Free web hosting is undoubtedly a very attractive proposition especially for people who are just starting out with their first website or online presence. Many hosting companies claim to offer efficient and reliable web hosting plans for free and eager clients sign up for these plans in the thousands. When compared to the costs of shared and dedicated hosting, free hosting is certainly more economical. But is the service really as good as is claimed in advertisements? Here you can learn about some of the common limitations and issues of free web hosting that will help you to make an informed decision when considering a free hosting plan.
What is Free Hosting?
To understand the limitations and issues with free web hosting it is necessary to have a basic idea of how free hosting works. Web hosting companies own servers and offer server space and resources to website owners. Because of the expenses of owning a server, website owners subscribe to different web hosting plans offered by the hosting companies. While these plans range from budget plans to highly expensive ones, many companies even offer free web hosting.
Basically, the main problem with free web hosting is that it is deceptive. Free hosting plans are marketed in a way that clients form unrealistic expectations about the features and service quality that they are going to get. For instance, one of the common tricks that hosting companies play is to offer free hosting for limited trial periods but this is stated in fine print only. Beyond the trial period, clients are asked to subscribe to paid or premium hosting plans. There is another dubious practice that some web hosting companies do. They do not even notify the client when the free trial period expires. Instead, they immediately transfer the client to a paid hosting plan without informing the client of the transfer. The client only comes to know of this when they are billed for the monthly charge on the hosting plan.
Unreliable Quality and Security
Other than the limited period issue, free hosting ranks possibly at the lowest level in terms of service quality and data security. Web hosting companies are able to get away with low security and quality standards with free hosting mainly because clients use free hosting for personal blogs or websites through which sensitive information such as financial or other confidential data is exchanged. Loading speeds are typically slow and website hacking is quite frequent as well. There is also the problem of free hosting providers operating as fly-by-night operators who can pack up their bags and leave putting the client’s data and backup at risk. Not all free hosting providers are that unscrupulous, however, many will notify clients that they are winding up their business. In such situations, the client has to scramble about to find a new hosting partner and transfer all their website data to the server of the new company. All of this amounts to unwanted effort and hassle for the client.
Another common problem with free hosting is that the hosting company places limits on how much of the resources you can use for free. Many of these companies advertise ‘unlimited bandwidth’ and ‘unlimited storage’ for free hosting plans. This is a deceptive practice that clients realize when they find that their websites have been shut down all of a sudden. This happens because the website exceeds the maximum limit of the bandwidth or server capacity that has been offered to the clients.
Clients who sign up for free web hosting also have to deal with the menace of involuntary advertising on their websites. This is one way in which hosting companies compensate themselves for offering their server resources to clients for free. If you sign up for a free web hosting plan, you will often find advertising banners and hyperlinks popping up on your website that you will be unable to remove. While the hosting company ensures that the advertisements are relevant to your website, at times you might find that the advertisements are drawing visitors away from your website to an unrelated or even a competing website. Free hosting plans also come with a limited range of features and usually do not include essential services such as free domain names, customer support, technical assistance and other aspects that can assist amateur web designers and managers in developing their website into a professional platform. Paid hosting plans offer a much better alternative in this respect.
Lack of Ownership and Control
Another common problem with free hosting is that the client is never the owner of the content put up on the website hosted on the free server. This is frequently included in service agreements as the No Resale clause. Basically, by agreeing to this clause the client accepts that the blog or website hosted under the free hosting plan is the property of the hosting company and cannot be sold or transferred to another person by the client. Imagine if you have designed and worked hard to develop your website into a highly popular platform but you cannot monetize it because you have no right to sell it. All your hard work amounts to nothing in such a case.
Lack of control over server resources is another common issue with free web hosting. While the hosting company allows the client to access and use server resources, they retain the control and management of the server resources in-house. In case there is a technical glitch or a major problem with the website, the client has to wait until the technical team of the hosting company investigates and resolves the problem. This leads to unnecessary waste of time especially if the client is knowledgeable and could resolve the problem more quickly if given access to the server resources.
Free hosting certainly has its benefits and is a good way of testing the waters before making a substantial monetary investment in hosting plans or choosing a web host. But it is important to be aware of the limitations of free hosting so that your data and investment is not exposed to an unwarranted risk.