Looking for a free web hosting solution is an imperative decision. Try to identify a reliable web host can be a daunting task especially with so many service providers and options available nowadays. Throw in the feature sheets and promises, the task can be that much more intimidating.
But it doesn’t have to be. Let’s take a look at some of the most common features a good free web hosting provider should offer:
DISK SPACE AND BANDWIDTH
Disk space refers to the amount of storage space assigned to you by the free web hosting provider. This space will be used to store your web site files, including text, images, audio, etc. files you use for your website.
Bandwidth refers to the amount of traffic that is allowed to access and leave your website. Access means every time a visitor types in your website name in their browser. Leave means every time a visitor receives something from your website, whether it be viewing a photo, listening to an audio clip or downloading a file.
For example, if your website has a lot of graphics (ie. photographs) then you will require higher storage and greater bandwidth.
WEBSITE CREATOR AND FTP
If this is your first website and you have limited or no scripting experience, then look for a free web hosting provider that offers a free website creating application where you can create your website simply by choosing a template and adding in your own text and images.
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. It is the protocol for transferring your website files from your computer to your free web hosting server, or vice versa. This allows you to upload your finished website files (including images and other multimedia files) from your computer to your service provider’s server. It also allows you to download your files from your web hosting server back to your computer. A good free web hosting provider should offer 24/7 unrestricted FTP access.
Yes, your free web hosting provider should provide you with email services – so that you can setup @yourdomain.com email accounts. In addition to a webmail interface (so you can login and manage your emails using your web browser), the email service should also include POP3 and SMTP access so you can setup and access your @yourdomain.com emails using your mobile devices.
SUPPORT AND UPTIME
You should always choose a free web hosting service with free, reliable telephone and email support.
While no host can offer a 100% guaranteed uptime (think problems out of their control, ie. city power outage), they should provide “just-in-case” measures to limit website and email downtime to a minimal. These measures may include 24/7 server and network monitoring, redundant hardware and network configurations, and onsite backup power supply. While you might not completely understand the technicalities of these, look to see if your free web hosting provider has these listed somewhere on their website. If not, ask them about it.
If you’re looking for a free web hosting provider, then you should expect to pay absolutely nothing for all the basic features listed above. You shoudn’t have to compromise pricing with banner ads. Any free web hosting providers that forces ads on your website is a no-no.
1. THE PURPOSE OF YOUR WEBSITE
The first thing you need to do is make a list of why you want a website. Do you want a website because you want to share your writings or photos with friends or family? Or do you want to sell your products online?
2. DECIDE ON A DOMAIN NAME
When you’ve determined the purpose of your website then it’ll be easy to come up with a suitable domain name (ie. name for the website). Don’t fall into the “free” trap – many free web hosting service providers gives you a free website name. But what you don’t realize is, your website name will be a derivative of “http://www.serviceprovider.com/subfolder/…/yourMemberID”. Not exactly the most user-friendly nor professional name now.
A common misunderstanding is that you can get a domain name for free.
While completely free web hosting services exist, domain name registrations are not free. In order to use “http://www.yourname.com”, you need to pay the .COM Registry registration fee. This fee guarantees that your name will be yours to use for the duration of your registration term.
If the .COM version of your desired name is not available, you have the option to get the .NET, .ORG, .BIZ, .US, .INFO or even .CA, .UK, etc. The list goes on and on… Most people usually go for the .NET version if the .COM is not available. It’s completely up to you. If your website is about sharing information, then you should consider .INFO. If your website is for your business, then a .BIZ would be good, too.
3. YOUR NEEDS
Will you be expecting a lot of visitors a day? By a lot, we’re talking about in the thousands. Do you have a lot of photos or files to share with your visitors? If yes, then ample bandwidth and disk space will be on your shopping list.
If you’re setting up an online store AND will be accepting credit card information from your customers, then you’ll need to consider advanced security options (ie. SSL certificate). For more information on setting up an online store, click here (link to “Free Web Hosting and Ecommerce” article).
If this is your first website and you’re just experimenting, then your list will be shorter – all you need is a free web hosting plan. A free web hosting plan will offer you the basic necessities to have a website on the Internet without any of the fancy bells and whistles.
4. FIND A REPUTABLE FREE WEB HOSTING SERVICE
Once you have an idea of what you need, you need to find a reputable web hosting service. There are many places you can go to find a service provider. You can do a search for “free web hosting companies” on Google, but do keep in mind that just because a company is listed on the first page of Google doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe and legit. It’s always best to shop around or ask people for referrals and references.
Basic things to look for in a free web hosting service plan:
- It allows you to use your own domain name. Again, you don’t want a website name
- There are no forced ad banners
- It comes with web hosting storage (for beginners, 100MB is more than enough)
- It comes with bandwidth/data transfer (for beginners, 1000MB is ample)
- It comes with email services. With your own domain name, you’ll want to be able to setup @yourdomain.com accounts