The fact is, most free and really dirt cheap web hosts sound like a good deal, but they really aren’t. Basically, there are problems with using a free web hosting company for any type of e-commerce or business website, and I’m going to discuss those issues now.
If you’re only looking for a spot to put a small, simple personal website, then free web hosting may be what you’re looking for. But, if you can afford to spend even a few dollars a month, a paid host is a better deal, even for a personal web site. If you really can’t afford to pay anything, and you want a “free” website, my best recommendation is to get a blog at either Blogger.com or WordPress.com, and use that for your website. Both of these platforms are stable and easy to use, and as long as your purpose is simply to have a personal website accessed by a few friends and relatives, they’ll do just fine. If you want to make a few bucks, you can set up AdSense accounts on these sites, or put links on them that lead to your affiliate sales pages. If you’re looking to make a commercial web site, Blogger.com is a little more friendly to these kinds of things than WordPress.com. Plus, the search engines like these sites, and you may find an audience and discover that your blog is much more popular than you thought it could be.
Most other free web hosts come with one or more of the following problems, and really limit your ability to conduct business online.
1. Long urls, with the free web hosts name in them. This doesn’t instill much confidence in prospective buyers or clients.
2. Free web host sponsored links and advertising. People who click on these ads make money for them, not you, and leave your website.
3. Space and bandwidth given to web sites by free hosting companies are normally quite small.
4. Most free hosts restrict your ability to advertise or run a business web site that processes purchases.
5. No ability to obtain SSL certificates or handle transactions securely, even if they are allowed.
6. Technology used at these sites is not state of the art, and they are often slow to load.
7. Pearl, CGI and scripts are often not updated to current versions, and requests for updates are usually denied.
8. Support is, at best, not very good or quick to respond. At some free web hosts, it is virtually non-existent.
9. Most do not give you the tools you need to build a web site, like an online site builder and templates, or a free script library to install blogs, galleries, or other features.
10. Cron jobs, necessary to run certain scripts and other features, are often not provided or allowed. Databases may not be provided or allowed.
On top of all of this, free web hosting and really cheap web hosting (especially those that allow you to pay by the month), attract spammers, scammers, phishers and hackers. These low-lifes of the internet world may wind up on your shared IP address, and can cause problems that I’ll talk about when I discuss cheap web hosting.
In my opinion, if you just want a personal web site to put your thoughts or opinions online, get a free blog and start writing. But if your intention is to make a living online, or at least to have a professional online business presence, you’re going to have to pay for a real domain name and your web hosting. If you expect to be successful, and you want to make getting a full featured professional web site up and running as easy as possible, plus you want access to a quick, responsive tech support team to help you do it, you really need a “premium” web host.
As with free web hosts, if you’re just setting up a small personal site, but want to build the site yourself, and want more flexibility as to the template you use, and want to be able to add pictures, video and audio, then a real dirt cheap host may be a good deal for you. But for a business or e-commerce web site, cheaper is not always a bargain.
Really cheap web hosting plans usually have one or more of the same problems as free hosting. Slow speed, small space and bandwidth, overselling of both space and bandwidth, lack of service and tech support, and less than state of the art security and equipment. And there are a few problems with really cheap web hosts that can really impact your business website.
First, if you’re building your first website or your tenth, you’re probably going to run into some problems or issues. A good premium hosting company will help make the process easier by giving you a online Site Builder and templates to make building the web site easier, and will also have a script library to make installing a blog, photo gallery, forum, or online store much easier and simpler to do. Still, you may have problems or questions as you build and launch your web site. In my opinion, having a good, quick tech support system in place is the biggest benefit of going with a premium hosting company. A really good one will have sufficient staff to provide rapid responses to support tickets, plus chat and phone support, for when you really need it.
You may think that going with a well known web host that may offer what appears to be an unbelievable deal is your best bet, but the primary complaints that most people have with the really large cheap hosts have to do with their lack of support. Many of them seem to spend more on advertising and celebrity endorsements to gain more customers, than they do on providing service and support to their existing customers. If you never need to use tech support, then one of these web hosts may work just fine for you, just make sure you understand how some of their advertising “low balls” their actual costs.
Really cheap web hosts advertise prices from $2.95 to $4.95 a month, and some also advertise month to month payments. I even saw one that had a special deal and offered the first month of hosting for $1! What they don’t reveal in their ads, is the fact that to get the lowest price or the special deal, you often have to pay for your hosting for 2-5 years in advance! For example, one site the advertises a $3.95 a month plan, and a monthly payment option, only gives you that $3.95 price if you pay 5 years in advance. For paying for one year, the price is actually $8.95 a month, and to pay by the month it goes up to $9.95 a month! Some web hosting companies also offer great specials for the first month or first year, to get you to sign up, but then the price to continue hosting with them is much higher than you would pay for a good premium hosting plan.
The final major problem with really cheap web hosting, especially from sites that offer month to month payment plans, is that they attract spammers, phishers, hackers and other internet bottom feeders. The problem for your business web site, is that your may wind up sharing an IP address with one of these sites. If you use email to send newsletters or sales flyers to your clients, you may find your emails blocked by one or more of the major mail servers, simply because a spammer who shares your IP address has broken the rules. Eventually, your web host will confirm to the email service that they have removed the offending account, and eventually your IP will be unblocked, but in the meantime, you can’t communicate with your customers. Meanwhile, the spammer or phisher knew their account would be shut down in a matter of days or weeks, and they don’t care. They spend as little as possible to open the site, paste up a cloned website, make a few dollars on their scam, and just move on to another really cheap web host when their account is closed.
The fact that these bargain hosting companies get so many spam and phishing complaints can hurt your business in another way. You may be unfairly accused of spamming, simply because a few of your clients click your email into their spam folder, rather than clicking on your unsubscribe link. Many people simply don’t realize that doing that can lodge a spam complaint against you with their email provider, they just didn’t want to receive your emails anymore. When they receive the spam complaint from the email provider, most premium hosts will give you a chance to provide documentation that you aren’t a spammer, before they close down your account. However, some of the large really cheap hosts have adopted a policy of “guilty until proven innocent”, since the majority of the complaints they receive are valid. You may find your website shut down, and your domain name locked up for weeks, while you prove your innocence to your hosting company.
For the most part, when it comes to web hosting, like with most things, you get what you pay for. But, this doesn’t mean you have to pay an arm and a leg to get great hosting. In fact, the difference in price between a good premium web host and a dirt cheap one is only a few dollars a month. Of course, you can pay a lot more, and some premium hosts charge up to $39.95 a month or more to host one website. But you don’t have to pay anywhere near that amount to get great, full featured web hosting. I’ve been building and marketing web sites for years, and before I switched to the web host I use now I researched literally thousands of web hosting companies to come up with the best one for e-commerce hosting. I tried out dozens of the ones that made the initial cut, using their 14-30 day trial periods to find out if they were as good as they said they were, and came up with a list of Top Ten Hosts that really deliver exceptional service and excellent hosting packages for a bargain price.