Free hosting – is it charity?
Does free hosting need an explanation? Unfortunately it does, because what has been advertised and widely recognized as free hosting is not free at all in 99.99% of the cases.
“Free hosting” is most of the time offered in exchange for placing advertising on your website, meaning that the host will automatically place an advertisement at the top and sometimes at the bottom of every page of your website. Sometimes they don’t use banners, they use pop-ups.
No matter what they ask you to do in exchange for free hosting, you have to do something in exchange, so you’re not being offered free hosting! It’s just a barter. They give you hosting in exchange for placing ads on your website. They call it free because you don’t give them any money, but you do pay for it.
They claim and even convince you that they’re doing you a favor: they give you free hosting. They know that if you think the service is free you’ll not complain for downtime, unresponsive support teams. But the thing is you’re not getting it for free!
Now, even if they would offer it for free, the service should be at least acceptable. But it usually isn’t. If one offers free lunch to the poor, that food must not be rotten. It’s just common sense! What these free hosting services always seem to forget to mention is the fact that they’re not charities. They’re businesses and they’re always looking for ways to make a profit.
I find it deceiving that they use the word “free” when the right name for it should be “barter hosting” or “trade hosting” or “ad-funded hosting”. But, as strange as it might sound, the world doesn’t revolve around me, the so called free hosting will remain “free hosting”. Too many people in the hosting industry use this term and too many regular people look for “free hosting” for it to go away.
Common problems with free hosting
It should not be a surprise that free hosting is generally not as good as paid hosting. The problems that are common in the paid hosting section of the hosting industry are almost a rule in the world of free hosting. Timely support is almost out of the question with most free hosts. Excessive downtime and slow servers are almost the norm rather than just seldom occurring problems.
That isn’t to say that free web hosting can’t be acceptable in terms of quality. There are some companies that offer reliable free web hosting. Don’t get me wrong, reliable here doesn’t mean paid-hosting-reliable, it means reliable according to the free hosting standards (whatever that means).
Free hosting without the ads
Yes, you can find free hosting that doesn’t require the placement of ads on your pages. That doesn’t mean the company isn’t there to make a profit! The free account will give you only a small amount of bandwidth and space. What the hosting company does is give you free hosting while you’re starting your website/business and/or your needs are low.
They figure (bet) that you’ll go for their paid hosting packages (many free hosts have paid plans too), as soon as your website will outgrow it’s account in terms of bandwidth and/or space. Sure, you’re getting a free start, but the host gives you well below $1/month worth of resources, so they’re not giving you much, especially if they limit the support you’re eligible for.
Some free hosts allow only the use of subdomains or directories, which means that your website’s URL will look something like this: yourwebsite.yourhost.com or www.yourhost.com/yourwebsite. That means that if you move your website you’ll lose all those hard earned links that point at it, people will send you emails that you’ll never read etc. You are stuck with that host.
What’s in it for the host in this case? Well, the host gets brand awareness because it gets to be published in the myriad of free hosting directories. It also gets it’s name in your URL and in the URL of lots of other websites. Branding again. Also, if the service is at least acceptable it will get a good reputation, which often is worth more than pure gold. All those ultimately mean more business for their business.
It happened and it still does, that some hosts start their business with a great “free hosting” offer. Their name soon gets published all over the web. After a while (usually a year or so) the company stops offering free hosting. Some of their “free” clients will agree to become paying customers, while others will decide to see their work vanish into oblivion, but not pay. By that time though, the host gains immense brand awareness. It might actually get quite a few clients because of those people that were hosted for free and decide to pay in order to keep their websites up and running.
Unlimited space/hosting are a no-no in the paid hosting arena. In the free hosting arena it’s even worse. It basically spells out that the servers will be overcrowded. Although you might like the idea of having as much space and data transfer as you need, please resist the temptation. Unlimited space/bandwidth is an illusion. It’s like when you’re seeing water in the middle of the desert. A mirage. You are promised, but you will not receive.
Secret backdoor to quality free hosting
Actually it’s not that secret, just not widely known. As I said in the beginning of this article, free hosting is most of the time nothing more than a barter. Now here’s the idea: why settle for lousy “free hosting” when you can barter for quality hosting instead? All you need to do is find a few good paid hosting companies and then ask for hosting in exchange for placing ads on your website.
Your greatest advantage is that you’ll be able to make those ads fit your website perfectly. They will not be automatically added to your pages at the top or bottom. You’ll have complete control over your website’s design.
Sure, you’ll have to negotiate where to place those ads. It’s normal for the host to ask for the ads to be placed so that they’ll get high chances to be noticed by your website’s visitors. As long as they don’t ask for a big banner to be placed on your pages I don’t see a serious problem. I would suggest you though to go for a text ad. It’s usually much easier to make a text ad blend-in nicely so that it doesn’t scream “I’m an ad!”.
This solution for getting great hosting without giving money out of your pocket is not for all websites though. First, the hosting company will want a suited audience. Targeting the right audience will bring them the best results in terms of sales volume.
So your website’s audience should have a rather high interest in buying hosting. Web programmers, web designers, webmasters, search engine optimization specialists and web business owners are among those who might be interested in hosting offers. If your website attracts such people, you have significantly better chances to trade ads in exchange for hosting.
One thing to notice is that your chances to barter for hosting are considerably smaller if you’re just launching your website. That’s because you can’t get something for nothing. If you offer advertising and have no audience you’re basically offering potential audience and ask for hosting in exchange. The only chance you’ve got is to convince the host that your site has great potential. That you have a good plan to get visitors.
You might think that if it’s just starting, your website will not consume lots of resources. After all, the activity is near zero. However there is more to hosting than just that. You might need some support, which costs the host quite a lot.
One thing to notice is that hosts will prefer to barter hosting with text based websites. Websites offering big files for download are not likely to be accepted.
Free hosting is almost never free – at least in the form in which it exists on the internet today. I have yet to find a free host that is a real charity. As strange as it might sound, you should be wary of free hosts that seem to be completely free (charity-like). A host must have funding. Ask them how they cover or plan to cover their costs. Is there a foundation behind that host? It’s highly unlikely, but who knows?
All hosts have to pay for the servers, bandwidth and staff. If they don’t have a good plan to cover the costs, the future for them is grim and services will soon degrade due to under funding.
The best option if you don’t want to spend money for hosting is to barter for it with a respected, serious, honest web host. But don’t ever trick yourself into thinking that you’re getting something for nothing. Ads are a form of payment so you are paying.