The day has come! You have decided that you are finally going to start your own website. How exciting! After some research, you come to find that you need a web hosting plan. To your surprise, there are two options: free hosting and paid hosting. While you are staring at your computer screen, mentally analyzing the differences between the two, you immediately begin to think “Well, what’s the difference?”
You may be thinking, “I just need a website… The free version will do!”
For those new to the world of websites, the “free version” may seem like the better alternative because… well, it’s free. But, think again! There are a handful of obvious differences between free hosting and paid hosting that may cause you to consider dishing out a few extra dollars per month.
What is Free Hosting?
Free web hosting is just how it sounds. It is a web hosting service that is offered free of charge to the public. A majority of free hosting plans include free server space, global reach over the web, a free domain name, and other limited capabilities. All this sounds great, right? Well, it comes with a catch… or a few.
The only real advantage to using a free hosting service is that it is free! A free hosted website is really just a limited version of what you could really do with a paid plan. But, let’s get something straight. Anything that is considered “free” online actually comes with a price. You are not legitimately getting any service for free. If you are not paying for the product, then you are the product. This includes free web hosting. If you are not paying anything for your service, then you are accepting that there will be some kind of exchange. The option to sign up for a free site is just a way to get you to upgrade for their paid plan. For this reason, almost every feature of the free plan is limited in some way or another.
5 Disadvantages of Free Hosting
Expect to deal with these five things when signing up for a free hosting plan.
- Ads- EVERYWHERE
You will be seeing many more advertisements on your website when you sign up for free hosting. As annoying as ads can be, it is actually a fair trade. The service is free because of the potential money that the web provider could make from you. Every time you click on an ad on your site, your web provider makes money. Since you are not paying for any kind of service, they have to make money on you somehow, right? Your web provider has to pay for the space and equipment to host your site. Because of this, your website is basically an advertisement. If you don’t mind the ads around your content, this might be a good route for you.
- Limited Access to Customer Support
With a free hosting plan, you can expect to receive limited access to customer support. Most web providers that offer free services say that you will receive 24/7 support. Though, take that promise with a grain of salt! That’s not to say that you won’t receive help if you need it! But, your free site will most likely not be their #1 priority. Customer support was created for the convenience of the paying customer. Paying customers will have their website issues figured out right away, while you may be waiting a while to get yours fixed.
- Domain Name Branding
Free hosting plans will not provide you with a real domain name. You will be given a sub domain name that includes their name in your URL. For example, let’s say you created a free website with WordPress. Your domain name would include “WordPress” in the URL: such as, Janedoe.wordpress.com. Web providers do this for branding and advertising purposes. With a free hosting plan, you do not have complete control over your domain name. Remember, your domain name is an important element of your brand. If you don’t mind sharing your domain name with your web provider, then this plan might be for you. Your web provider will always give you the option to upgrade to a hosted plan to receive a real domain name, if you so choose.
- Limited Features
Surprise, surprise! Your free hosting plan comes with limited capabilities. Many free plans restrict the number of free pages that each user receives. With a free hosting plan, you may only receive a few pages that you can utilize for your website goals. Once you have used up those few pages, you will be given an option to upgrade for a low price. With this plan, you will also receive limited bandwidth. The bandwidth is the amount of visitors allowed on your website per month. If you use more bandwidth than you are given, most web providers will force you to purchase a paid plan. Lastly, you will have limited data transfer speed. This means that your site might be slower due to sharing the server with many others.
- Nearly Impossible to be Indexed
Unfortunately, it is pretty difficult to optimize a free website. Google’s ranking algorithm includes many different pieces that all work together to get websites ranked at the top of the page. Things such as web speed, mobile-friendliness, security, the domain name and much more play a part in being ranked. Those things, and many more, are not possible with a free site. Part of this reason is because free sites are more vulnerable to spam content, which Google blocks and prevents from being indexed. Because of these reasons, and more, search engines prioritize paid hosted sites over free hosted sites. Free hosted plans may also restrict your access to site analytics. Some web providers may give you access to some free statistics about your website, but sites like Google Analytics won’t allow free websites to hold an account.
If you are still on the fence about spending money on a hosting plan, then consider the differences. Think about what you want to accomplish with your website and then choose your plan from there. Chances are, you will accomplish many more of your goals with a paid hosting plan. A free hosting plan would be perfect for someone who wants to learn the basics of creating and operating a website. If you don’t expect much traffic to your site, you’re not bothered by the lack of webpages, you don’t mind the ads, or the domain name, then this would be a perfect option for you! Though, if you are a brand or a business who needs to establish an online presence, you will be much better off paying for a hosting plan!