One of the most frequently asked questions is the one as to whether there are free web hosting services that can be used by small businesses. This is an understandable question. After all, small businesses that are just starting up are usually unable to pay for costly web hosting packages. People who are starting small businesses are often forced to take advantage of all free resources they can get, before the enterprises start generating revenues to pay for things. And for some businesses, a website is just a supplementary marketing tool – one that they can’t afford to spend too much money on, because most of their business is within the traditional ‘brick and mortar’ set up anyway. All these factors lead to the question as to whether there are free web hosting services that can be used by small businesses. And that is the question I will be dealing with, in this article.
I will first be seeking to answer the question as to whether, in fact, there (really) are any free web hosting services that can be used by small businesses. I will also be looking at the limitations associated with the free web hosting services. Then I will be seeking to understand how the free web hosting services work. Finally, I will be exploring the alternatives that are available, to the free web hosting services.
On whether there are free web hosting services for small businesses
The simple answer to the question as to whether there are free web hosting services that can be used by small businesses is ‘yes’. There are, indeed, some web hosting services that are available at no cost, and some of these can be used by small businesses. If you carry out a search on Google or any other search engine for ‘free web hosting’, you will be able to find the specific services. Of course, there are limitations to the free web hosting services, which I will be exploring later on in this article. However, if you are ready to overlook the limitations, then there are definitely some free web hosting services that you can use to run your small business website.
It is worth noting that the companies that offer genuinely ‘free’ web hosting services are very few and far apart. What you are more likely to encounter are companies that purport to offer ‘free’ web hosting services, but end up giving you a very limited service, with the hope that you will ‘upgrade’ to the paid/premium hosting service. But if you really put in effort while searching for free web hosting services, chances are that you will eventually find a service you can use for your small business website.
Limitations associated with the free web hosting services
The problem with the free web hosting services is in that they tend to come with lots of limitations. If, for instance, you insist on using absolutely no money on matters to do with web hosting, chances are that you won’t be able to get a full domain name for your website. What you are more likely to get is a sub-domain. Thus, if the free web hosting service is found at XYZ.com, and your preferred business website domain is ABC.com, then you will have to do with www.abc.xyz.com. To actually get ABC.com, you’d have to pay something, for registration of the domain name. And the moment you register a domain name, you’d have to think of renewing it annually: thus moving the entire thing from a genuinely ‘free’ service, to one that you’d be paying something for. So there is that limitation, in the fact that you will have to do with a sub-domain name, rather than a full domain name for your website, if you insist on using (truly) free web hosting.
Of course, there are some people who will argue that domain registration and web hosting are two different things. In that case, it is possible for you to register a domain at a cost, and then proceed to host it for free. Google’s Blogger platform (Blogspot.com), for instance, has two options. One option is that of using a blogspot.com sub-domain, and enjoy absolutely free web hosting for the site you create. The other option is that of registering your own domain, with a domain registrar, and at a cost. Then you can host the site you create on the blogger.com platform, without having to pay for web hosting bit. The same thing applies at wordpress.com. You can use a wordpress.com sub-domain, and you won’t have to spend money on either domain registration or on web hosting. Alternatively, you can opt to spend some money on domain registration, to get your own domain (rather than relying on a sub-domain). Then, having registered the domain, you can proceed to host it on the wordpress.com platform, potentially enjoying free web hosting.
Another limitation associated with the free web hosting services is in the fact that you often have to put up with ads, to continue enjoying the service. And to the people visiting your business, it would be rather odd for them to be encountering other businesses’ ads there! It looks awkward. Still, there are some free web hosting services that don’t run ads on subscribers’ websites.
Yet another limitation associated with free web hosting services is in terms of features. With some of these web hosting services, there are limitations in terms of the size of website you can create, the bandwidth you can use in a month, the email addresses you can create… and so on. Some are unable to host databases and others can’t support any scripting.
Understanding how the free web hosting services work
A question that is frequently asked about the free web hosting services is as to how they are financed. This, in other words, is a question as to how the people who offer free web hosting services make money, so as to be able to finance their operations. It turns out that some of the free web hosting services are run using advertising revenues. Some place ads on the websites hosted within their platforms, and then they get the revenues from those ads. Others rely on the revenues raised from the subscribers who use the ‘premium’ versions of the services, to finance the free services. So here we have a question of some users subsidizing the others.
Alternatives to the free web hosting services
As we have already observed, free web hosting services come with lots of limitations. If you decide to use free web hosting services, you may have to make do with a sub-domain, rather than having a real full domain name for your business website. Furthermore, if you decide to use free web hosting services, you may have put up with ads being run on your website, which can be rather awkward. If you find these limitations off-putting, you will have to start thinking about the alternatives to free web hosting. And this is where small businesses often find it to be much better to use the ‘cheap’ web hosting services, rather than the absolutely ‘free’ web hosting services.
With the cheap web hosting services, you may be able to get your own domain name, rather than relying on a sub-domain. You may be able to create a website of a reasonable size, and to be allocated a reasonable amount of (or unlimited) bandwidth. You may be able to create a reasonable number of email addresses, to host scripts, databases… and lots of other things. Yet these web hosting packages don’t cost too much: you can get a web hosting package for as little as $5 or $10 per month. At that modest cost, you can get to host a business website without the limitations associated with free web hosting.