Did you know the “.com” part of a domain name stands for commerce?  The world wide web may have been developed by scientists and given to the world on a royalty-free basis, but it’s the commerce conducted on the web that is the vital and flowing hub of the internet. Twenty years ago, businesses were just beginning to explore the powerful potential of having a .com; that’s when the simplest websites were expensive to setup and complicated to create and maintain.  In today’s world, though, you can easily set up a website and get your business online within a day at no cost with free web hosting services.  

What Is Free Web Hosting?


Free web hosting is offered by some web hosting companies as an entrée into the web hosting world to get your site set up and on their platform. These organizations understand that when you’re just starting a business or creating a site for your business, your website will require far less bandwidth due to it not receiving much traffic. This is until you start getting the word out through advertising, pay for ads on a search engine or take steps to increase your SEO ranking organically, which takes time.  

Why Would A Company Offer Free Web Hosting Services?

Complimentary web hosting is a viable option for new business owners who do not have a lot of money to spend on a monthly fee or a large annual or multi-year upfront fee for hosting and a domain name. Companies offering free web hosting hope these owners either become so comfortable with their web hosting platform that they will become loyal to that service or they’re hoping that once those businesses grow and your site attracts more people, these owners will upgrade to their paying services.  

Is There a Need for Free Web Hosting?


When Free Web Hosting Is Good For Your Business

A website is a marketing tool for most businesses.  Unless you’re considering an online business where you’ll feature products and need to set up a cart and accept payments, a complimentary web hosting option may be a great idea for your business. You can invest your marketing dollars elsewhere to get your name out there while simultaneously giving people your website address where they can find out more information on your company, establishing yourself as a reputable person or organization.  

When You Should Consider Paying For A Web Hosting Packing Instead

If you’re planning on setting up a business that requires advanced scripting options, like a content management system or an e-commerce shopping cart, you won’t be able to count on a free web hosting plan to meet your needs. Advanced scripting options are often used for an online store.  As your target customer will be purchasing your items online, most of your marketing dollars will be spent on online advertising methods. It makes sense to shop around for a good deal on web hosting space or try to find a web hosting company that offers a minimal commitment while you work to get your company off the ground.  

What To Watch Out For

A lot of free web hosting packages offer extremely limited bandwidth or a small amount of hosting space.  You’ll also want to make sure you get email accounts along with your domain name. Research free web hosting companies and their analytic tools as well. Do they offer the availability to set up Google Analytics or any popular website analytic tool? As you move into using your website to capture potential clients via search engines, these tools will be necessary in determining how people are finding your website and when you will need to consider upgrading your website to a paid web hosting provider service.  

Free Web Hosting vs Paid Web Hosting


Web hosting

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There are 8 key areas you need to research to understand the difference between these two hosting services:

  • Setup
  • Domain name
  • Email addresses
  • SSL Options
  • Analytics
  • Advertising
  • Bandwidth
  • Response Time

Setup

Complimentary web hosting plans have a setup process that may easier than that of a paid web hosting plan.  For one thing, you won’t have to enter any payment information. Also, setting up a free web hosting plan is made as simple as possible on purpose because most people setting up this plan are not technologically savvy.  

However, if you're setting up a free web hosting plan, you may not be able to pick the website operating system. The website operating system used by the complimentary web hosting service may be cumbersome or difficult to figure out, so while free, it may cause frustration and headaches. If you pay for a hosting plan, you get more freedom to choose what website operating system you use.  

Domain Name

One of the most important aspects of searching for a hosting plan, whether the service is free or not, is to determine if you get a free domain name and for how long. Domain names are around $10 per year, making them rather inexpensive and worth their investment no matter which type of hosting plan you use. However, they are definitely a perk if you don’t have to pay for them right off the bat.

Most free web hosting companies offer a free domain name or a sub-domain name.  For professional purposes you want to avoid companies that only offer a sub-domain name unless you’re willing to cover the cost of your own domain URL.

Email Addresses

Hand-in-hand with domain names, email addresses add a professional touch to your business. If your domain name and email address match, it’s easier to direct customers to your website, and they’re more likely to remember your email address. With a non-pay web hosting plan, email addresses are either limited in number or the size of the inbox, or they don’t come with the service. If you’re considering a paid hosting plan, you get more email addresses, more space and more options. (With a start-up business, you may only need one or two email addresses.)  

If you use a free web hosting service that offers email addresses, make sure you know how many email addresses you are allotted, and look into the size of attachments you can send and receive.  Additionally, make sure you can set up those email accounts on the mail service of your choice, like Microsoft Outlook or MacMail or forward them to a Gmail account easily. Email should be convenient, and if you have to login to a separate system, you may forget to check it regularly.

SSL Options

Security is a big issue on the world wide web. To access a website, your web browser establishes a link between itself and the server the website is on. For security, you want to make sure that this conversation is encrypted with a secure socket layer (SSL). As SSL becomes the standard practice for websites everywhere, many organizations and social media sides will not link to websites that don’t have this basic layer of security, and Google is starting a practice to flag any sites without SSL protection as unsafe.  

With a non-pay hosting plan, SSL is not a guarantee, while reputable paid website hosting services include this feature to its customers.  You don’t want to invest your time setting up a website, only to have Google block the site from its search engine or not be able to access a link to your website on Facebook.  

Analytics

Setting up analytics and having access to the data they provide is essential to your business and its marketing plans. Paid web hosting services let you choose the analytic tools you want to use and allow them to easily be incorporated into your site. A free web hosting plan doesn’t give you the same option. You want to make sure that the service you’re working with will help you grow your business by giving you access to your analytic data.

Advertising

While using your website to make money isn’t unheard of, we’ve all seen websites covered with annoying ads---sometimes distracting us from the website’s content. One way providers of free web hosting services make their services available at no cost is by placing ads on your website. You may be benefiting from not having to pay for the service, but at what cost?  Are your potential customers rushed off your page with video ads that play a loud sound the moment they get to the site?

With a paid web hosting service, you get to control how many ads are on your website and where they’re placed. As the owner of the web space, you’re also the one directly benefiting from driving traffic to your site, instead of lining the pockets of someone else who may get more money from the advertising on your site than it costs to run your site.

Bandwidth

Another way a free web hosting company may limit your freedom is with bandwidth. Bandwidth is the amount of data transmitted from one data point to another. The more people accessing your site, the more bandwidth you will use. Web hosting services reset bandwidth usage once a month, and it is s greatly limited with free web hosting services.  Free hosting web services may even charge a fee if you go over your bandwidth usage for the month or shut your site down entirely if you reach your monthly cap.

Using a paid service, you get a lot more bandwidth included in your service. You won’t have to worry about exceeding an amount or having your site or email be inaccessible for a part of the month.

Response Time

The amount of time it takes your web page to connect with your browser and load is called the response time. This is an important feature to be mindful of because if your website takes too long to load, people will leave before it even comes up. Free web hosting companies may have a comparable response time, but you are dependent upon them for their speed and network.  If something happens to their network or their response time slows as more people use their service, the response rate will suffer.  

Paid web hosting companies actively work to make sure they have a quick response time as a selling feature to future customers.  

Conclusion


Man using macbook pro

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In order to be competitive and establish your company as a reputable business, a website is a must-have marketing tool. While a well-established company with a flourishing online presence could not use a free web hosting plan to meet its needs, a start-up company would do well to research different free web hosting plans and use a service that gives them access to the most features possible.  

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