Looking for free web hosting?

I see a number of people making queries on Facebook groups and Quora about free web hosting for one's website or blog. Like them, if you are one who wants to build a website or blog that is self-hosted, but are not in a position to spend much money, this post is for you.

On the web, you will find offers of FREE web hosting with or without FREE domain name registration. So that it does not confuse you, I have dealt with both.

What do free website hosting and domain name registration mean?


  • A website or blog needs to have a name and a place on the web, so that it can be visited by others. The name is called domain name and it needs to be purchased. That is domain name registration.
  • For placing the website somewhere on the web, you need a server that runs day and night and is connected all the time with internet. This is called web hosting. You need to pay to the web hosting company to get your website on their server.

That was too simple.

It costs to get the name and place for the website, and it involves other works. What the free website hosting and domain name registration providers are telling you is that they will do this all free for you.

The companies that promise free domaian name registration and especially free web hosting are in the business, not doing charity. So, why should they give you so much free?

They are smart businesses, who use the free services as a bait. The bait may not be too obvious and they might give some freebies for earning goodwill - but just goodwill does not earn them anything. So, they keep you prodding to upgrade to their paid plans. Sometimes, they put advertisements on top of the free website.

As a new or small blogger or one who wants to have just some presence on the web, you might say, "So what if they put a small ad or ask me to upgrade. I will get what I want, and I don't have to pay a penny." But don't that should not lead to penny wise and pound foolish.

Remember, there is nothing like a free lunch. You pay even for free web hosting and free domain name. That is why this post. I will show you in a while that when you go for free web hosting, (i) how you might end up paying more than you would have liked, and (ii) you might get frustrated later as the web host does not deliver as promised. I will also discuss how you can still use free services in certain situations.

What do free web hosting plans offer to website owner/ blogger?


Different companies have different types of free web hosting (and domain name registration) offers. The common ones are:

A. COMPLETELY FREE PLANS

  • Free plans of website builders: There are a number of website builders, e.g. Wix, Weebly and SquareSpace. There are dozens of others. Some of them host the website free for you at the lowest end of their offers. They usually do not provide a free domain name.
  • Free website hosts: There are a number of free web hosting companies. They claim to charge nothing for hosting your website or blog. They also do not provide free domain registration. Some examples are 000WebHost, FreeHosting and FreeHostia.
  • Free web space providers: Some big companies (e.g. Amazon, Google) sometimes provide free web hosting, either for trial or as a giveaway (e.g. to students) or as a promotion in new territories. The provide the space but usually do not provide help in setting up a website. Becaue of this, such offers suit only techies.
  • Free blogging platforms: These platforms allow you to create a blog free, and provide totally free web hosting and domain name registration. However, the domain name that they offer is sub-domain of a large domain (e.g. your blog, example.wordpress.com, will be part of wordpress.com domain.) The biggest among them are Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr, LiveJournal and Medium.

B. FREE WEB HOSTING AND/OR DOMAIN REGISTRATION WITH PAID PLANS

  • Free trial before you buy a paid plan: Many big companies offer this, usuallhy for 15 days. The trial plans may have all the features except for putting a watermark on the final product or not allowing you to make the website public without payment. There is no free domain registration with trial offers.
  • Free domain with paid website hosting plans: Almost all web hosts give free domain registration with their paid plans. You pay for web hosting, and the domain registration comes free. However, the FREE registration usually does not last more than the plan period. After that, you have to renew the domain at a rate that sometimes is higher than the regular rate - thus they take back part of what they offered as free!

C. FREE SOFTWARE ONLY; NO FREE WEB HOSTING OR DOMAIN REGISTRATION

Though website creation in this method has no free web hosting or domain name registration, I have added this category so that you are clear about what is free and what is not, when people talk about creating a website free of cost.

  • Free CMSs and website builders: There are completely free content management systems (CMSs), e.g. Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal, available on the web. They are free software that you can use for creating websites, including blogs. After you have created the website, you need to pay for domain registration as well as web hosting.
web hosting services company


Free web hosting services: do they deliver?


You will yourself get the answer at the end of this section. For that, let me tell you the ground reality of free web hosting.

Don't be fooled by the promises made by those offering free web hosting services. They will not tell you the problems associated with their services, even if you read the fine print.

Most free web hosts put a number of restrictions on the storage capacity, server speed, bandwidth, security features and uptime. What it means is that your website may remain unavailable for some hours in a week or open slow or look insecure to the visitor, which no website owner should accept.

The storage provided to you may be just a few gigabites (GB), which will be consumed in no time if you put photos and videos on the website.

Even if the web host says it provides good amount of storage, speed etc, they will be lousy when it comes to trouble-shooting and support.

The website will be under several restrictions regarding what you can post and what not. The site can go down for technical reason, because they are under no obligation to keep it running. I have also seen many complaints about a website suddenly disappearing, without any back up. When the website owner tried to reach the hosting service, they were not available or not helpful.

You will not get to edit the code beyond a little. So, beyond their website building software or user interface, you will not be able to add any CSS or Javascript to spruce up the site.

Free website hosts do not allow advertisements, so you cannot make money from blogging/ ecommerce. On the other hand, some free web hosts put their own ads on top of the website.

You will not be able to apply search engine optimization or SEO on the website.

If the free service comes as a stripped-down version of a paid plan, they will nag you with pop-ups whenever you work on the website, asking you to upgrade.

The trial versions allow you to just play with the features, not publish the website on the web. 

The free blogging platforms also have many issues, the major ones being as follows. Some features can be available on upgradation:

  • sub-domain, not an independent domain name (Blogger allows free mapping with independent domain, Wordpress and Tumblr allow with heavy charge, others: no.)
  • limit on space (Blogger is generous, others are miserly.)
  • no posting of heavy stuff (Blogger allows videos, audio; Wordpress allows on upgradation; others: no.)
  • limited number of free themes, plugins etc (LiveJournal and Medium allow little customization.)
  • not allowing change in code (They allow in Blogger, some in Wordpress, not in others.)
  • no advertising (Allowed on Blogger.)

Should I go for a free web hosting service?


I hope, the discussion above should have convinced you that the so called free web hosting services are not for a serious website owner or blogger. 

Let me repeat that: In most cases, free website hosting is a bait for you to go for the paid plan of the web host. None of the available free web hosting services gives you resources and attention that you need as a serious website owner. Don't be fooled by the number they put on their websites; one of them even boasts of nearly 20 million users.

Go for a web hosting company and then the best plan that suits your needs. Shared web hosting plans are not very expensive, but beware that there could be hidden costs. In the linked article, you can find detailed advisory on how to choose the right web host for medium to small-sized websites and blogs.

Yet, there are situations when you can consider a free website host:

  • If you are a web development student and have to make experimental website. Go for a free web host only if your institution cannot provide you web hosting resources. 
  • If you are not in a position to spend on a paid web hosting plan, you will have to depend on a free web hosting service. Even then, do thorough research on the web about the web host that you have shortlisted. 
  • If you need to make sample websites for customers, you can use a local web hosting service or a trial version. 
  • You can use a free blogging platform for personal/ hobby blogging, but do not depend on it for professional blogging. I have dealt with it in detail here: making money blogging: go for self-hosted blog.
  • Regarding free domain name registration: you can take the free domain name that comes with a paid web hosting plan, but do not go for a plan just because you are getting a free domain with that. That plan might not have many features, for which you will have to pay on top of the base plan. So, be careful.

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