“The best things in life are free,” the song says. This may not be the case with hosting providers, but there are definitely some pretty good options out there that cost absolutely nothing or are very close to free.
Since the beginning of the world wide web, there have always been ways to publish content to the masses without paying a dime. These methods have been refined over the years and today you can publish great websites, even professional looking ones, completely free of charge.
Consider open source blogging platforms such as WordPress, Google Blogger or Tumblr. Or website builders like Weebly or Wix. You can choose any of these options to build and maintain your website without investing a single dollar. And also without learning programming, web servers, Linux or other geeks.
But what if you’re a geek and want to take care of this geek? What if you really want to get your hands dirty with some Linux administrative tasks, Apache server configuration and MySQL database management? Well, you can do it without paying and manage your website live like a pro.
Before we start the review, let’s get this straight: all free platforms – even Weebly or Wix – offer a basic service and make you pay for whatever you want. Take domain names for example. Some free platforms simply don’t let you use your own top-level domain – they force you to use your own and offer you a choice of available subdomains; unless you pay. So forget about using that cool domain name you came up with during a sleepless night.
SSL/TLS certificate is another feature you can turn off if you don’t want to pay. This can be an inconvenience because search engines prefer sites that host their content over a secure connection, and if you don’t implement SSL, your site won’t show up well in Google (or other search engines) search results. But the upside is that you can get started for free, and if everything goes well and your site starts spinning your ass, you can purchase additional services later, such as custom domain names and SSL certificates.
Just consider that the total cost will be higher than buying a complete service from scratch. This is the price for avoiding risk and playing it safe. Now, with that said, let’s start with the reviews.
000Webhost is managed and owned by Hostinger, a hosting provider with very affordable plans (under $1 per month). The free service offers up to 1 hosting domain with 300 MB memory, 1 MySQL database, 1 FTP account, monthly traffic up to 3 GB and no ads.
You also get a website builder, cPanel, and an automatic WordPress installer, but not email accounts and subdomains. The free service also lacks SSL certificates and ticket support – the only option is to go to the forums and hope someone answers your questions.
Backed by Hostinger, you can trust 000Webhost’s 99% uptime promise and the fact that they’ve been offering free hosting for over a decade.
Infinity for free
As you peruse the Infinity Free Feature List, you keep asking yourself, “Where’s the catch?” The answer is simple: there is no catch. It’s free hosting with almost no restrictions. Period.
You can create an account in minutes and start enjoying unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth, up to 400 MySQL databases (most providers offer 1 or 2 at most), free DNS and free SSL. Infinity Free does not provide domain registration services, but if you register your domain elsewhere, you can host it for free.
According to independent tests, Infinity is the fastest free hosting in the world. And it offers 99.9% uptime, which is even better than some paid hosting services. You can use the Softaculous automatic script installer to populate your free server with scripts and applications. This allows you to install more than 400 scripts, applications and content managers such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and many others in just a few clicks.
If your site is really successful and you need more features, more server power or 24/7 support, you can upgrade to a paid plan from iFastNet Premium Hosting, the main sponsor of Infinity Free. Plans include Cloudflare Railgun, IMAP / POP / SMTP email access, full PHP support, full DNS management and development features such as Perl / Python / Ruby on Rails support, remote MySQL access and more. These plans start at $3.99 per month, which isn’t a huge investment.
Minutes after creating your AwardSpace account, you’ll have your own 1GB SSD server and a website built using your chosen Zacky, WordPress or Joomla website builder. Without spending any money, you’ll have one MySQL database, 5GB of monthly bandwidth, 99.9% uptime, and a domain name with a slightly clunky suffix.
But there is no free SSL, but you get a standard cPanel interface where you can manage everything and even buy additional services, from various SSL certificates to virtual private servers.
As the volume of your website grows, both in terms of published content and in terms of traffic, 5 GB of monthly bandwidth or 1 GB of memory can start to seem a bit restrained. If this happens, you can browse the premium hosting plans offered by AwardSpace. These plans offer – for a reasonable price – unlimited disk space and bandwidth, more databases, more email addresses and overall higher performance. They also provide 24/7 support and a convenient maximum number of visits per month – 15,000 for the basic plan and 150,000 for the highest plan.
AwardSpace’s premium plans are surprisingly affordable, but keep in mind that they’re only valid for the first year of use – the price increases slightly after your website’s first birthday.
Free hosting area
These guys started offering free hosting in 2005 and have been doing so non-stop ever since, guaranteeing account holders that their sites won’t disappear overnight. The hosting service is run by volunteers who appreciate it when you upgrade your account to one of their really cheap paid plans or simply thank them for making the service free.
The free hosting service is packed with features like IDN (Internationalized Domain Name) support, fast hosting on dedicated servers with multiple CPUs and SSDs, 99.8% uptime, 1500MB space, unmetered traffic, Apache, PHP , up to 3 MySQL databases supported by MariaDB, daily backups and a basic control panel (sorry, no free cPanel). The service also lacks a website builder and one-click installation, so you’re on your own with the tasks.
There is an item in the feature list that says “no ads for new pages”. This means they don’t place your ads on low-bandwidth websites, which sounds perfectly fair. Once your site gets a lot of visitors, your free ride ends and you either pay to update or your ads start showing on your pages.
FreeHostii’s “Chocolate” hosting plan (yes, that’s the name of the free plan; other plans have names like “Wildhoney”, “Supernatural”, etc.) allows you to create a professional-looking website with a one-click app installer to get Joomla, WordPress, web applications, PrestaShop or other 50 PHP.
Chocolate plan offers up to 5 hosted domains, 250 MB disk space, 6 GB monthly traffic, 1 MySQL database (with 10 MB DB memory) and 3 email accounts. FreeHostia uses a load-balanced cluster platform in a data center located in Steadfast, Chicago, USA. This infrastructure provides the physical environment required for 24/7 server operation.
FreeHosting’s free plan offers a fairly standard set of features: 10GB of storage, unlimited bandwidth, 1 email account, and multilingual cPanel. It is a very popular hosting provider with more than ten years of operation and over 15,000 users. If your website requires special features, you can purchase add-ons for a one-time fee and your hosting plan will remain free.
The difference between the free plan and the paid plan is quite large: from zero to $7.99 per month. The premium features might be worth paying this monthly fee as the limits are removed and you get faster servers, multi-site hosting, automatic backups, internet statistics and increased PHP runtime, memory and upload size limits.
Is “free” the best option?
Maybe “almost free” is better, unless you expect too much from your site. Yes, you can start for free and then upgrade to a paid plan, but you’ll have to stick with the same provider or move your entire site, which can be a lot of effort. As you might have guessed, in many cases providers use their free plans as bait to lure you into their paid options.
Getting a website for free is really tempting, mainly because you don’t think you’re going to invest anything. But you are wrong: you will hang out. If you value that and value the content you plan to put on your site, take the time to analyze it carefully before you decide on one of the free options.
Consider how much it will cost once your site starts attracting users and you need to take it seriously. And compare that analysis to the cheap hosting services we’ve reviewed here. After all, the best things in life may not be free – just almost free.