While there are obvious benefits to free web hosting—such as the fact that it is cost-free—there are also disadvantages of free web hosting, and not all of these are obvious. This article details some disadvantages free web hosting may include.
Reasons for Free Web Hosting
Free hosting is offered because it benefits the web host in some way. While the no-cost element of the hosting benefits the user, the web host’s choices may either be livable, given the savings, or may come back to bite the incautious user later, when limitations of one kind or another preclude the website appearing the way the user wishes or prevent the continued development of the website. Results can be challenging: lost revenue from the site being unavailable, visitors being put off by annoying advertisements, lack of return business, because visitors cannot recall the URL, or even the need to completely rebuild the site with another web host.
List of Disadvantages of Free Web Hosting
There are several different categories of disadvantages that may be found with free web hosting. Not all free web hosts have the same limitations, and while some may have only one disadvantage, others may have more. Some of the disadvantages may be able to be eliminated by paying or upgrading, while others may be absolute.
- Branding—People who create websites usually want to have full control of the branding, but free web hosting may limit ability to do this: URLs may be limited to a sub-domain, banner and pop-up ads may interfere with the site’s appearance, web-builder templates may allow for little or no personalization, offering only one text style, limitations on images, etc.
- Breadth—By limiting the resources available for the website, free web hosts limit their costs and may also pressure users of free websites to upgrade to paid sites. Limitations may include disk space, bandwidth, number of email accounts, size and type of media that can be uploaded, number of pages or products that can be included, number or availability of databases, etc.
- Support and Maintenance—Receiving no fees, there is less impetus for a web host to provide any additional services. Customer service and technical support may be limited or nonexistent. There may be no back-up guarantee, and best practices for reliable, redundant web hosting may not be followed, leaving the user in danger of losing valuable data. Site analytics and traffic logs may not be available to track effectiveness of website development. Upgrades to the server operating system and software patches may not happen on a regular or timely basis, and there is unlikely to be an uptime guarantee, leaving the user with a site that is unavailable and little or no recourse.
- Search Engine Ranking—search engines often ignore subdomains all together which means your site will not even show in search results. The only way a customer or visitor will find your site is by typing the URL in directly. Chances of someone remembering your URL exactly are very, very slim. This will make it incredibly difficult for visitors to find your site, or for customers to return for repeat purchases if they somehow made it there once.
- Longevity—in addition to having a lot of downtown and outdated hardware and software, dozens of free hosts close their doors everyday and often without any prior warning or admonition to move your site to another host. You may attempt to login or access your site one day only to discover that it is just gone. If you do choose to use free web hosting, make frequent and complete backups of your website.
- Overcrowding—the more websites on one server, the higher the risk for problems. Whether it is server overload, viruses, illegal content that gets the server shut down, or any other number of problems—having too many sites crowded onto one server is a bad idea. Even if your site does work most of the time, you will likely notice slower load times and overall lower website performance.
- Other costs—even if the host does not require you to make a monthly payment, they may require you to do other things to “pay” for or keep your service free. A prime example of this is “post 2 host” services. This type of service will require you to post a specified number of posts in the forum every month. The idea behind it is that customers will help one another and the company will not have to have a support staff. We have yet to see where this has actually been effective. Another requirement may be a certain number of referrals will earn you free hosting. If you don’t get that many people to join their program, you will then be charged for the service. Even if you are able to get people to sign up with the host, it is really a disadvantage to you because that just means that many more websites crowding the server.
As you can see, there are many disadvantages of free web hosting, or at least many things to look into and consider before making the decision to use a free web hosting service. Considering that cheap web hosting costs less than $5/month and eliminates a large number of these issues, it’s certainly worth checking that option prior to choosing free web hosting. The disadvantages of free web hosting may very well end up costing you much more, in time and lost business, than paying a few dollars a month. Check out WebHostingHub or iPage and get started for less than $4 per month.