Who gets tired of free stuff? Nobody, unless you recently hit your head. We all love free stuff. Free tacos, free beer, or even a free t-shirt that gets tossed in the back of a drawer and never sees the light of day again the rest of its natural life. It seems the word “free” triggers a sort of genetic response that makes us sit up and take notice.
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So let’s talk about about free web hosting. Is it a good thing like free beer or ill-fitting t-shirt? The answer, as you might suspect, depends on what you intend to accomplish with your website.
Paid hosting plans certainly have their place in the world, but the reality is that not everyone who wants to put something online has grand plans to challenge Amazon in a face-to-face ecommerce retail death match. Some of us have more modest intentions and just want a place to conduct email marketing campaigns, dump thoughts or share stuff quickly and without a lot of hassle.
If this latter idea describes you, it’s your lucky day. Keep reading to discover our no-holds-barred opinions on the top free (and almost free) web hosts on the market right now.
5 Best “Almost-Free” Web Hosts
While the idea of 100% free web hosting is enough to start your tail wagging, don’t overlook the fact that their version of “free” might leave you with serious storage, performance, and bandwidth limitations. And unless you pay for an upgrade, you’re probably going to have to deal with their intrusive ads plastered all over your website.
While it’s true you can keep the free hosting as long as you like, if you ever intend to get more serious about a full-fledged website, you’re going to want to eventually upgrade to a more robust plan that costs a little something each month.
These days, you might be surprised how many features and benefits a close-to-free web host includes for spending anywhere from $3 to $10 monthly. We’re talking about a free domain, email accounts, plenty of storage, and even eCommerce functionality.
Here are our top five favorite almost-free hosting companies:
Thanks to an extensive list of extras and rock solid server technology, iPage should be on your short list of cheap, reliable hosts. We especially like the free website builder and domain that lets you get online fast at a minimum cost.
These days it’s all about eCommerce and iPage includes online store templates and shopping carts for the same price.
No monthly pricing – you have to pay for a year or more upfront. Also seems to go a little overboard on the upsells.
BlueHost has been at or near the top of the shared hosting world for a long time with a well-deserved reputation for quality systems and customer support that is actually inclined to help. Speed and performance is everything you would expect from an industry leader.
Ultra-competitive pricing for VPS and dedicated hosting when you’re ready to take the next step.
Charges $100 to migrate a website. Some companies do it for free.
IT nerds and online entrepreneurs love the InMotion business-class hosting plans. You’ll pay a teensy bit more here than with the rock bottom folks, but gain a whole lot of value for not much extra cost. With multiple datacenter choices and higher-end hardware, your InMotion experience should be a good one.
As one of the last independent operators in the industry, you’ll get a full 90-day money back guarantee for ultimate peace of mind.
The lowest cost plans include some limitations on the number of websites you can host and databases you can create.
4. A2 Hosting
Not just a reseller of prepackaged hosting plans, A2 Hosting decided to custom-build their hardware and software configurations for enhanced performance, speed, and security – presuming customers wouldn’t mind paying a few extra pennies per month for the kind of quality not always found in shared hosts.
Unlimited everything with 99.9% uptime and datacenters in USA, Europe, and Singapore. Refund period never expires.
To gain additional server speed that loads your website super fast requires a plan upgrade to the more expensive Turbo or Swift packages.
HostPapa is more than a churn and burn shared hosting deep discounter. This company’s goal is to acquire customers through their low-priced starter plan, then prove themselves to be a full-service business partner. HostPapa continues to roll out more eCommerce features for entrepreneur-minded clients.
Promotes environmental-friendly business practices. HostPapa is glad to migrate your CMS website from another host for free.
Support for minor issues is great but there can be wait times of up to 72 hours if you need more in-depth technical expertise.
4 Best “Free” Web Hosts
Are there any truly free web host companies out there? Yep. We scoured the internet for the biggest hosting bang for no bucks to be found. Believe it or not, there are some legitimate options, one of which at least should be a fit for your project whether you’re a naive newbie, hobby website designer, or an advanced developer who needs a place to stash his or her work with all the bells and most of the whistles.
This leading website builder is so simple that you can create an account and be building your website in a matter of minutes – very few minutes. Using the builder itself is a quick learning curve. In no time at all you’ll be manipulating menus, text, images, sliders, and more.
Tough to beat in terms of browser-based site builders. With new templates and features coming online all the time, Wix is a great place to begin your web design journey.
Though they have a formidable article archive, live support is almost non-existent. You’ll be mostly on your own with tech issues.
Volusion specializes in entrepreneurs looking to build and host and online store. While not the cheapest option if you’re just looking to throw up an informational site or personal blog, those who are ready to jump into eCommerce will love this company’s focus on the business side of things.
If bringing a professional-looking online store into existence is the goal, Volusion is a serious option to help you do it.
Many of the sought after eCommerce features are only available with a hosting plan that you pay for.
For the extremely cost-conscious consumer who can get by with a no-frills basic website or needs email hosting more than anything, One’s starter package includes a domain, unlimited email accounts, and website builder at the rate of $3 a year. Packages tier up from there with a WordPress enabled plan costing about $3.50/month.
The website builder is good for the price, with the capability to preview your site in both desktop and mobile view as you create it.
The 15 day refund period is kind of stingy.
Shopify is known for eCommerce, so if that’s the direction you’re headed, this web hosting company is geared for helping you get an online store up and going with a minimum of fuss. The Shopify subdomain option is perfect for those with a tiny budget who need to make a few bucks before they consider upgraded hosting.
One-stop shop for building a fully-functional online marketplace.
You will encounter payment processing expenses if you choose any other route than the in-house option Stripe.
5 Best of the Rest: Other Free Sites and Builders Worth Watching
To revisit a familiar topic – it’s human nature to look for the best deal and it doesn’t get much better than free. That’s why the web hosting industry has jumped hard on the idea and run with it, becoming so jampacked with cheap and low cost options dangled in front of consumers like some kind of irresistible bait that it’s hard to sort them all out.
Well, it’s our mission to sort them out. That’s what we do around here. Some deep discount hosts are worth a sniff, while others are downright excellent companies, and a few you wouldn’t want to go near without a stout stick to whack ‘em with. When you check in with us, you get our unvarnished opinions and early warnings about the best deals.
Without further ado, let’s dig into our list of the five best hosting services that don’t fit comfortably into the first two categories. We’ll call them the Best of the Rest.
Having provided no-cost hosting to almost 14 million customers since 2007, 000Webhost might not be first on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but it has proven itself to be a more than capable web host. Best suited for small to medium-sized accounts, this provider was one of the first to offer free SSL certificates, a practice that has become industry standard.
Truly free web hosting with some bandwidth and storage limitations.
Somewhat lacking when it comes to customer and technical support. Depending upon your own level of expertise, this may or may not be an issue.
Another web host that has been in business for awhile (since 2004), x10Hosting began as a completely free service but now charges a monthly fee ranging from $3.95 to $6.95 depending on how long a term you choose. Transitioning to a pay service has allowed them to upgrade to state-of-the-art servers and expanded 24/7 support.
Active support community of 750,000 members.
Some would think this service is pricier than others, but it still falls squarely into the cheap web hosting category.
Weebly has good name recognition in the DIY drag-and-drop world of website building. Their quality, especially when it comes to templates, has improved in recent years. The basic free package doesn’t offer much in the way of features but, like Wix, allows you to get a professional-looking web presence online in a short amount of time.
Upgrading to the $8/month plan gains you eCommerce capability.
Though the free basic plan has no ads, the footer of the website is branded with the Weebly.com logo.
The AwardSpace business model is similar to better known names like Wix and Weebly in that that it uses free hosting to allow potential customers to try the service, hoping they will decide to add pay services as their needs become more sophisticated. Not much bandwidth or storage for free, and some will miss having a drag-and-drop editor.
All the expected features of a good hosting plan along with a ticket-based support system. Basic plan prices at just .17 cents/month.
While offering a WordPress installer is a great idea, the lack of drag-and-drop design capability probably costs AwardSpace a good number of customers who want that level of hand-holding.
Boasting a load-balanced server cluster approach, Freehostia claims to have up to 15x faster page-loading than comparable free hosts. Even the free plan has no advertising, which is nice and allows your website to look professional right out of the gate. Impressive 24/7 support.
The server cluster idea – as opposed to a single piece of serving hardware – is a very customer-friendly feature.
The free plan’s 250MB of included storage might seem a little tight for anything but the most basic of sites.
If you’re serious about starting an online business or communicating to the world, we’ll be the first to agree that free web hosting might not be the best long-term solution. However, there are some excellent reasons to go this route in the beginning. Obviously, there’s the price thing – we’re talking either completely free or anywhere from pennies to just a few dollars per month.
Often overlooked is the idea that these companies (the credible ones anyway) want your business for the long haul, and they know you will judge them on the quality of their free and basic plans. As we’ve mentioned, they want you to eventually upgrade into higher price points but know they’re going to have to deliver the goods at the free level first.
The bottom line is that, if the features of a particular host don’t mesh with you, it’s VERY cheap to give another one a test ride. You don’t have a website online yet? What are you waiting for? We’ve put the tools right in your hands, baby!