Are you battling to decide on a web hosting package?
Free hosting sounds like a great option, right?
It’s standard practice for many of the leading companies to offer free hosting – but why do they do it?
How does a business model make money if you’re giving away your product for free?
The reality is there are disadvantages and advantages of using free hosting services.
For some online entrepreneurs, free hosting can be a blessing.
Others might find free hosting to be a waste of time.
This post unpacks the reasons why companies offer free hosting and the pros and cons of using it for your online business.
Why Do Web Hosting Companies Offer Free Services?
Operating a hosting company requires plenty of financial resources.
Providers must pay for bandwidth, electricity, server purchases or rentals and maintenance, data center space, and staff to run the operation.
For consumers, free web hosting services don’t cost you a cent – the supplier is picking up the tab.
With all these costs involved with running a hosting company, why do they give away a core product for free?
It’s an Upsell Strategy
When signing up for a free web hosting service, you’re hoping that your business is a success, and you start making real money, allowing you to scale your company and its offerings.
Web hosts know this, and they also understand that the free service they offer won’t get you out of the growth stage.
They know you’re going to eventually migrate your hosting to a better service if your business succeeds.
When you decide to upgrade, they want you to choose them as your preferred partner.
Since you’re already with the company, they have a better chance of retaining you as a paying client, making the investment in the free service worthwhile.
They Sell Ad Space
Providers will rent ad space on free platforms, raising cash to offset the costs of running the service.
Advertising could be affiliate links to related services or direct ads on your dashboard.
A few companies don’t have ads on free hosting services, but they are few and far between.
If you’re signing up for a free service, you can expect some ads.
Testing and Marketing
Some service providers offer free web hosting as a test of its overall service level offering.
In this case, you might get a free trial, with an offer for a paid service after the trial window expires.
Web hosts also use free services as an interactive marketing tool.
By giving you a risk-free offer to try out the service, they’re hoping you recommend it to other colleagues and friends.
What are the Pros and Cons of Free Web Hosting?
Now that you understand why web hosting companies offer free services let’s see if it’s a solution that benefits your company.
Here are the pros and cons of using free web hosting services.
What are the Pros of Free Web Hosting?
- You don’t have to pay a cent for your web hosting costs; the provider covers the cost.
- Newbies can save on operating costs in the startup phase of their business.
- Free hosting provides a learning experience to newcomers that want to test different providers.
- There are no contracts and no obligation to keep using the service.
What are the Cons of Free Web Hosting?
- You get limited hosting services.
- Free accounts don’t receive any customer support or limited customer support.
- Free versions lack the features of subscription services.
- Free services won’t scale with your business.
- Users often experience downtime due to server maintenance or crashes.
- Providers often place bandwidth caps on free accounts to prevent large uploads.
- You also might have limitations with disk space on the server.
- The provider can suspend your account at any time.
- Most free services come littered with ads.
Running a web hosting company comes with massive operating costs and overheads.
To ensure you’re not dealing with a fly-by-night service, ask the provider the following questions.
- How does the web host pay for its operating and overhead costs?
- What revenue models are the company using to stay afloat?
- Will this company be around in a year?
- Is my website secure and safe with this web host?
Is Free Hosting the Right Solution for Your Online Business?
So, is a free web hosting solution the right choice for your online business?
Suppose you’re starting a lifestyle blog where you want to build traffic steadily over the next 12-months.
In that case, free hosting is a viable solution, reducing your overheads and operating costs while you build a readership.
However, if you’re looking at starting an eCommerce store, free hosting will let you down.
You can’t expect the same performance, features and security as a paid subscription when using a free service.
The limitations on your hosting requirements will end up costing you lost conversions and traffic.
Still, free hosting is a great option for newcomers looking to test ideas.
You can open free accounts and check if your idea works before committing your budget to a campaign.
Free hosting comes with no contracts or commitments, and there’s no obligation to upgrade to a paid subscription.
If you’re bootstrapping a business, free hosting is useful, saving you cash on your startup costs.
However, if you have the budget for proper hosting services and try to save on your expenses using free hosting, you’re shooting yourself in the foot with that strategy.
Avoid free hosting offers if you have the following expectations in a hosting company
- You demand fast and effective customer support
- You can’t have downtime or server crashes that will affect your business
- You don’t want ads or limitations on your account
- You need a feature-rich host
- You plan of driving lots of traffic to your site in the first 6-months
- You think you’ll need to scale quickly
- You’re already making money and looking to save on costs
Free Web Hosting – The Verdict
Free web hosting can be a blessing and a curse.
Before you set up your account and try it out, ask yourself if it suits your business strategy.
Sometimes, something that’s free can end up costing you other opportunities.