or the information you are publishing.
One other very important reason for choosing cheap hosting instead of free hosting is the fact that you own your site. The company can’t just delete everything or disappear without any notice. You actually agree to terms and conditions and the host agrees to maintain backups of your site and give you notice about any problems and let you transfer your domain and files if for any reason you are unhappy with the service or don’t abide by their terms and conditions. A free host can just lock you out of your account at any time and you will likely never be able to find or get in touch with anyone from the company again. Most free hosts don’t offer any kind of backup service either, so be sure you always have a current backup of your site at all times, just in case they ever do disappear and you have to start all over.
Choosing cheap hosting instead of free hosting is a personal choice. Free hosting can be a good option for testing out the service or having a place to work on your site without paying a hosting fee. If the free hosting service offers paid plans you can upgrade to the service may be a good option and many of the cons of free hosting we have talked about would likely be eliminated. Just be sure to do the research and compare the best free web hosting plans to the top paid hosts like HostGator or iPage where you can get web hosting for just a couple of dollars a month.