Cheap or Free Hosting?

Introduction

There are many different applications for a website but all require a level of website hosting before your site can even begin its life online. The decision of which host and which package to choose should begin with deciding on the most important factors and then finding the package that most closely matches this while still meeting your budgetary requirements. Many hosts offer cheap hosting packages that are available at $5 per month or less, but there are a few that also offer free hosting. We look at the significant differences between the cheap and the free offerings.

About Free Hosting


The first thing to realize with free hosting is that while you may not pay any money, there really is no such thing as free. For any form of mission critical website, free hosting is highly unlikely to offer the features and stability that you are looking for. However, if you are looking to host a personal website then it may be just the ticket. The main reason for this is that while even cheap hosting offers some form of guarantee regarding the stability of your site, free hosting does not need to offer anything like this.

Free Hosting Options


Free hosting comes in various formats. The most common offers advertisement supported hosting using a subdomain, e.g. yourdomain.freehosting.com. This enables the hosting supplier to make revenue from your website and also create a large number of content based pages on their domain. The adverts may be in the shape of banner advertisements or pay per click contextual ads but they will generally be placed in a prominent position on each of your pages. It is also common for your page to include a link to the host.

Some paid hosting services also offer a free account. Again, these do generally include advertising of some form and a subdomain but the intention is more to promote their service to you than to others.

Advantages


The advantage of free hosting is immediately obvious. It costs nothing, and as such is perfect for personal websites and even non-profit organizations. However, if you are looking to make a profit from your site or convey a sense of professionalism then you should seriously consider the use of paid hosting. Cheap hosting is widely available and offers several advantages over a free host.

Cheap Hosting Introduction


The first advantage is the obvious lack of forced, unpaid, advertisements. With cheap hosting it isn’t necessary to serve advertisements on behalf of your hosting company. Instead you can use your own advertisements and make money for your own business or for you personally. The forced advertisements are often required to be placed in a certain position of your page. This prominence can give your site an unprofessional feeling. Because you are in charge of ad placement it is possible, even with hosting that costs a couple of dollars a month, to generate the kind of image that your website needs.

The Features On Offer


Features are also important to any self respecting Webmaster. Cheap hosting generally offers a very good list of features that can be easily and quickly installed onto your website. With free hosting this is unlikely because of the cost it incurs for the hosting company. These features include a much greater level of bandwidth and disk space but you can also find cheap hosting that enables the easy installation of blogs, forums, thumbnail galleries and much more.

Support Levels


Cheap hosting is required to offer a greater level of support. For free hosts support is generally only offered online or through support emails and no guarantee is usually given regarding the length of time it will take them to respond. Cheap hosting packages should generally offer a much greater level of support. As well as email and ticket based support you should also expect to receive telephone support and all support should be offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Network Uptime And Site Stability


Network uptime is the amount of time that the network is available. Free hosts do not need to, and therefore don’t, offer a network uptime guarantee because their customers do not pay for this level of service. Cheap hosting, on the other hand, does usually include a network uptime guarantee. As a general rule this can be anywhere between 99% and 99.99%; obviously the high the better.

Program Support


Program support is also a question you should consider. If you intend to use a program like Dreamweaver then you might struggle to find a free hosting package that offers Frontpage support and extensions. On the other hand many cheap hosting providers will offer this as standard. If you require Perl, ColdFusion, or ASP then you should definitely be looking to cheap hosting in preference to free.

Free And Cheap Hosting Conclusion


Generally speaking, the biggest differences between free and cheap hosting is service level, network stability, and choice. Because free hosts are providing you a service that ordinarily costs money you get very little in the way of any of these. In comparison, cheap hosting companies tend to offer several different levels of hosting package and, as such, they will go the extra mile wherever possible to provide you with the service you require.

Running a personal website does not place the same demands on you, your website, or your host. As such it is feasible that you could use a free host for this application. However, when you are looking for increased service, improved stability, or a greater range of features then you will need to look at the paid options. Cheap hosting does have a lot to offer over free offers and because there is so much choice available you should be able to find the package that is most ideally suited to your needs.