Why ‘Free’ Web Hosting Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

For the very few who might not been aware of its existence, a simple Google search of ‘web hosting’ will make it quickly apparent that there is the possibility of having your website hosted for free. That’s right, no so much as a penny will be required of you to have your site up and open on the World Wide Web for visitors to stop by and have a look over what you’ve chosen to display about yourself. However, as is the case with nearly every consumer service where you’ve got paid and unpaid alternatives you need to ask yourself the question; if the free option was every bit the equal of the paid ones, why would anyone choose to part ways with their money each month?

That’s a legitimate question 10 times out of 10 in such a scenario, and when it comes to web hosting the answer is the same as it in almost any other – ‘Free’ hosting may be appealing, but don’t be surprised if you quickly come to find it’s not meeting your expectations and / or needs with what you have to have out of your website. The old expression ‘you get what you pay for’ comes to be true yet again it seems.

We’ll say briefly that the best way to save your budget while building a website is to save on its development. Web design can be outsourced to anywhere in the world and it’s quite common to get quality work for a very competitive price. But enough about that, let’s get back on subject here. Fact is, choosing free web hosting is one of the most common mistakes many businesses make when beginning to develop their online presence.

Why Hosting Matters

Finding a reliable web hosting company is an important step in delivering the best user experience to your customers. 95% of the time (and that might be conservative) free web hosting isn’t going to be reliable, either partially or at all. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a Canadian web hosting provider like several others who have made a name for ourselves based in large part on our ability to offer real reliability and uptime guarantees to our customers. To successfully deliver your content to viewers, you’ll need a place to store your files and that’s where hosting comes in. Remote computer servers serve as a source of storage for your information. Your host keeps your files safe and accessible, so your website can deliver the information you want viewers to see when someone opens your website.

Free web hosting gets red flags right off the hop with 1) risk of losing revenue, 2) negatively affecting SEO rankings, 3) potential security issues and 4) risk of malware attacks. Free is obviously tempting, but here’s why anyone really should discard the idea of possibly going down this route

  1. Entirely Free? Really?

Most of you will surely concur that anytime you have signed up for something ‘free’ in your lifetime, 9 times out of 10 there’s a surprise something or other expense to be incurred somewhere down the road. Limitations aren’t usually mentioned in the sales pitches either, and you’re bound to not like any of them very much either. You’re then in the position of needing to pay an excessive service fee to get what you need, or are stuck with what you have and put at a serious disadvantage.

Most free web hosting services limit the amount of storage available to your website, the bandwidth of your service, and do not allow FTP access. Upgrading your services for a much higher fee than most premium hosting providers offer is common in these scenarios when you’re now under contract. And yes, getting out of these contracts typically isn’t very easy.

  1. Reliability? Forget About It

Many of the most highly marketed free web hosting providers are new companies themselves. The offer of free web hosting is made with the aim to draw in customers to pay for their other services. They’ll offer premium hosting for ‘free, before charging you for pricey services that make your hosting be more of the arrangement you had in mind, and with what your website and digital marketing objectives with it need.

One of the major risks associated with this unreliability is that instability of the provider company usually comes along with it. Keep in mind that domains purchased or renewed through them will be lost if they suddenly go belly up – and many of them do. This will of course hit your SEO ranking right where it hurts. Trust us, you want to avoid this scenario!

  1. No Transfers

Most free hosting solutions have a knack for working tricky wordings into their terms of service. For instance, you might think that you own your website and your domain, but turns out you don’t. Then there’s instances where your hosting provider will own all your content in all likelihood. That means no selling your website, or your content, and republishing any of your work is a no-go too.

Then, once you realize you need better services, it’s often a tremendous hassle to transfer providers. Those who can’t afford the upgrades needed from their free hosting provider won’t even be able to look for an affordable, reliable company, because you don’t actually own your website, your content, or even your domain. This means no transferring to a better provider. Not good.

  1. Lack of Server Control

Most of them time website hosted through free website hosting are not scalable. If your business grows, your website will be prevented from doing the same. Most free hosting services fall apart big time when faced with high volumes of traffic, so you’re going to have to make sure you don’t have too many visitors when your site is hosted this way. That’s really going to hurt you, wouldn’t you agree. Make sure you’re not successful, how does that sound? Right then.

Reliable web hosting in Canada is not particularly expensive. But more importantly it’s an investment in the security of your website and in your business’ future. If you exceed your limits with a premium hosting provider, more often than not you can upgrade your services at a fair and affordable price. And you don’t need to concern yourself with slow website speeds or downtime. That in itself is HUGE.

  1. Subpar Looking Websites

Free hosting will only come with a few basic themes for your website design. You may be able to make small changes, but customizing your website or make improvements as your budget allows is probably out of the question. Forget legit domain names too, because you will likely be using a subdomain.

We love WordPress, but WordPress hosting is a great example of a free hosting provider that limits your capabilities and often leaves you looking less-than-professional online. Clients who use the free WordPress hosting services often have a domain like biz.wordpress.com. We, and many others, can get you a top-level domain at a low cost and you can implement professional .com emails that go a long way to enhancing the appearance of your business.

Consider as well that free hosting excludes plugins, so your website won’t be capable of executing many important website functions. Consider further still that you will likely have to deal with forced ads that are placed on your website and have no value for your business. After all, your free hosting provider is going to have to make their money by some means!

  1. SEO Ranking Suffer

We’ve now firmly established that your webpage can be saddled with slow site speeds, increased downtime, and look bad, but there’s a more serious impact this can have on your business. SEO is a major priority for business websites these days, and we don’t need to explain why. Investing in professional SEO services is always best, as it it takes time to build a solid online presence. Free hosting providers can promote negative impacts on your ability to rank well, if rank at all in search results.

Google has implemented high standards by which only certain websites rank near the top of the first page. All the negative impacts listed above regarding free hosting make your website harder to rank because of its low quality when it comes to Google Standards. You’ll struggle mightily to get your business on the map when it comes to search engine results. This is truly the last thing you want when you’re relying on your website to be the primary driver of your online marketing efforts.

Paid – and subsequently quality and reliable – web hosting gives you full control over your website, better SEO, a genuine professional domain, and a scalable website that has the ability to grow with your business. Now not toot our own horn too much, but at 4GoodHosting this is what we’re been providing to Canadians from coast to coast for more than a decade now. Something to be proud of for sure, and that’s the way it’s going to continue to be.

Linux or Windows

The vast majority of websites are hosted on either Linux or Windows OS servers, and the market share is now shifting towards Linux according to a recent report from W3tech. Consumer surveys indicated that Unix servers make up some 66% of all web servers while Windows accounts for just over 33%. For most this isn’t going to be something they’ll give any consideration to, and it’s true that websites with standard HTML pages will be served equally well with either OS.

These days greater numbers of websites have been ‘revamped’ since their inception and now feature dynamic design elements that enhance the UX experience for viewers. If you are planning to design or redesign your website to be much more engaging, you should work with forms and execute web applications both systems will serve your needs.

Linux and Windows are pretty much neck and neck when it comes to functionality. Each works with a number of frameworks and front end programming languages, and have impressive features when it comes to hosting. Linux and Windows handle data in the same way too, and both sport easy, convenient and fast FTP tools to serve a wide range of file management functions.

Nine times out of 10 you’ll be at your best with either, and at 4GoodHosting our Linux and Windows web hosting specs make us one of the best Canadian web hosting providers with data centers in both Eastern and Western Canada.

Our standard web hosting is via ultra-fast, dual-parallel processing Hexa Core Xeon Linux-based web servers with the latest server software installations, and our Windows hosting includes full support for the entire spectrum of frameworks and languages: ASP.NET, Frontpage, Choice of MySQL, MSSQL 2000 or 2005 DB, ATLAS, Silverlight, ASP 3.0, PHP4 & PHP5, and Plesk.

Let’s have a look at the difference with each.

Price

The most significant difference between Linux and Windows web hosting is the core operating system on which the server(s) and user interface run. Linux uses some form of the Linux kernel, and these are usually free. There are some paid distributions, Red Hat being a good one, which comes with a number of special features aimed at better server performance. With Windows you’ll have a licensing fee because Microsoft develops and owns its OS and hardware upgrade needs can be a possibility too. We like Linux because over its lifespan, Linux servers generally cost significantly less than a similar one that’s Windows-based.

Software Support

Before choosing an OS, you’ll also have to consider the script languages and database applications that are required to host the website on it. If your website needs Windows-based scripts or database applications to display correctly, then a Windows web hosting platform is probably best for you. Sites developed with Microsoft ASP.NET, ASP Classic, MSSSQL, MS Access, SharePoint technologies will also head over to the Windows side.

Conversely, if your website requires Linux-based script or database software, then a Linux-based web hosting platform is going to be your best choice. Plus, anyone planning to use Apache modules, NGINX or development tools like Perl, PHP, or Python with a MySQL database will enjoy the large support structure for these formats found with Linux.

Control Panel And Dev Tools

Another consideration with these two web hosting options is that Linux offers control panels like cPanel or WHM, and Windows uses Plesk. There are fundamental differences between them. cPanel has a simple user-friendly interface and users can download applications, such as WordPress, phpBB, Drupal, Joomla, and more with super simple one-click installs. Creating and manage MySQL databases and configuring PHP is easy, and cPanel automatically updates software packages too. Plus, we like our Linux hosted websites for people new to the web. cPanel makes it easy for even people with no coding knowledge to create websites, blogs, and wiki pages. You can get tasks done faster without having to learn the details of every package installed.

Plesk is very versatile in that it can help you run the Windows version of the Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP stack. Plesk also supports Docker, Git, and other advanced security extensions. Windows servers have many unique and practical tools available as well, such as the Microsoft Web Platform Installer (Web PI) for speedier installation of the IIS (Internet Information System web server), MSSQL, and ASP.NET stack.

Because it’s been on the field longer, there are loads of open-source Linux applications available online. Windows hosting has fewer apps to choose from, but you have the security of knowing they are all from from vetted licensed providers. This increases the rate you can move ahead with database deployment.

Performance And Security

A reputable Canadian web host can be expected to secure your website within its data centres, but online attacks on Windows servers over the last few years show that they may be more of a red flag here than with Linux servers. That’s not to say that Linux – or any OS that has been or ever will be developed – will not have any security issues. Solid security is a product of good passwords, applying necessary patches, and using the rack for support.

Further, Linux server is pretty much universally considered to superior to Windows for stability and reliability. They rarely need to be rebooted and configuration changes rarely require a restart. Running multiple database and file servers on Windows can make it unstable, and another small difference is that Linux files are case-sensitive and Windows files are not.

Penguin for the Win

Your choice of server should be dictated by the features & database application needed for the proper functioning of your hosting or website development project. Those of you working on your own external-facing site and looking for a combination of flexibility and stability will be set up perfectly with Linux and cPanel. Those working in a complex IT environment with existing databases and legacy applications running on Windows servers will be best served being hosted on a Windows OS server.