FREE vs PAID Web Hosting
The option for choosing to go with a free web hosting platform is tempting, but is it going to suit your needs? What is it you are planning for your site?
The fact is, paid services are always going to come with many more features than free services, that’s no secret, but still… free may be all you need. When I first started out many years ago, I used Blogger which is great for newbies, and for a learning platform, and has a lot of benefits other free hosting platforms don’t. You can also use Google ads for monetization, but Google owns your blog, not you. The same goes for most free web hosting platforms.
Here I will try to explain in detail, many of the pros and cons of FREE vs PAID web hosting, and the majority of this post, will be referring to the WordPress platform, comparing WordPress.com (free hosting) with WordPress.org (which you’ll need paid hosting for)
Its free and easy to use – no costs needed, and you can set up a site or blog in minutes.
Good for personal blogging – If your just in it to record and share your own stuff, then why wouldn’t you.
Most will backup your site – All backups, security updates and upgrades are handled for you so you don’t lose any of your precious content.
Great for learning – If you are relatively new to building a site and need to learn everything, which can be quite extensive, this a great way to teach yourself first, while having no expenses.
Brand Building – You should immediately start getting readers as your site will be in Google right away, therefore you don’t have to do any SEO or any advertising. TIP: Have both, and you can use the free site to drive visitors to your other self hosted site.
Random advertising on your site – although there are some free hosting companies that don’t flood your site with ads, there are still limitations, and of course optional upgrades where you could end up paying for something anyway.
Not having your own domain name – Nothing says professional like your own domain name without the (.hostingsite) name within your name
Cannot use plugins – In wordpress.com for example, you cannot install plugins which are great for those who cannot use code and who want a simple way to customize your site and have all the extras.
You will have limited space – I believe WordPress.com allows only 3 GB of space while some can offer up to 20 GB but again you are limited with other stuff and you can’t expand your site too much without moving to a paid host anyway. Google’s Blogger.com is an exception which allows unlimited space.
Can get expensive if you want to upgrade:
-To upgrade your domain name, e.g from ‘yoursite.wordpress.com’ to ‘yoursite.com’, or simply registering a custom domain name, you will pay between $13 to $18 per year (at the time of writing)
-Then to go Ad Free on your site, you will pay about $30 per year
-If you want a custom design you’ll need to upgrade to Premium which is about $130 a year (which does include ad free and custom domain) for one site and still limited in some ways.
Tracking and Monitoring – You are restricted to their analytics, so you can’t use custom analytics software because you can’t add custom codes, from say Google analytics for one, which is more real time analytics for your site.
Free to use – CMS (Content Management Systems) like WordPress.org, or even Drupal or Joomla, are free to use (after you have paid for domain and hosting of course)
You have full control over your site – You can call your site anything you like, have your own domain name exactly how you want it (as long as it’s available out there in the world wide web)
You have access to thousands of plugins available to help customize your site – Plugins are used to perform many certain functions, from easily creating a contact form, or stopping spam, to connecting with Social Media easily and many more ways to make your site designing task easy without knowing coding.
You can use custom themes suited to your needs – There are tons of themes to choose from and some really awesome free ones available as well as the option to purchase certain themes if you want to go that little bit further.
Monetizing your site the way you want – You have the choice if you want to have ads on your site to make a few bucks, or even sell advertising space when you get a decent amount of monthly visitors.
Ability to install custom analytics – Used to track visitors to your site, to know where they came from, and what they do once they get to your site. Google Analytics is free and possibly the most popular, and fairly simple to use.(learn how here)
Credibility – This goes without saying, that when you have your own domain name, you are thought of as slightly more professional. When a new visitor comes to your site, chances are they will look at your domain name and make a first impression opinion about the site. Your domain name gives them the impression you are well established.
It’s really not very costly – To get a website up and running you will be basically paying for a domain name and hosting which can be an approximate cost of $50 to $100 per year. I say that difference because of the many different plans out there available, and depending on the plan, you can have several sites from one hosting plan, not just one site. Following are some for you to check out and compare. (Disclosure: some of these are affiliate links)
Tip: It is not always the best idea to go with the same company for Domain registering and Web hosting. So register your domain name at one company and host your website at another.
There really are not many but the obvious is…
It does cost money – In saying that, you can get good hosting from around $3 – $7 a month, (not so much) but be prepared to pay 6 or 12 months upfront for the cheaper option. And of course your domain name, again, quite cheap but will vary from provider to provider.
The other thing I want to mention here is…
You do need a few basic technical skills, but that of which is not insurmountable…
‘Easy to use’ is said about wordpress.org, but some complete beginners will have difficulty getting started. Free support for themes and plugins do not understand beginners, and make broad and incorrect assumptions about what a beginner knows, and sometimes skip over the basics very quickly for example, provide coding tips and examples for PHP and CSS files, which can confuse the new user.
In saying that… there is no better way to learn than to jump right in, it may take a small learning curve but it won’t take long once you get going. WordPress do have plenty of tutorials for beginners so you can start there. For the small cost of using paid hosting, I think it’s well worth it.
There are also tips throughout this site, so check it out and feel free to get in contact with any questions you may want answered.
Have I missed any?
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