“The best things in life are free”, the song goes. That may not be the case for web hosting providers, but there sure are pretty good options that cost absolutely nothing, or are very close to being free.
Since the early days of the world wide web, there have always been ways to publish content for the masses without paying a dime. Those ways perfected over the years, and today you can publish great websites, even with professional looks, totally free.
Think about open blogging platforms, like WordPress, Google’s Blogger, or Tumblr. Or webpage creation platforms, like Weebly or Wix. You can choose any of those options to create and maintain your website without investing a dollar. And also without the need to learn about programming, web servers, Linux, or any other geeky stuff.
But what if you are a geek, and you want to get into that geeky stuff? What if you really want to get your hands dirty with some Linux administration tasks, with Apache Server configuration, with MySQL database management? Well, you can also do that without paying anything, and manage a live website like a pro.
Before we start reviewing, let’s make something clear: all the free platforms — even Weebly or Wix — offer an essential service, and make you pay for anything you might want on top of that. Consider domain names, for example. Some free platforms just don’t let you use a top-level domain of your own — they force you to use theirs, and offer you to pick an available subdomain; unless you pay. So forget about using that cool domain name you came up with during a sleepless night.
SSL/TLS cert is another feature you might need to drop if you don’t want to pay. This one could be an inconvenience because search engines prefer websites that serve their content through a secure connection, and if you don’t implement SSL, your site won’t rank well on Google’s (or other engines) search results. But the good part is that you can start for free and, if things go well and your site starts to kick-ass, you can buy additional services, like custom domain names and SSL certificates, afterward.
Just take into account that the total cost will be higher than buying a full service from the beginning. That’s the price of avoiding risks and playing safe. Now, that being said, let the reviews begin.
000Webhost is operated and owned by Hostinger, a web hosting provider with very affordable plans (less than a dollar per month). The free service offers up to 1 domain hosting with 300MB of storage, 1 MySQL database, 1 FTP account, monthly traffic of up to 3 GB, and no ads.
You also get a website builder, cPanel, and a WordPress auto-installer, but no email accounts or subdomains. The free service also lacks SSL certificates and support via tickets — the only option is to get into the forums and hope that someone answers your doubts.
Being backed by Hostinger, you can trust on 000Webhost’s 99% uptime promise and the fact that they’ve been in the free web hosting business for more than ten years.
While you browse Infinity Free’s list of features, you keep wondering, “Where’s the catch?” The answer is simple: there’s no catch. This is a free web hosting with almost no restrictions. Period.
You can create an account in minutes and start enjoying right away the benefits of unlimited disk space, unlimited bandwidth, up to 400 MySQL databases (most providers offer at most 1 or 2), free DNS, and free SSL. Infinity Free doesn’t provide domain registration services, but if you register your domain name elsewhere, you can host it with them for free.
Infinity is reported to be the fastest free hosting in the world, according to independent testings. And it offers a 99.9% uptime, which is even better than some paid web hosting services. To populate your free hosted server with scripts and applications, you can use the Softaculous automatic script installer. This allows you to install over 400 scripts, applications, and content managers like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and more, with just a few clicks.
If your site becomes really successful and you need more features, more server power, or 24/7 support, you can upgrade to a paid plan from iFastNet Premium Hosting, the main sponsor of Infinity Free. The plans include Cloudflare Railgun, IMAP/POP/SMTP email access, full PHP support, full DNS management, and developer features such as Perl/Python/Ruby on Rails support, remote MySQL access, and more. Those plans start at $ 3.99 per month, which is not much of an investment.
Minutes after you create an account on AwardSpace, you will have your own server with 1GB of SSD storage and a website on it, built with your choice of Zacky Website Builder, WordPress, or Joomla. Without spending any money, you will have one MySQL database, 5GB of monthly bandwidth, 99.9% uptime, and a domain name with a somewhat awkward suffix.
No free SSL though, but you get a standard cPanel front end where you can manage everything, and even buy extra services you may want, from different SSL certificates to virtual private servers.
When your website volume grows, either in terms of the content published or in the amount of traffic it gets, the 5GB of monthly bandwidth or the 1GB of storage could start feeling a little restrained. If that happens, you can browse the premium hosting plans AwardSpace has to offer. Those plans offer — for a reasonable price — unlimited storage space and bandwidth, more databases, more email addresses, and more performance overall. They also provide 24/7 support and a comfortable number of maximum visits per month — 15,000 for the entry-level plan and 150,000 for the top-level one.
AwardSpace’s premium plans have surprisingly affordable prices, but you should be warned that they are valid for the first year of service only — the price tag raises a little bit after your website’s first birthday.
Free Web Hosting Area
These guys started offering free web hosting in 2005 and have been doing so without interruption since then, so they guarantee to their account owners that their sites won’t disappear overnight. The web hosting service is maintained by volunteers that appreciate when you upgrade your account to one of their really affordable paid plans or when you just thank them for giving this service for free.
The free web hosting service is packed with features, such as IDN (internationalized domain name) support, fast hosting through dedicated servers with multi-CPUs and SSDs, 99.8% uptime, 1,500MB of space, unmetered traffic, Apache, PHP, up to 3 MySQL databases powered by MariaDB, daily backups, and a rudimentary control panel (sorry, no free cPanel). The service also lacks a site builder and a one-click install, so you are on your own for those tasks.
In the feature list, there’s an item that says “no ads for new sites”. That means that they don’t place ads on low-bandwidth sites, which sounds fair enough. When your website gains a lot of visitors, your free ride ends, and you either pay for an upgrade or the ads begin to pop-up on your pages.
FreeHostia’s “Chocolate” web hosting plan (yes, that’s the name of the free plan; other plans have names such as “Wildhoney”, “Supernatural”, etc.) allow you to create a professional-looking site using its one-click applications installer to obtain Joomla, WordPress, PrestaShop or other 50 PHP web applications.
The Chocolate plan offers up to 5 hosted domains, 250MB of disk space, 6GB of monthly traffic, 1 MySQL database (with 10MB of DB storage) and 3 email accounts. FreeHostia uses a load-balanced cluster platform on a data center located on Steadfast, Chicago, USA. This infrastructure provides the physical environment necessary to keep the servers running around the clock.
FreeHosting’s free plan offers a quite standard feature set: 10GB of storage, unmetered bandwidth, 1 email account, and a multilingual cPanel. It is a very popular hosting provider, with more than ten years in the business and more than 15,000 customers. If your site requires special features, you can buy add-ons with a one-time payment, and your hosting plan remains free.
The gap between the free and the paid plan is somewhat wide: from zero to $ 7.99 per month. Premium features may be worth paying that monthly fee because the limitations are erased, and you get faster servers, multi-site hosting, automated backups, web stats, and increased PHP execution time, memory, and upload size limits.
Is “free” the best option?
Maybe “almost free” is better, unless you don’t expect too much from your website. Yes, you can start free and then upgrade to a paid plan, but you will be forced to stick with the same provider or to do a whole site migration, which can be a lot of effort. As you might have guessed by now, in many cases, the providers use their free plans as a bait to attract you to their paid options.
Starting a website for free is really tempting, mainly because it makes you think you won’t be investing anything. But you’d be wrong: you will be spending your time. If you value it, and you value the content you plan to put on your website, before jumping into one of the free options, take your time to analyze them thoroughly.
Consider how much they will cost when your website starts attracting visitors, and you need to get serious about it. And compare that analysis with the affordable web hosting services we reviewed here. After all, the best things in life might not be free — just almost free.