Over the past few years, I’ve been messing around with paid and free hosting. Though there are numerous posts already throughout the web on this, I feel that I could “throw my hat into the ring” on such a debated topic by webmasters.
In this article, I think that I will focus on a few main points:
- Pricing, features, and limitations
- Different uses and which to choose
Pricing, Features, and Limitations
Between $0.00 and $x.xx per month, there is a significant difference in price for both types of hosting and certainly the features are quite different.
On a free hosting service, customers usually get a very basic and clumsy version of the web host’s basic plan with heavy caps and many drawbacks including:
- Ads on the website
- Small bandwidth caps
- Server request bottlenecks
- Slow performance
- Lack of technical support
In terms of features, there is an upside! Most free web hosts do offer at least one free MySQL database, ability to park your domain, and have PHP deployed on their servers, which is not bad considering that web hosts offering free and paid options usually have the same control dashboard for both options.
Paid hosting, on the other hand, splits up the features into several pricing tiers. I rarely see paid plans have bad uptime, unlike free hosting, as free hosting is usually on tiny shared servers that are low priority. Even with a $1.00/month plan on most web hosts, it feels 10x better than the best free hosting plan. Of course, this is my opinion after trying out several free hosting options, but not all.
I have tried 2 paid hosting services and for both, I received a very generous bandwidth cap from both, as well as excellent technical support and easy deployment onto the web host. Another perk is the big jump in system performance. Since the free hosting services offer tiny caps on system resources, websites are usually slow. In the near future, I plan to write a follow-up article, on reviewing several free hosting web hosts as well.
Different Uses and choosing which one
So, the final question would be: Is free hosting worth it at all? The answer is yes and no! You see, there are multiple reasons why a free host is good and bad, and there is no definitive answer unless we have some context and use cases.
Some uses include:
- Beginner blogger
- Budget hosting
There aren’t many reasons why you would use a free shared hosting service, but the first reason would be for beginner bloggers. When starting off with blogging, it is always very good to start off with WordPress, as it is one of the most popular blogging platforms in the world. However, WordPress is only hosted on WordPress.com blogs or installing it on your own web host.
As WordPress is a very popular platform, some bloggers migrate from Weebly, Blogger, Medium, etc to WordPress for the customizable themes, plugins, and overall nicer interface (in my opinion). In the beginning, usually, there is not really a need for a dedicated web server as you are learning how WordPress works so free hosting is perfect to experiment with various website setups. Once you get the hang of WordPress, it is not really worth the hassle to keep the free hosting around as a paid plan is worth the performance difference.
Another reason is budget hosting. Blogger, WordPress.com, Github Pages, and other platforms are free and easy to use and get the job done. they are quite limited by their ability to customize, however. Free hosting, acts like any other web hosting service and allows users to still blog, but with less customization.
For a website that does not get much traffic and is not really targetted towards a wide audience, it isn’t necessary to have the best performance. Well, ads and speed are still annoying, but as a person that does can’t really justify spending $1/month on hosting if only 5 people view your website per month, it is safe to say free hosting is possibly the way to go to “test the waters” first before upgrading to a paid plan to get rid of the minuscule server restrictions.
In the end, I think it’s all about the use case, and not just about the performance and features. If you feel that you can get by with just a simple web host, I highly recommend to just stick with a big company rather than free hosting. Free hosting should only be used for experimentation rather than actual end-product.