Life’s easy for bloggers. Adding posts is a breeze, placing ads is simple and it doesn’t matter which blogging service you use, all the best ones are free.
If only the same were true for website owners.
Sure, a basic hosting package won’t cost you a fortune but when money’s tight and you’re not sure whether the site will bring in any revenue, even seeing five bucks drop out of your account each month can feel pretty painful.
There are alternatives of course, and there’s no shortage of companies offering free hosting packages. Usually though, you get what you pay for: irritating banner ads, poor customer service, limitations on scripting and uploading, and worst of all, a sub-domain URL that reveals right away that you’re too poor to pay a hosting fee.
But with a bit of care, it is possible to get your website online without paying a dime. Here are some of the best options:
A good place to look for free hosting services is free-webhosts.com which has a long list of free services, complete with features, reviews, feedback and grades.
Perhaps most interesting of all though is the site’s affiliate deals with hosting services. The deal with Digital Space, for example, provides an entire year of free hosting. You’ll need a credit card to register and provided you don’t cancel, when the first year ends, you’ll be charged $6.95 per month.
That does however, give you a year risk-free to see if your site idea works and how quickly it will cover the hosting fee.
On the other hand, if you want a hosting service that starts free and stays free, one of the best services might be AgilityHoster. Their simplest package costs nothing, allows 200 MB of disk space, contains no ads and lets you use your domain name.
The only downside is one that affects pretty much all free services: there’s no SMTP mail service.
That’s to stop spammers loading up on free hosts and pumping out emails. It could be a bit of an inconvenience but not the end of the world.
AwardSpace appears to be another reliable, cost-free option. Again, there’s no SMTP service, but you still get a couple of domains, five email addresses, a MySQL database and 10 MB of database storage space. What you don’t get though are access and error logs, shared SSL, shopping carts, 24/7 customer support and a whole bunch of other things you might find useful.
DigitalSpace, AgilityHoster and AwardSpace are all conventional hosting services that hold your website, but another option is to place your site on Google’s servers.
Google’s Page Creator is a very simple way to get a website online in no time at all and for no money at all either.
The service works in much the same way as a blog: you can choose from a range of templates, add pages, play with layout, and insert text and images with a user-friendly WYSIWYG editor.
The limitations are pretty severe though. You only get 100 MB storage space and absolutely none of the bells and whistles that any paid (and even some of the free) service will give you.
And your URL will be http://yourname.googlepages.com.
If all you want to do is upload text and the odd image — for a proposal or lesson plan, for example — it could be a good choice. If you’re hoping to put across a business face, then you’ll need a whole other option.
And that whole other option might be Squidoo.
This is nothing like a blog and it’s nothing like a traditional website either. Instead, it’s an opportunity to portray yourself as an expert on one particular field.
You’ll get one page with a choice of modules and plenty of room for text. Ads are included but you’ll get a share of the revenue.
It’s clearly not going to be an option for anyone who wants even the basic functionality that comes with a website — such as your own domain, email, databases and so on — but if all you want from a website is the opportunity to promote yourself and your expertise then it could be a useful option, especially as you’ll be able to enjoy some of the site’s traffic.
In fact, it could even be a good complement to your own website on a good, free hosting service…
[tags] free web host, free web hosts, free web hosting [/tags]