How to Create a Website with Free Hosting
So, you’ve decided to give your business an online presence.
Whether running a long-standing commercial enterprise or creating some resources for a hobby community is what’s needed, every website needs hosting.
There are plenty of options out there, and many of them are available for free.
But are the free ones actually worth any time?
Let’s look at the ins and outs of free and paid websites.
What Is Web Hosting?
Before we begin, let’s cover what the phrase “website hosting” actually means.
Every website on the internet has one thing in common: It comprises data files. And that data has to exist somewhere – it has to have a host.
That used to mean a server in a garage (that’s how Google started), and now it means hundreds of interconnected data centers around the world.
You've probably heard the stories of obsolete websites still being hosted by a sole server faithfully chugging away at the back of a dusty old warehouse years after the site stopped serving any useful purpose.
At the other end of the scale are the modern powerhouses of the web like Amazon, Google, and Yahoo, sites which literally have aircraft hangar-sized buildings full of servers. You might have heard of this type of hosting being in the cloud.
Cloud computing relies on sharing computing resources rather than having local servers or personal devices to handle applications.
So, if building a website is next on the to-do list, be sure to come up with a hosting solution one way or the other, and we can safely assume that neither of the ones we've mentioned so far are what you're looking for.
So what options remain?
And what are the downsides of choosing free web hosting over the paid versions?
Getting Online Is Super Cheap
A while back, hosting was expensive, and many design agencies made tremendous profits by marking up their hosting services.
Thanks to the growth of free website builders, hosting has become democratized and much more affordable. Don’t expect to pay more than $25 a month on any of the major site builders like Squarespace, Wix, or Web.com.
Website hosting is the key to the entire endeavor; without a reliable host, a website will hardly be seen by anyone.
After all, what good is a site with 50% downtime?
The key is to find a host with reliable uptime, a short response time to problems, and plenty of security.
Oh, and it needs to be free.
Before thinking "that's impossible," read a bit further.
Many website builders offer free web hosting. This might not always include customized URLs or domain names, but their hosting is sufficient for most purposes. Because some companies offer hosting just for signing up, it's easy to bundle the entire package together in one easy-to-use collection.
The Benefits of a Free Web Host
Don’t bother with any of the technical sides of web hosting, and you won’t have to invest in expensive server hardware.
Worried about the limitations of permanently free web hosting solutions? While finding your footing in the online world, most paid services offer a free package to get started. Some will offer the option to upgrade once the site has outgrown the free service.
For example, Wix offers a free tier with 500MB of storage and 500MB of bandwidth. If you decide that more bandwidth is needed or accessing premium features is something that can help, upgrading the account can be accomplished at the click of a button.
What's the Catch?
Most of these companies offer a wonderful service for free.
But it’s essential to their business to convert free customers into paying customers, so they all have ways of encouraging a small fee of a few dollars each month. The web hosting companies ultimately want every user to become a paying customer.
They try and entice customers into doing so by putting limitations on the functionality of the free offering. Let’s take a look at a few of these common limitations.
One of the most common compromises that will need to be made when choosing a free web hosting solution is to allow the host to place its adverts on the site. The more commercial a website is, the less likely that visitors are going to want to see random adverts that may have little or nothing to do with content. If the website is intended to promote a hobby or provide free information or content, visitors may be a little more understanding.
When promoting a serious business, it will pay off in the long run to find a host that minimizes the number of ads being displayed.
No Shopping Cart
Often access won’t be granted to the platform’s shopping cart functionality when using free website hosting.
Once again, if this is not for a commercial site, it's likely that this won't bother anyone in the least.
However, if you are running a site as a business, you'll be at a major disadvantage by having no cart available to process purchases.
Think about it; when was the last time you visited a site that was selling something and that didn't have a shopping cart?
Bandwidth is the lifeblood of every site.
Without enough of it, your site will be inaccessible to potential users. Make no mistake about it. Competitors' sites will be open for business at the same time and gladly welcome potential visitors .
As such, bear in mind that a free website hosting solution could put tight constraints on the amount of traffic your site can accept.
The good news is that sites like Wix and Web.com do give adequate bandwidth for beginners, so don’t worry too much at the start.
If you only expect to have a handful of visitors to your site, lower bandwidth may not be a problem. If growing your site and expanding your user base is the goal, sooner or later you’ll outgrow the free solution and need to stump up for a paid service.
Limits on Design and Functionality
Choosing a template is probably the most important decision to be made.
Most visitors will look at formatting and design and quickly make up their minds as to whether to hang around or not. A template provides a general layout and look for your site, and a lot of times, it's as simple as dragging and dropping content into it.
This is a really simple way of getting up and running, especially if a design aficionado is not on the scope quite yet. Some website builders will charge extra for the best-looking templates, though, and some will reserve the best templates for users who pay for premium memberships.
Before committing to your choice of builder, take some time to review the templates that you can use with the free option. The layout and overall appearance of a site is crucial to driving traffic (and retaining customers), so make sure that they have something that fits your message and conveys the image you want to present.
What to Look for in a Web Host
A good website host will offer several things: sufficient storage, support, security, and good uptime.
Each site takes up space on the internet.
The larger and more expansive the site, the more storage it requires.
If you run a website that is heavily centered on graphics, images, or videos – for instance, a photography portfolio site – then it will take up a lot more space than a single-page, text-only site would.
A good web host will provide enough storage to contain an entire website and then some. All the major players now give ample space at great rates.
Sometimes things happen.
Sites go down unexpectedly, a glitch happens within the framework, or a dozen other web emergencies pop up that never occurred before.
When this happens, make sure that the option to contact a support team to help straighten out the problem is available.
The great thing about web hosting with a company like Weebly or Wix is that they provide 24/7 support in a variety of forms to help straighten out any issues that arise with sites. So, even if it goes down at 3:00 in the morning, you can get back up and running in no time.
Of course, be fair to them.
It’s tough to offer 24/7 phone support to millions of customers, but they are taking steps to be as reliable as possible.
For instance, Wix now offers a telephone callback service, so you can speak to a real Wix operator. You could also hire a personalized Wix expert from the Wix Arena, so you’ve got plenty of options to get all the support needed.
Security is extremely important. Vulnerable websites are the number one target for malicious software and hackers across the web. Web hosts that slack off in their provision of security are quickly overwhelmed by cyberattacks that threaten all of their users. It’s absolutely essential to find a host that provides security features such as server-side firewalls, password protection, and more.
All web hosts go down at some point. This is often for scheduled maintenance, but while they are down, no site on their network is available. Whether you're running a business or maintaining a personal blog that keeps family and friends up to date on your travels, you want to ensure that it's online as much as possible. Finding hosting that provides reliable uptime and keeps scheduled outages to a minimum can spare a ton of headaches.
All of these features are provided by the hosts listed above.
Whether you use Weebly, Wix, or any of the other website builders, you can count on reliable, free web hosting forever.
However, the service available for just a few dollars can really take the website experience to another level.
If you are a small to medium-sized business or are looking for some publicity for your newest venture, free web hosting is almost certainly the right option. Just keep in mind the limitations, which could include bandwidth, advertisements, and limits on design and functionality.
Check out our top website builder reviews to see which one suits your hosting needs.