How to Find The Best Free Web Hosting

by Rob Steiner

Web hosts are companies that maintain special-purpose computers called servers that store your website so it can be accessed from the Internet. A free Web host may be a good idea for those on limited -- or non-existent -- budgets who want to create personal websites. However, keep in mind that sites hosted on free Web servers typically offer less support and have fewer resources than those on paid servers.

1

Determine the type of website you want to create. Examples of personal websites include blogs, personal homepages, portfolios, or resume sites. If you want an e-commerce site for your business, however, you should really opt for a paid Web host since most free hosts severely restrict "shopping cart" programming, disk space, and bandwidth.

2

Determine the amount of disk space you need. A good rule of thumb is to get as much disk space as you can. The amount of disk space provided by free Web hosts varies widely -- anywhere from 20MB to 1GB -- and there are limitations on individual file sizes.

3

Decide whether you're willing to allow advertisements on your site. Most free Web hosts have plans that place banner ads on your site in exchange for the service, while others do not place ads, but severely limit your design flexibility and access to server resources.

4

Decide what kind of programming flexibility you want. Most free Web hosts allow only static HTML pages, but some do allow Web programming in exchange for ad placement on your site or resource limits. For instance, kinds of programming tools you might want are PHP combined with MySQL, to allow better content management and the ability for users to contact you through a Web form or log in to an account.

5

Decide if you want a full domain name or are willing to use a sub-domain name. Most free Web hosts force you to use a sub-domain with the host's name in it. For example, “www.[your name].hostcompany.com” rather than a full domain name like “www.[your name].com.”

6

Determine the level of customer support you need. Free Web hosts provide some level of customer support, for example, online forums, knowledge bases, and email support. However, paid plans are more likely to give you comprehensive technical support, like 24/7 access to technical staff and phone support.

7

Search technical review sites like FreeWebSpace.org or Free-Webhosts.com for lists of hosts with plans that match the features you decided on in Steps 1 through 6. Also search your city's Chamber of Commerce website or your local Better Business Bureau.

8

Read through the customer reviews for each host, if available. Look for ways the host excelled in, or failed to provide, the features you require. However, keep in mind that some reviewers may have had an uncommon experience with the host, so look for review patterns that present an overall picture of the host.

9

Decide which host you want to use and then contact the company by phone or email. Provide your requirements to verify it has a free hosting plan that is appropriate for you. Speaking with a person from the company, rather than signing up for services on its website, helps you get a feel for how responsive the company will be to your needs.

Tips

  • check While free Web hosts may be ideal for personal websites with only a few pages, businesses should opt for a paid Web host to avoid ads and gain the additional resources of a well-supported server, such as more disk space, full domain names, faster downloads and programming flexibility.
  • check If you simply want to create a personal home page, consider free blogging sites like Wordpress.com or Blogger.com. Both provide templates that enable you to get up and running within minutes, and they won't place ads on your site. Or, if you're looking to get your resume online, opt for free sites like LinkedIn.com or Prezi.com. However, your site's URL will be a sub-domain and display as something like “[your name].website.com.”

About the Author

Rob Steiner has been writing professionally since 1995. He has published articles in "Intercom" magazine, the trade magazine for the Society of Technical Communications. He has a Bachelor of Science from Western Michigan University and currently works as a web developer, technical writer and fiction author.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images