Posted Friday, October 1, 2004
Can you really get FREE web hosting?
Yes, there are hundreds of free hosts, as far as not having to pay any money. Generally they either cost you in time, hosting restrictions, or modifying your web pages by adding popups or other adverts. When looking for free web hosting (especially on search engines), you should beware that there are also a large number of commercial web hosts that claim to offer free hosting, but those have a catch, such as paying an excessive amount for a domain name or other service, and therefore aren't really free.
How do the free web hosts make money?
The free hosts often make money in other ways, such as putting banners, popups, or popunders on your site. Some free hosting companies do not put ads on your site, but require you as the webmaster to click on banners in their control panel or signup process, or just display banners in the file manager in hopes you will click them. Some lure visitors with free hosting in hopes you will upgrade and pay for advanced features. A few send you occasional emails with ads, or may even sell your email address.
Are free web hosts reliable?
Generally no, although there may be a few exceptions. If the host is making money from banner ads or other revenue sources directly from the free hosting, then they likely will stay in business, provided someone doesn't abuse their hosting with spam, hacking, etc., as often happens to new free web hosting companies with liberal signup policies. If the host accepts just anyone, especially with an automated instant activation and it offers features such as PHP or CGI, then some users invariably try to find ways to abuse it which can cause the host to have a lot of downtime or the server to be slow. It is best if you choose a very selective free host which only accepts quality sites (assuming you have one).
Uses for free webspace
Free web hosting is not recommended for businesses unless you can get domain hosting from an ad-free host that is very selective, such as DistantHost (http://signup.distanthost.com/) or Fairmount (http://www.fairmount.nu/). Other reasons for using free hosting would be to learn the basics of website hosting, have a personal website with pictures of your family or whatever, a doorway page to another website of yours, or to try scripts you have written on different hosting environments.
How to find the right free web hosting
The best place to search for free webhosting is on a free webspace directory website (i.e. a site which specializes in listing only free web hosting providers). There are some which add new free hosts pretty much every week (and if it is updated often, has usually had to delete about as many). There are also many which almost never update their site, and a huge percent of their links and info are outdated. Unfortunately that includes most of the directories that were the best several years ago. The problem is free hosts change so often, and most fold up in less than a year (often even after only a day or two), that it is hard to keep such a directory up-to-date. The most recommended directory is Free Webspace (http://www.free-webhosts.com/), which has a detailed list of over 900 free web hosting providers with user reviews, ratings, forums, and searchable database. It is updated daily, and the advanced free web hosting search has 42 options, helping you to find the free hosting package with all the features you need, such as CGI, PHP, MySQL, ASP, SSI, and FrontPage extensions.
For a smaller, more selective list of the best free hosts, there is also:
100 Best Free Webspace (http://www.100-Best-Free-Webspace.com/)
Free Hosting (http://www.Absolutely-Free-Hosting.com/)
Free Webspace (http://www.free-webspace.org/)
Other (usually less useful) resources include subcategories of freebies sites, search engines and directories, and forums. Your ISP might also supply you with free webhosting.
Hints for finding the best free web hosting
Generally it is best not to choose a free hosting package with more features than you need, and also check to see if the company somehow receives revenue from the free hosting itself to keep it in business. As already mentioned, it is best to try to get accepted to a more selective free host if possible. Look at other sites hosted there to see what kind of ads are on your site, and the server speed (keep in mind newer hosts will be faster at first). Read the Terms of Service (TOS) and host features to make sure it has enough bandwidth for your site, large webspace and file size limit, and any scripting options you might need. Read free webspace reviews and ratings by other users on free hosting directories. If you don't have your own domain name, you might want to use a free URL forwarding service so you can change your site's host if needed.
Recommended free web hosts
It would be awfully hard to recommend any host and someone not like it, as different people need different hosting features and have different priorities, and the hosting quality may change over time. Also some people want free domain hosting (you own the domain), and others might not be able to buy a domain. Here are some of the most recommended free web hosts, and their main features.
DistantHost (http://signup.distanthost.com/) offers subdomain or domain hosting, 100 MB webspace, no forced ads on your site, FTP and/or browser upload, CGI and Perl, PHP, MySQL database, SSI, and FrontPage Extensions, as well as a collection of other pre-installed scripts. It has great support and a generous bandwidth limit of 6 GB/month. There is also CPanel 7 control panel with most if not all the options you would find on a paid host: web-based Email and forwarding, statistics, custom error pages, SSL, Cron, and much more. What is the catch? You must click on a certain number of banners in the control panel monthly.
HostRave (http://www.freehosting.hostrave.com/) gives you a URL such as (http://freehosting.hostrave.com/b/), and offers 21 MB webspace, POP3 and web-based Email, PHP and SSI, MySQL database, guestbook and forum script, and unmetered bandwidth. You can upload via a file manger or FTP import. Only English websites are accepted, and there is a text link at the top of your pages. It has about the best support of any free host, and in fact, maybe better than any paid host. It's two sister sites offer slightly different features:
Hp-h (http://signup.hspages.com/cgi-bin/signup) - 50 MB.
Homepage-Host (http://www.homepage-host.uni.cc/index1.html) - 10 MB, and no forced ads.
Yahoo Geocities (http://geocities.yahoo.com/home/) is controversial. Many people hate the ads they put on your site or its other limitations, but it is one of the oldest and most reliable free web hosts. Your URL looks like (http://www.geocities.com/you) . They give you 15 MB webspace, file manager and editor, web-based Email, and statistics. The bandwidth limit is 3 GB/month, and the file size limit is 5 MB. You can upload several file types such as RealAudio, RealVideo, Flash, MP3, and Java, but other scripting is not supported.
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