Wherever you are in the branding process, a web presence is going to be a necessity at some point. Before you compose your first blog post or create the ultimate product, you’re going to need a reliable place to host your website.
New businesses and those making the transition to eCommerce may be short on budget and high on hope. But, hosting solutions are not the place to skimp or look for freebies.
What is Website Hosting, Anyway?
Whether you decide to DIY or hire a professional web designer, you still need a reliable platform to host your website.
Web hosting is a service that provides storage for your databases and a server to honor requests from people who want to visit your website. Users type your web address into their browser bar, hit enter, and the host server brings them the files attached to that address.
Seems pretty simple on the surface, but there are a lot of moving parts underneath. Unreliable hosting platforms mean poor performance, spotty availability, and usually less than stellar security.
Still not convinced that “free” is not a viable option?
Read on to learn more about why you avoid free hosting at all costs.
Too Much Downtime
Are you aware how much unplanned downtime costs the average business? For every hour your site is down, you’re potentially losing $100,00 in revenue. Any web host that can;t deliver at least 99.999 percent uptime isn’t worth toying with. Even an uptime guarantee of 99.9 will leave your website down for nearly an hour each month. Not many startups can afford to be down for a minute let alone an hour.
Downtime leads to unhappy visitors, reductions in traffic, and losing customers. Would you want to do business with someone whose site only returns an error message because it’s unavailable or buy from a website that functions badly?
A recent test by HostingCanada.org found that free hosting solutions had 3-5% downtimes across the board. In a test of over 10 free (to almost) free hosting solutions, HostPapa performed consistently above board.
A recent ZDnet report also indicated that free hosts have become prime targets for hackers looking to install malware and advertising on shared servers.
Bad or Non-Existent Customer Service
Like resources, the support team cost money. If they’re unable to make any money from customers, say goodbye to support. Many free hosting services offer support only during certain hours, if they offer support at all. You have no room to complain if your service is free.
This is another common problem with free hosting. The tech that keeps websites secure costs money to acquire and maintain. You’re unlikely to get backups with your free plan or have access to the data if they do back it up.
Other things you won’t get with a free server:
* SSL certificates
* Antivirus and anti-malware
* Site monitoring
Those aren’t the only security issues, though.
Most free hosting services are on shared servers. That means they will squeeze as many customers as they can onto a single server. It’s likely that you’ll be sharing space with other tenants who are shady or use black hat practices that make the entire server more vulnerable. Even if you put your own\n security measures in place, provided you’re allowed to customize, they may not work right on a poorly configured, overloaded server.
Which leads us to …
Content and Resource Limits
As we stated before, free service comes with limits on space, storage, and other resources. Since the hosting company isn’t investing in the latest or most widely compatible technology, there’s a chance that your business management tools won’t function properly on your site.
Resource limits such as caps on data, bandwidth, or storage will make your website perform poorly, make it more likely to crash, and leave it open to exploitation. Even if you manage your resources wisely, bad neighbors on your server can stretch the limits and affect your website.
It’s also possible that you won’t own your content if it’s on a free hosting platform, which will make it difficult to migrate when you get fed up with bad service and lack of support.
SPAM and Other Advertising Nightmares
Do you remember surfing way back in the day and seeing tacky-looking websites with banners flashing, some of which led nowhere? Using a “free” host means you’re likely to look like one of those old school websites in no time.
Part of the deal is that they get to sell ad space to others on your page, which means your visitors and your inbox could be targeted by SPAM and unscrupulous actors. Often, the only way to get rid of this mess is by upgrading to their “premium” service or breaking your contract to find a more reputable host.
They’re Bad for Branding and SEO
When you sign up with a free hosting company, there’s a good chance that you don’t own your own domain or content. We’ve already covered content issues earlier so now we’ll take a closer look at how your website host affects branding and SEO.
Tell me which looks more professional:
yourwebsite.hostingplatform.com or yourwebsite.com
When someone is willing to do business with you, they need to know that you’re a professional. When you choose free hosting, you don’t get a custom domain. In addition to other issues like excessive downtime. bad security, and irrelevant banner ads or popups.
Having your web address attached to a potentially shady domain looks sloppy and decidedly unprofessional. That won’t win you customers, and it certainly won’t impress Google. They’ll put your site on page four of the SERPs, if you get ranked at all.
You spent a lot of time – and possibly money – on web design. Do you really want to turn over your site identity to someone else?
For those small businesses utilizing free hosts for invoicing and payments, switching to a 3rd party software like Freshbooks allows you to do invoicing on a custom subdomain/folder allowing you to maintain a more professional feel without sacrificing quality.
“Free” Doesn’t Always Mean Free
Some companies say that their service is free, but there’s always a catch. Problem is, most people don;t bother to read the fine print on their Service Level Agreement (SLA). Often, free is a teaser to get you to sign up with their company. After a trial term, the price could skyrocket.
Worse than free teaser rates are those hosting companies that offer completely free service only to make money behind your back. These are fly-by-night operations that give you shoddy service, and they will sell your information to third-party advertisers or place ads on your website, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Avoid this by not falling for the hype, and ask for any promises or guarantees in writing before signing a contract with anyone. If they are willing to be transparent, take a pass. There are plenty of other reputable options on the internet.
When it comes to services, you get what you pay for in most cases. Don’t be too disappointed that free hosting is a bad way to go. There are plenty of cheap hosting platforms that are secure and reliable.
Now that you know the reasons to avoid free hosting, you can focus on finding the hosting solution that will support your website while you work toward your goals,