The one word answer to this question is – yes. You can definitely create a website without going for paid hosting services.
With that said, it pays to know which factors to consider while going hosting shopping.
It’s also important to be knowledgeable of the steps and process to follow so you can stumble upon the right web host.
With a view to helping all the first time hosting buyers and website owners out there, we’ve put together this guide for you.
But, before we talk about what things to look for when selecting a free web hosting plan, let’s talk about the benefits of it –
Here’s why you should go for free web hosting –
- Helps in cost-cutting – Perhaps you’re a student or someone who’s launching a one-time online campaign where it doesn’t make sense to invest a lot of money. In that case, you can save funds by going for free website hosting. No need to set aside a budget every month for hosting alone. Although web hosting services are available for as low as $3 these days, you still have to worry about renewing it every month. Free web hosting takes out that pain.
- Good for bloggers and web journalists – Bloggers, web journalists, and NGOs are a few examples of users who should find a free web hosting more than adequate. Since they are not big on publishing multimedia and graphic-rich content, the online disk space allocated by free web hosting companies should easily suffice to launch and run a website smoothly.
- You can learn the basics of design and development – If you’re a beginner who wants to get acquainted with website designing, development, and basic coding, it’s good to launch a website on a free hosting platform. You get free hands-on experience with design and development tools, web maintenance, site monitoring, file upload/download and management issues, etc. all without worrying about hosting costs.
- Ideal for hosting static websites – The purpose of static websites is usually to share some news/event with the world or a piece of information which is in the public domain. Such websites are pretty simplistic. They don’t demand a lot of maintenance or database management of any kind. If you plan on creating one such website, it is best you get yourself registered on a free web hosting service provider.
These are just a handful of the benefits you get from choosing a free web host. The whole thing makes it abundantly clear that it’s definitely an option worth exploring.
Let’s now talk about how to choose the right web host.
Tips for choosing right free web host company
1. Consider the availability /uptime
As someone who is new to the world of hosting or website creation, you may not know this but uptime is of the essence when it comes to managing a site. In simplest words, availability aka uptime is the guarantee you get that you won’t website will remain online. High uptime means lesser likelihood of the site failing due to server errors or experiencing downtime which is often necessary due to server maintenance. Industry standards dictate that ideally the uptime should be 99.5%. So, it’s good to look for a company that promise an uptime of 99.9 or higher. Higher availability becomes necessary for websites that publish time-sensitive content such as news/events or website that cannot afford to lose customers due to downtime.
2. Make sure there are no hidden costs
A lot of the companies only claim to provide free web hosting services but in actuality, it’s a decoy to deduct money on a later stage. They would ask your credit card information and under the pretence of subscribing you to free services, lure you in a trap. Make sure the company genuinely offers free services and that there are no hidden costs involved to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
3. Bandwidth limit
In simple words, it’s the amount of data that server sends to the visitors’ browser (on a computer or mobile) whenever he/she tries to access your website. If yours is going to be a simple website like a blog or a simple online knowledgebase, you may not need a lot of bandwidth.
But, if you plan on uploading heavy files, videos, or images – you would need higher bandwidth. Most hosting companies put a limit on this. If you reach that limit before the end of the month, your website would either become inaccessible for the rest of the month to users or you will be required to pay for the extra bandwidth.
While some companies offer 5 GB of bandwidth as part of free web hosting plan, some may even go up to 10 GB. If you think your website is going to have a lot of traffic and an unexpected spike in the number of visitors, or if you plan on uploading heavy files or videos, then you should look for a company that provides the maximum bandwidth for free.
4. Disk Space allocation
All your data on computer is stored on the hard drive, correct? The higher capacity your drive has, the more data it can store. Same goes with the disc space allocated on a server where your website information and data will be stored. Now this factor will be determined by your personal circumstances. A small business that wants nothing more than a functional website just for the sake of securing online presence will not demand a huge disk space. In that case, a 20 GB of disk space will only go waste. But, if you plan on sharing large amounts of data as well as manage powerful applications, you will need more space.
Most free web hosting companies have put a limit on disc space. Do analyses your personal requirements and see to whether or not the allocated space will be enough.
5. Technical Freedom
If you want to be able to play around with the website in terms of how it looks, functions, and everything; you would need to look at how much technical freedom you get with free web hosting. Make sure if you get access to WordPress FTP, MySQL, and PHP.
- FTP (File Transfer Protocol) enables the website owner to download and upload files to this WordPress website directly from his/her computer.
- Moving on to PHP support, this is the language in which websites are written but you may need access to a different version depending on the software in which you made the website. Make sure you get that support.
- If you’re going to collect and process data from users, you would need access to MySQL database.
Few companies that provide free web hosting services may limit the kind of access to technical functionalities thus limiting user’s freedom. If you plan on experimenting a lot with the website, make sure you get access to all the functions mentioned above and more. However, if you’re not big on technical freedom, you will have a wider variety of options to pick from.
6. Technical Support
If you are a newbie who is not much familiar with website creation, web design, and maintenance; chances are you’re going to need to contact the tech support more often than a professional. So, it pays to look into the kind of support systems available. It’s not necessary that all companies provide telephone support. Some offer assistance via chat support while others have a dedicated community where people can post queries into forums and one of the moderators answer them. Another way through which you might get assistance is via e-mail/ticket support or even through the knowledgebase. Be sure that you get access to some or the other kind of technical support which comes handy in case you run into some issue you are clueless about.
7. SSL Certification
Ever noticed how some websites have HTTPS in their name while others only have HTTP? Well, the former are the websites that have chosen to become more secure by opting for an SSL certification. This certificate basically binds your website’s data with a cryptographic key. The HTTPS protocol hence provides a more secure connection between a browser and the web server that loads the site.
An SSL certificate is essential if you plan on sharing sensitive data back and forth or if you plan on conducting online transactions. The world of internet is prone to hacking. HTTPS protocol offers protection against hacking and unscrupulous online activities.
8. Access to Control Panel
Also known as cPanel, this is a backend place which allows you to make changes within the website and the server. Whenever you want to add new features or run new updates, a cPanel is where you go to. You also upgrade the account via cPanel. Some host companies provide users the access to this panel while others put certain restrictions on what you can or cannot do. In that case, you have to reach customer support for things like getting a new email account setup or even change the password. If you don’t want to go through such troubles, make sure the plan comes with access to cPanel.
9. Free domain name
Ever noticed how some website names read like – www.xyz.wordpress.com? They don’t sound very professional, do they? The reason they don’t sound like a proper website is because the owner has not bought a separate domain name, hence it has the name of the platform in which the website is created towards the tail.
Many hosting companies also include domain name as part of their package, but not all. If you’re big on having a unique website name that gives a professional feel, make sure the package comes with a free domain name. Mind you, not all companies offer a free domain name along with web hosting so you will have to check that. But, if a proper website name is not on your priority list, then it’s your personal choice.
10. Great Email
If you plan on running an online marketing campaign, then you would need some kind of e-mail support to give to the customers. In that case, you would need a dedicated email service which is provided by the hosting company. If an email account is included in the package, you can set up an address with your website’s domain name such as – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make sure the email is accessible anywhere and also comes with the option of auto-responding, setting-up email forwarding and sending newsletters. Also, scrutinize tightly which security measures the company implements to protect the email from malware, viruses, and spam emails.
11. Choice of templates
Most companies provide free website builders which make designing as simple as drag and drop. You don’t even need to have any coding or technical knowledge to use the website builder. Make sure your service provider offers you this access and also look at the number of templates you get to choose from. In this context it’s safe to say the more the merrier. Depending on the nature/theme of your website, you should get myriad choices to select from.
Different people have different kinds of website requirements which is why choosing a free web hosting company is a multi-faceted process that needs to take into account many factors. But, if you take the above points into consideration, you will be able to make an informed decision; the one you’re content and happy with.