000webhost is one of the more recognizable names in free web hosting. It was established to offer users the chance to set up basic sites on a free platform. This works in a few ways – for example, as a cheap way to establish a simple and static website or for those who are new and learning about web technologies.
This zero-dollar-entry web hosting solution acts as a ‘farm’ for one of the biggest names in the web hosting business, Hostinger. Just as professional sports teams establish farm teams for the long-term development of talent, so too is the role of 000webhost.
Users who sign on for free Hosting at 000webhost can use it as a basic sandbox and eventually move on to Hostinger when they decide they need more features or resources.
However – 000webhost isn’t the only free hosting platform available – There are others like it floating around the web. Before we go through this list, remember that free services normally come with a lot of caveats and you should not expect them to offer anything near the performance of top-rated web hosts do.
When I hear the term ‘free’ the first name that usually pops into my head is WordPress.com. This site is the nurturing bed for the hugely popular content management system (CMS) WordPress and allows users to work with it in a live environment.
Setting up and running WordPress for the first time when you’re new to the web can be stressful. That’s why WordPress.com was set up – so you can learn through trial and error. WordPress itself acts as a framework, so you can build on it any design you wish.
Thanks to its popularity, both design and functionality are easily added on in the form of themes and plugins. Unfortunately, at the end of the day WordPress.com is only suitable for those who intend to use WordPress as a long-term solution.
It doesn’t lay the groundwork for users to learn host to manage their own web hosting accounts – the platform handles all of that for you. Because of this, it might not be the right solution for everyone. If you are looking to run WordPress or a WordPress-based online shop, then WordPress.com can be a good choice.
Weebly isn’t your run-of-the-mill web hosting platform. The entire concept is around selling their service as a website builder. This service is intended for users who have little knowledge of web hosting or building websites – that they can do so without the need for a steep learning curve.
It offers users a range of plans that are suitable for almost anything, from standard websites all the way to huge online stores. The free plan, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. However, it does take away the stress of having to learn how to build your site.
Although you can use Weebly to build a basic website, even their free plan allows eCommerce transactions. This means that Weebly is a fantastic option for those who intend to go this route. The concept would be you build and learn for free, and when you’ve got the basics down to pat you can sign up for a paid plan later.
For those interested in Weebly, the focus will be around building your site and adding features, rather than getting stuck learning how to configure the account. The catch is that because you’re relatively insulated form the web hosting portion of the plan, you may have difficulties if you decide to move away from the Weebly platform.
X10hosting is a free web hosting service provider that tries hard to sell itself as feature packed and easy to use. It allows users to quickly install several pre-packaged web applications like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal which can be convenient.
As with WordPress.com and 000webhost, x10hosting also acts as a farm for better, paid services. In this case, once you graduate from the free service offered by x10hosting you’ll be encouraged to move to x10premium for more features and resources.
While x10hosting doesn’t have that great of a reputation, it is a place where newbies can get the full shared web hosting experience. Because of their script installers, you can also experiment with various platforms if you aren’t sure which is the right one for you.
Aside from the basics of web hosting, you’ll be able to gain some hands-on experience with other things as well. Examples of this include setting up and managing email accounts, learning to work with File Transfer Protocol (FTP), or even work with databases and tools.
Rather than a farm, AwardSpace is a regular web hosting service provider that just happens to offer free accounts as well. These accounts are rather feature-packed, although much of what AwardSpace offers is a little out of the norm from mainsteam.
For example, they offer users the use of the Zacky application installer and website builder. This is open source, so doesn’t cost anything to use. Although the interface may be a little different compared to popular ones like Softaculous, the concept remains the same – one-click installation.
The Zacky website builder is a nice touch though. Given how popular website building tools are you may be surprised that some web hosting providers don’t offer the use of one – even some paid platforms. Free accounts on AwardSpace can make use of one of their subdomains, so you won’t even need to register your own to start with.
If you’re planning to move later, AwardSpace has several options for you. They offer a huge range of plans so that your upgrades can be very progressive, starting from their $1 web hosting. From there, you can go up the scale all the way to semi-dedicated servers of their Cloud plans.
Freehostia, as a free web hosting platform, throws up some impressive features and specifications. For example, with a free hosting account here you get 250MB of space, can host up to 5 domains, and get 6GB of bandwidth, along with the use of email and databases.
The kicker isn’t just that you get all of this for free, but unlike many other free hosting platforms, they don’t force their branding onto your websites. That means this can be a viable option especially for business users who want a simple web presence without other branding on the site.
Despite their strange predilection for naming their hosting plans rather strangely (Watercircle, Lovebeat, Wildhoney, and Supernatural?), free here really is free and comes with a website builder thrown in. In fact, you can even test their website builder before you sign up for a free account!
Of course, there are certain limitations which is the norm, but these can be overcome by opting for one of their paid plans later. As a sweetener to the deal, Freehostia offers new sign ups to their plans massive discounts such as their $1 per month VPS deals.
Is Free Hosting Really Free?
From the examples I’ve listed above you can see that I’ve made sure to share free solutions that offer a few different concepts. Each of them has their own pros and cons – such as the example of Weebly which offers a superior website building service but insulates users from the account configuration side of the business.
In some cases, such as that of Weebly, business users hoping to stay on free plans might want to stay away since the hosts’ branding will affect the brand of your own business.
The one major underlying catch is the free often really isn’t free. Web hosting costs a lot of money to provide and because of that, companies can’t afford to give away these services gratis forever. The idea is to offer users something free and build in just enough limitations to make them want to upgrade to a paid plan.
Also read – How much does it cost to host a website?
Conclusion: Can You Live with Free Web Hosting?
From sub-par performance to challenges such as very limited resources and a long list of dos and don’ts, free web hosting can be extremely frustrating. After all, as I just said, that’s the way they are designed to be with a purpose.
Yet for the shrewd website owner some of these choices can be a good one if they know the purpose they are working towards. For example, if you’re a business owner that needs just a basic site with no frills, Weebly can be a good choice since you can quickly build a site on your own and not have to spend extra on development costs.
At the end of the day, I recommend that you take free web hosting as it was intended – to be a learning experience. Use the no-cost opportunity to experiment and see what type of concept suits you. Or, if you already know, take the opportunity to learn in a live environment before paying top dollar for the best web hosting you can afford. This rings especially true for the ambitious would-be website owner.