Considering free hosting? Let us tell you 40 important reasons why you should rethink your hosting choice.
Everyone loves free stuff, of course. The so-called "freebies" flood the internet since the beginning, and today they are something that almost all internet users are used to and looking for.
Its should come to no surprise then that the idea of free hosting and free website can get many people excited. A business opportunity at almost no cost - who wouldn't like that? There are so many places these days where you can get a free website, blog, or hosting, and yet one can't help but wonder: what is the catch? How can I get something for free if others are paying thousands of dollars?
As you've guessed correctly, there is no free lunch, and this means that your free hosting/website will be a package deal, usually bringing in several annoyances.
Today, we're here to discuss at least 40 essential reasons why you should avoid free hosting (and websites) and why it's worth investing in a proper product.
1. Poor speed for your website
Honestly, this reason alone should distance you completely from the idea of using free hosting. In the past few years, Google was giving priority to faster sites, and this was considered an important ranking factor for SEO. People spend hours upon hours optimizing their site, minimizing their code, compressing their images etc.
WordPress users have paid particular attention to this, as this wonderful CMS is capable of almost anything with its high flexibility, but it comes at a cost, and the cost is that WordPress is way heavier than a custom written site.
Then, in 2019, Google announced that they'd start marking down with a symbol the sites that are too slow. This seems to be a clear indication that the trend is not just deprioritizing slow websites, but actively punishing them too, so speed became even more critical than it already was.
Free hosting services, like any other free service, tend to be slower and offer fewer resources than their paid version. This contributes to a slow website, and based on what we just said, one should definitely strive to avoid that.
It's not impossible to find a decently performing free hosting service, but it's quite improbable. High-performance SSD hosting usually requires optimized architecture, and as you may imagine, this can be rather expensive technology.
2. Feature limitation
More often than not, you see a hosting service advertised as free, and indeed, you start free; however, when you go ahead, you discover that your features are quite limited, and the only way to lift those limitations is to pay.
Usually, the most problematic limitations include resources which by default, aren't very high, and then you are basically forced to pay or watch your site get paused due to lack of resources. This can be quite annoying, as you will have no way around it but to pay (when you were in fact convinced this is a free service and perhaps this was the basic premise of your choice).
3. Limited bandwidth
Like storage, bandwidth is a resource, and resources are very limited when you don' pay for them for reasons we already covered.
In the beginning, it may not seem like a problem, but as soon as you start getting decent amounts of traffic, you will quickly discover how little it may take to overstep the limits of free hosting bandwidth.
Once again, at that point, the only choices you'll probably have upgrade or transfer your site.
4. Only subdomains allowed
While initially may not seem like a big deal, having your site on a subdomain may result in a serious hit for your business. Subdomains clearly indicate to your visitors one thing - you didn't pay for it.
Think about it - when was the last time you felt comfortable enough to from a site with a website address like clothesshop.blogger.com?
Commiting e-commerce fraud is easy, and the responsible people are rarely incirminated unless huge amounts of money are involved. Thus, users have developed a rather high standard when it comes to shopping - and rightly so. Even people who aren't very tech-savvy don't feel comfortable around long, unbranded subdomains.
This is really a great setback, and even if you don't make money right now, if and when you decide to monetize your site, you will have to make complex technical redirects if you don't want to lose the traffic you've already gained.
Of course, many of the companies offering free hosting will give you the opportunity to pay for using your own personal domain, but they will charge you for this, so we don't really think this counts as "free" service.
5. It's freemium, not free
There are also cases where a hosting service is advertised as free, but it turns out to be just a trial, so at some point, you still have to pay.
Again, if the "free" service was the biggest factor when making your decision which provider to use, that's not really a good situation, as you are now forced to pay, and if you don't, you will be faced with the necessity of transferring your site.
image credit: medium.com
The especially bad scenario is when they ask for a credit card and then charge you without asking (although requiring a credit card for a "free" service should be a giant red flag for you).
6. Limited file uploading
Remember how we said features might be limited? This is especially true when it comes to uploading files, as usually, you will not get FTP access. The typical upload option of free hosting companies will be a web-based option, which will allow you to upload just one file at a time.
image credit: stackoverflow.com
This is not a vital function, but honestly, it can get pretty annoying uploading image after image one by one (of course, if you are lucky enough to get decent storage).
7. No possibility of setting up redirects
This can be a very useful option down the road from an SEO perspective. If you have a website long enough, sooner or later, you will end up having to create a redirect in order not to lose some rankings you may have gained in Google. If you haven't done this yet, you should know that this is a very useful method that allows you to keep your site's positions.
With free site builders usually, it's impossible to set any kind of redirect. Furthermore, if you lose a subdomain for whatever reason, you will lose all achieved rankings as well with no option whatsoever of set up redirects from your old URLs.
8. No scaling
Hopefully, your business will grow, and therefore, your site will need to grow too. Then again, with the default, basic site builders you will find on most free hosting providers, it will be quite difficult to grow. They aren't designed to be complex solutions; in fact, their main purpose is to be either blogs or presentational websites with just a few pages.
Any custom development will either be impossible or will once again require an upgrade to a paid plan.
9. There is no support
Fair enough, support is a feature that usually comes with premium services, as the support requires financial investment from the companies, and you can't really blame them for not offering it for free.
The problem is, though, you will find yourself in need of support quite often - especially technical - and dealing with technical issues on your own can be quite troubling, regardless of the merits.
Even worse, you may find that you can't actually fix your problem and then be forced to pay for premium website support, which often can come at the cost of a yearly paid hosting plan.
When you are going to use web hosting services that are free, the access to help and technical support from the server administrators is nil, and therefore you will require sorting things by yourself, which can give a negative mark on your blog.
10. More downtimes
Remember how we said "no obligations"? In the case of downtimes, this is a rather unpleasant reality, since no free hosting will feel the need to guarantee your site uptime.
In comparison, most reputable hosting providers tend to guarantee 99,99% uptime, and this is indeed another important part of customer experience since almost no one is likely to return to a website that hasn't loaded the first time.
11. No staging area
For many people, it's important to have the possibility of testing out new features/designs beforehand; thus, they use something called staging. For WordPress, this often happens with specially designed staging environment or at least cloning their website to a subdomain for testing purposes.
Of course, this is an option that again requires custom development from the hosting provider, so finding such an option on an unpaid hosting is almost impossible.
12. No additional users
Say you want to add a member of your team, copywriter, or a product manager and have them manage your website. The chances of this option existing are almost zero, which means you will have to provide them direct access to your own account. From a security standpoint, this is really not a great situation, nor a very practical one since some control panels can simply kick you out as soon as someone else uses the same details to log in.
13. Hidden fees and charges
As with feature limitation, hidden charges usually occur when you need additional services - email, FTP option etc.
Granted, companies still need to make money, and it makes sense that they do charge for additional features. You just need to keep this in mind, as even basic options can be provided for a fee only.
14. Web transfer might be impossible at some point
As we saw in the previous cases, there will be times when, due to one reason or another, you may find yourself wanting to move to a paid service. There are instances where the service provider you've been using this far will not offer any migration option, making it impossible for you to get your own data. Again, you will likely be faced with the probability of having to pay for premium support in order to get your content transferred.
15. You can easily lose your site address
If they shut down or even get acquired, a change of their URL would mean the same for you, so if you rely on their subdomain, this could be really bad news.
For them, it might not be a big issue, but for a small business owner, the domain is often associated with the business, and this can be quite an unpleasant situation.
16. Companies can sell your information
This is a rare case, admittedly, especially now, with GDPRin place. Still, it's not an impossible situation, as many of the service providers still need to make money at the end of the day.
Even if they don't sell the data directly to the black market, you can be presented with T&C, which gives them permission to share your data with third-party companies, a.k.a advertisers.
People today get really concerned with their personal data - and rightly so - thus, in our opinion, this can be an especially sensitive issue.
17. Lack of proper tools
Because of the limited revenue, the free hosting providers will usually have a very limited toolbox, as well.
Like anything else, additional tools and features (such as custom WordPress management tools, for example) require investment, and when you are underselling your service, it can be really hard finding the necessary funds and invest them,
18. No WordPress
As we are big WordPress fans, this is another point that in our opinion is very inconvenient - many free hostings will not allow you to install WordPress on their server.
The main issue here is that WordPress, although an amazing platform, can be quite demanding in terms of hosting resources. Through the years, the more flexible WordPress becomes, the heavier it gets, so more often then not it requires at least standard operating hosting (if not specially optimized WordPress hosting, such as ours). Free hosting providers know fully well the situation, and in order to avoid issues with overconsuming resources, they choose not to allow the CMS altogether.
19. Limited WordPress
If some of them allow you to run WordPress, often the servers aren't really capable of running it well, and the result is a website continuously experiencing errors.
The worst thing is, you may not even realize it's the server, as the control panels are quite minimal and sometimes don't even show that there are problems with the capabilities of the hosting.
The last two points may seem like a weird choice considering how popular WordPress is, but remember - maintaining a lot of servers costs a lot of money. The reasonable option here will be to limit the usage if there is no substantial money flow.
20. HTML-only sites and a very limited number of pages
If you aren't using WordPress, there is still a way to limit your usage - it seems almost ridiculous these days, but some free website companies will offer you the possibility to host only a few static pages.
Any additional pages will be then sold to you as an upgrade, effectively defying the idea of a free hosting service.
21. A link--farm scheme
This one doesn't often happen anymore, yet several companies in the past had issues with illicit link building for which they used the sites they hosted (without the respective owner's permission, of course).
While the probability of this happening today is rather low, the potential damage is huge, as Google doesn't take lightly such tactics. A poor SEO score at best and a permanent ban of your domain name at worst - this is what you're looking at in case you become a part of a link farming scheme unknowingly.
22. Annoying and irrelevant ads on your site
As we said several times, companies still need to make money, and while the link farming is dying, selling advertising space on websites is still pretty huge. This is a very popular way for free hosting companies to make money, and because it's definitely less shady, you may find that a lot of companies actually do it.
At first glance, this seems like a reasonable deal - you get free hosting, and they get free content, which in turn can be sold as ad space.
The big problem? You rarely can, if ever, control what kind of ads your users will see. They can be irrelevant, or even worse - annoying and intrusive, making the whole experience absolutely horrible for regular users.
Probably the sketchiest part of all this is seeing your competitors advertising on your site through these ads - this has happened more than once, and it's an entirely possible situation.
23. Very limited disk storage
Unsurprisingly, the disk space provided is usually also rather limited. In order to save money, companies providing free hosting have hundreds, if not thousands of sites sharing servers.
In order to be able to maintain such a large number of sites, the only reasonable solution for them is offering a rather low disk storage per user.
What this means to you is that you can't upload very much, unless your entire website is simply infinite blocks of text. If you are planning to have a shop with many products, or a travel blog with hundreds of pictures, good luck finding a free hosting provider that will allow that without requiring an additional fee.
24. Malware issues
While this is not always the case, the security of a free hosting server is notoriously poor. Like with almost anything else on the list, good malware protection is rather expensivе, and often requires a lot of dedicated efforts. Secure hosting is a must when you want to protect the site you invest in, and with free hosting, it's rare that you'll get proper protection.
Most people don't consider this side of hosting almost at all, until something their site gets infected. They are then left dealing with the aftermath of a virus on their site, which is usually a browser warning for anybody visiting their site and in the worst-case scenario - a blacklist from several anti-malware companies.
25. Vulnerable to hacking attempts
Similar to the malware issue, you will not find free hosting with very good security against hacker attempts.
This can be especially problematic in the case of WordPress, as the CMS is notoriously targeted by hackers due to its large popularity. If your site gets hacked, the lack of options such as FTP access or readily available backups can make the recovery of your site almost impossible.
26. Lack of SSL certificate option
Honestly, this shouldn't be a surprise. SSL certificate costs money, so why would you get it on a free hosting service? While some regular hosting companies may offer it for free, some of the free website services won't allow you to install it even if you are willing to pay. Of course, by now, you are probably aware of the absolute necessity of an SSL certificate, so lacking the option of installing it can become quite the obstacle. Not only you will get a disadvantage from an SEO standpoint, but your own visitors will be rather reluctant to stay on the site, considering that the browser will keep telling them the site is not secure.
27. Very restricted design choices
If you are lucky enough to get a free hosting service where any sort of site builder is available, the design choices will likely be very limited.
Aside from WordPress.org, which has access to the WordPress repository, most of the free websites you'll be able to build will come with just a handful of templates, often extremely basic. There are exceptions, such as the service Wix, but even there to get something really good looking with good flexibility of features would require an upgraded plan.
28. No documentation or help center
We already covered the fact that there is no technical support included, but what you will often find out is the lack of proper documentation as well. The explanations you will find are usually pretty basic, and you will be pretty much on your own, as the site builder (if any) will not be very well known online.
For a technically inexperienced user, this simple fact can become the source of incredibly frustrating and often futile work.
29. You won't be able to monetize your site with ads
While you may get ads on your site (the revenue of which will go to the hosting company), you will often find that you aren't allowed to run ads on your own . This may seem like a contradiction, but if the free hosting company chose to generate revenue through ads on your site, it only makes sense that they limit your own possibility of selling ad space; otherwise, you can simply run out of it. This practically excludes some of the most popular monetization models, such as affiliate marketing and networks such as Google Adsense.
30. No (free) backups
This is probably one of the worst sides of free hosting. Many people underestimate the importance of regular backup until something goes wrong - and there are many things that might go wrong online. You can delete something important, mess up with your design, you can get hacked etc.
Backups are an integral part of your site's safety, and not being able to rely on such an option (automatic or manual) is really something that should make you think twice. To be fair, there are a lot of companies that will provide the service for an additional fee, but then again, we can't really consider this a "free service".
31. Hard to delete
When companies make money from your content, it's understandable that they will want to keep that content at any cost. There are some instances where deleting a website is made intentionally hard, if not impossible, as deleting it will mean loss of revenue for them.
Granted, this is a rare concern, but you should still keep it in mind .
32. Poor analytics
Another quirk often encountered in free hosting services is their own analytics, usually pretty basic. Sometimes the site builders they offer have no integration with services like Google Analytics, and then you have to rely on their own version of traffic analyzer.
As you may imagine, it's very hard to make a product as detailed and complex as Google Analytics, so you will get stuck with some very limited data about your users and their behavior. This, in turn, will make the optimization of your site difficult and rather speculative.
33. You may end up getting a lot of spam
Again, this isn't as popular as it used to be, but sending unwanted email with various offers is another way free hosting companies make money. While the revenue model itself is not used widely as it once was, sometimes getting rid of the spam is more difficult than you can imagine, especially if you're outside EU and therefore not protected by the GDPR regulation.
34. No managing from mobile
Finding a free hosting provider that will allow you to manage your site via mobile is truly a rarity. Of course, you don't have to do that every day, but in some cases, you may want to moderate comments or manage orders while on the go, so not having this opportunity can be really frustrating.
35. No responsive templates
In relation to our previous point, a lot of the templates will be rather basic as we said and - believe it or not - you will still find that many of them aren't responsive. As with speed or backup, this is another crucial issue - mobile traffic is taking over, so not having a responsive version is absolutely unthinkable.
Not only will you annoy the hell out of your users, but it's guaranteed that your SEO will suffer as well.
36. No custom email option
We mentioned the importance of making a professional impression, and having a branded email address is another crucial point. With free hostings, you can almost never create custom email accounts. Therefore, you will be bound to use some generic email service such as Gmail, and let's face it, this doesn't inspire a lot of trust. The user today can be turned off by any small detail, such as this one, so don't disregard the importance of professional appearance.
37. No contact forms
Speaking of emails, it's almost an obligatory element of every site to have a well-designed contact form. As you may have guessed, free website builders will rarely offer good contact forms or give you the opportunity to customize them
Form scripts are also with limited configuration, so forwarding your emails will likely not be possible.
38. No chat option
This one, unfortunately, is the case with almost all free hosting companies currently - we're yet to see a chat integration option with one of them. This is also true for other messenger integrations such as FB messenger, Viber or Whatsapp.
It may not seem like a big thing, but remember, a lot of the traffic these days is mobile, so preferences in terms of communication channels are also changing.
39. No obligations from the hosting provider
While this isn't a rule written in stone, it's common sense that if you get something for free, you can't really demand much. With free hosting providers, you really shouldn't expect much in terms of products or services - after all, they are free and, therefore, have minimal obligations toward you.
This sounds a bit abstract, but if you think about it, you will realize that you have expectations from each company that you do business with. The rule of thumb is - the less you pay, the lower your expectations usually are, so with a free product, the bar can be really, really low.
40. Little to no control over your site
Almost all of the companies providing free hosting have limitations on what content you can have. Even if you don't directly violate their terms and conditions, they usually state that they can shut down your site at any point in time without really providing explanations about it.
In case this happens, recuperating your site content will be next to impossible.
41. These companies can disappear at anytime
While there are big, established free hosting providers, such as WordPress.Com or Blogger, you have little guarantee of whether the company will survive.
Of course, this is true for any business, but companies built upon solid, sustainable business models stand a much bigger chance of making it through the years.
If something bad happens and they have to shut down, paid service providers usually will warn their clients way ahead in time.
If you are planning on building a long-term project, the reasonable choice is to get a high-performance, good quality hosting for your website.
Don't invest money, time, and effort into a project only to find yourself facing one or more of the obstacles we just described. Your ideas deserved to get the best possible start!