Free Web Hosting – Should You Try It Out?
Over the past few months, a number of free web hosting providers have mushroomed over the internet. Most of them offer Unlimited Free Space, the minimum being 100 MB or so. All of them claim 99% uptime and all the possible features available with a paid hosting account. This includes cPanel, PHP, Softaculous or Fantastico Auto Installer, MySQL and most of the other standard features which you would expect to get with a paid service provider. Some free providers are also offering SSH Access with their free hosting account.
So how do they make money to pay for their servers? What’s the quid pro quo for the free space? As the famous saying goes “There’s no such thing as free lunch”. Even the free hosting is not really free. Its just that you are paying a different price for it.
Popups and Advertisements
One of the free providers whom we tried out, had an annoying page refresh every 30 seconds. If you were on the control panel page, every 30 seconds the page would refresh and would go to a gambling website with several advertisement popups. Another provider claiming to have been in the free hosting business since 2005, served up 4 popup advertisements when we first logged in to his control panel. The cPanel was an outdated version (probably a hashed version) which had an archaic design and missing all the newer features.
To top it all, our main website page was being served up with some code injected into it. The code was of a hit counter and an ad popup. The popup would show up once a day for every unique visitor – unacceptable for a professional website. The code injection was quite scary and we were not fine with
Selling your data
Most of the free providers, keep a clause in their Terms of Service (TOS) to state that they will sell your data, however, some of them promise not to sell personal identifying data. This means that all your data maybe sold by them for marketing purposes, provided that they separate any identification marks from it. If you are seriously building a website for the long term, you may not want to risk the possibility of your data being stolen or misused. After all, Intellectual Property Lawyers are expensive to hire.
Restriction on uses
One free hosting provider threatens to delete your account if your website is under construction for 2 weeks or more. Their website states that: “We hold right to delete inactive websites which remain in Under-construction for more than two weeks”. Other providers threaten to delete your account if you have used it as a “backup” and not “actually linked the files to your website”. What constitutes a backup is left open to your guesses, as no where in the TOS do they mention what “backup” means.
A famous free hosting provider does not allow you to login more that 3 times in a day through FTP. So if you have an urgent update to make, you may have to probably wait for a day. Their website states that: “If you access your site too often your ip will be blocked!”. That restriction is not very practical if your website is for the long term.
Whom is it for?
Free hosting is only suitable for a disposable website – one that is not going to be used in a production environment. Free hosting maybe an ideal option when you want to test out your design or go live with a web application in test mode.
Free hosting also enables you to understand real world scenarios and may also be useful for training and research purposes. Depending on your real requirement and what you intend to do with the hosting space, you should cautiously choose free hosting over a paid account.
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