When getting started with building a website, one of the first crossroads you’re going to encounter is if you should go with free website hosting or paid website hosting. 

Nobody wants to spend money if they don’t have to, but since each offers a variety of advantages and disadvantages it’s important to fully know the difference between the two before making a decision.

A lot of the differences between the two will depend on the type of project you’re taking on, so keep that in mind.

Reliability

Reliability is one of the most important factors to consider when you’re looking at different web hosts.

While the reliability of each one will vary. In general you’ll find that you have much higher levels of reliability with a paid web host.

Free website hosts typically don’t have an SLA (Service Level Agreement), meaning that they do not promise to make sure their servers are running constantly.

With a paid website host, however, they’ll typically have an SLA of around 99% (some 99.9%), meaning that you will virtually never see your website go down.

If you’re still in the development stages of your website, and you don’t anticipate any immediate traffic, then a free host might work for you temporarily.

Speed

How fast your website loads for your visitors is going to greatly impact their overall experience when using your website.

If you’re looking for fast page-loading, then a paid host is going to have the edge here.  Free website hosts try to pack as many websites onto one server as possible to reduce overall costs.  The downside of this is when one of those other websites sees a spike in traffic, your website suffers.

While some paid hosts also use this shared hosting platform, the difference is they’re carefully managed to balance out those traffic spikes so you see less impact on your website.

As with reliability, speed is less important during the development stages of a website but you’ll definitely want to make sure the speed issues are addressed prior to putting your website into production.

Advertisements

One of the biggest drawbacks to using free website hosting is that many of them employ advertisements to offset the cost of offering free website hosting.

This means you could see a number of advertisements stuffed onto your webpage, or even worse there could be popup advertisements every time your page loads.

A lot of the time, the advertisements will seem spammy and won’t be related to your website.

These types of irrelevant advertisements can really drive visitors away from your website and hurt the overall reputation of your website or brand.

Paid hosting should never have any advertisements.  I’m sure there are some companies out there that try it, but overall you should never have to pay for website hosting and worry about the hosting provider stuffing advertisements all over your pages.

Control

Free website hosting can often limit the control you have over your website.  Depending on your experience level, this may or may not matter to you.

For example, a lot of free website providers simply offer a web-based file upload tool to transfer files to your website.  If this is already what you’re accustomed to, then it won’t make much of a difference.

With a paid website host, however, you can use FTP, SFTP, web-based file upload tools and many other options just to transfer files.

This level of control encompasses all aspects as well, not just file transfers.  If you think you’re going to do some heavy customization of the server/website settings, then you may want to start off with a paid website host.

Scalability

Scalability is important with any website. Being able to transition from a small website to a large website is the hope and dream of most website creators, so having a host to support this is essential.

With free website hosting, you’re not really offered any options.  You’re given a set amount of website space and bandwidth and you have to work with that.  If your website happens to go viral overnight, you don’t have any option to upgrade your plan – you’re stuck on the free host.

If you exceed those bandwidth restrictions set forth by the free host, your website will shut down and your visitors will be left in the dark.

With a paid website host you’re able to scale almost instantly in an instance where you’re seeing large growth with your website.  Most paid hosts offer an easy-to-use control panel where you can click just a few times and upgrade your website’s server immediately.

It’s always good to look closely at your wants and needs before making any rash decisions.  If your website is only in its infancy and you don’t expect any growth for the next several months, then maybe a free website host can work for you.

You do, however, still have to consider the trouble it may be to transfer that website to a paid host later on down the road.

Overall, we would recommend starting with a paid host, even if a low cost one, just to have the added reliability.  Either way, study your needs and make an educated decision of that and keep pushing forward!

All of our recommended hosting providers offer a money-back guarantee on their hosting packages. That means you can try out any of the top hosting services risk-free!

Christian Parker
Christian is known to be the “it” guy when it comes to web hosting. With five years of experience in web hosting engineering, Christian specializes in external web monitoring and design and implementation of web-servers. He absolutely loves what he does.
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