Free hosting vs. paid hosting
Category : Web Hosting
Hosting means renting some space on a server connected to the internet. There are many hosting companies available and some offer hosting for free. Here are the main differences between a hosting offered for free and the paid one.
Domain or subdomain
While domain cost is paid usually apart from hosting, but with free hosting you may be not able to use your purchased domain name. This depends on the server settings. With free hosting you may be limited into using a subdomain of the ISP. ie. mywebsite.freehosting.com. A caution here is if you used a free hosting that only offer subdomain then if you decided to move you will lose your subdomain as well so it is not recommended option at all.
With paid hosting the support to use domain is common and not only single domains but adding more domains also is mostly supported.
Dedicated IP or Shared IP
Having a dedicated IP means that your website only use this IP and no other website share this IP with you. Having a shared IP means many other websites use the same IP that is allocated to your website. In this case a web server (i.e. Apache) decides which website to serve using the HOST header in HTTP request which should indicates the domain of the requested website.
Many paid hosting offer a dedicated IP either by default or for a small additional fee some thing like $2 a month. On the other side free hosting will not offer a dedicated IP mostly simply because IP space is limited and it cost them money to have the IP.
While it is ok to not to have a dedicated IP but having a dedicated IP will give more professional attitude to your website also you should take care if your website has a shared IP because any action done by the websites sharing the IP with you can affect your website for example if some website is sending emails that resulted on the IP get blocked will get your website blocked as well because it is using the same IP.
Available space and bandwidth
A Free hosting will give you a very limited space and bandwidth mostly because they want you to upgrade to their paid package when you are in short in space or bandwidth. Some thing around 1GB space and 10 GB bandwidth is very commonly to be offered by free hosts. So you should keep this in mind or you could suffer having your website suspended when it use up all of the available space or bandwidth.
Over selling means a web host offers space and bandwidth it does not actually has. While both free hosting and paid hosting ISPs can be over selling but free hosting ISP has more tendency to over sell. First reason is that it is not making money from hosting your website so it tends to sell more and more websites with no real available space or bandwidth which could result on having down times or network overloading. Other reason is that they want you to move to paid package which offers better speed and less downtime.
.htaccess enabled or disabled
.htaccess file is a file to modify access configurations for apache server for the directory a .htaccess file placed inside. With .htaccess you can prevent or allow hotlinking, add compression headers, place redirects, use mod_rewrite to rewrite requested URLS on the fly and much more… While it is very handy to use it but for free hosting allowing it can have some risk because it means any one can use a lot of features allowed by .htaccess so free hosts tends to have this feature turned off.
With shell access you can almost control the server that you are accessing. Actually even paid hosting tends to have SSH turned off because it impose a security risk however some famous paid hosting providers offer some kind of jailed SSH which means a SSH but in a sandboxed environment so any operation will not affect other users.
Security and Safety
A free hosting means many other unknown users share the same server with you which is not acceptable in terms of security. While the most ideally secure environment is having either a VPS or dedicated hosting but paid hosting especially that offer paid panels like cPanel or Plesk mostly have acceptable security measures like using SuExec and PHPSuExec in effect. With PHPSuExec an ISP will be able to ensures that each directory and file have the right permission and correct owner information (i.e. not world accessible). Also with PHPSuExec a server admin can identify the abusing users and suspend or remove them. Also having antivirus in effect is another important security measure which is not likely to be included in a free hosting package.
Is PHP, MySQL and Apache are up to date?
Is IP Blocked?
A free hosting usually suffers from all kinds of abuses like sending SPAM mails, running fishing software, running pirated websites etc… As a result there is high risk that many IPs of the free hosting will be blocked already by major ISPS and mail hosts.
Ads on your website
There is a common method for ISPs offering free hosting to make money is by injecting ads into your website. In fact if your website gains popularity you will be losing a big portion of money because without the free hosting ads you can put your own ads and monetize your website.
A free hosting will have tones of users without big money flowing to the company so do not expect a good support when your web site is down or when you have some issue with it.
Many paid hosting providers offers automatic backups to ensure their customers best possible data safety. On the contrary do not expect a free hosting provider to backup the data for you.
Currently 100% uptime becoming the quality standard however with free hosting with tones of free users do not expect this quality standard to be in effect. So if you decided to go with free hosting you should expect some downtime.
A free hosting provider faces large amount of fake accounts and inactive users. To keep their user base fresh there should be some mechanism of removing inactive users. As a result do not expect your website to be up and running for long if it is not getting any traffic. Many free hosting providers set a condition of having certain amount of monthly visitors to keep your website up and running on their host.
Having software up to date is important for both convenience and security. Paid hosting control panels like cPanels offers automatic update for all the important server software. Since in a free hosting it is unlikely to have a paid control panel moreover the ISP does not make money out of their hosting plans so they mostly will not care on keeping up with latest software updates.