Where’s My Site Gone?
If you have a business site, you definitely don’t want it disappearing. Free hosts are not known for their reliable uptime. Overcrowding on the server can slow response time. Watch out for fly-by-night firms that set up a free host with no commitment to long-term support, but just to get what they can out of it. Look for reviews before you choose.
Where’s the Support?
If things go wrong, you want help, particularly if your site is part of your business. Even if your site is a personal one, to let Grandma Luisa in Ecuador see your children or to commemorate Great Uncle Joe’s 75th birthday, you want it to work properly. Free hosts often offer little or no customer support, or if they do, it is not among their priorities. Ideally, you want phone service, where you can reach a real live person 24/7. Live chat may also work. E-mail with a 24-hour or 2-business day response time (or more) or no support at all, is not likely to prove satisfactory.
Sure, you may be new to this “Internet thing” now, but once you launch into the learning curve and get the hang of things, features whose names you once didn’t know the meaning of (like PHP, MySQL, FTP accounts, and POP email) may become “must-haves.” Space and the amount of transfer you’re allowed may also become an issue. Unless the free web host has the opportunity for an upgrade—and some do—you may have to scuttle your site and/or start again with a new host.
Could We Subtract the Ads?
Free web hosting is usually supported by advertisements, such as banner ads, pop-up ads, or textlink ads. Many people find the intrusion of such ads annoying, problematic, or distasteful. On a business website, some people would go so far as to say, “unprofessional.” You never know exactly what your visitor will be seeing when they visit your site. In either case personal or business site, ads certainly can detract from the visitor’s experience of the site.
What’s Your Name?
Because free web hosting sites usually work by offering you a subdomain, you are part and parcel of their domain name. Often, there comes a time when having your own domain name becomes pretty appealing. Part of this is because having your site in a subdomain of a free web host is not likely to do you any good as far as page ranking goes—you’re likely to end up towards the second half of search engine results, which—if you’re in business—is likely to be a problem.
The “Net” Result
While it’s true that free hosting has usefulness for getting a quick start on the World Wide Web with a minimum commitment and little knowledge or experience—and this is fine for certain purposes—there are definitely times for many people when paying for web hosting seems like a valuable investment. For more information on the other available web hosting options, see the article “What Is Web Hosting?”