Web hosting, web hosting, which is best...
Should you go with paid web hosting, or can you use free hosting?
If you want a web site or a blog, you must have some form of hosting it so it will be available on the internet for other people to see it. There are several ways of achieving this.
What are your hosting options?
There are 5 basic choices:
1) Use a registered domain name with a paid hosting account
2) Use a registered domain name with a free hosting account
3) Get a freely hosted sub-domain account
4) Get a free remotely hosted website
5) Register a domain name and host it on your own server, from your own computer
Registered Domain Name With Paid Hosting:
If you can afford it, the best thing to do is to buy a domain name of your own, and select a paid web hosting plan that fits your needs. This is the route most people take when they decide to put up a web site. It is probably the best way to go, if you are serious about the success of your web site, and if you do not know how to serve your web site from your own computer.
It will cost you around $10 a year to buy and maintain a domain name of your own. There are many places to buy your domain name, but I have found that GoDaddy is the best. They give you a control panel where you can easily manage your domain names, and offer many more services along with your domains, including hosting services! They also have tutorials on how to manage your domains and how to point your domain name to your hosting account. Their service is excellent, and complaints and questions are answered quickly.
As far as what web hosting provider is the best, only you can decide this after thinking about what extra services you would like to have along with your hosting. Some of the things you may want to think about are if you need the ability to host your own databases, and whether you want to install scripts like Wordpress, PhpBB forums, E-Commerce, Zen Cart, or if you want to have an email account or a mailing service with auto-responder with your web site.
Free Hosting with Domain:
Many hosting companies will host your domain name for free, especially if you register the domain name through them. This is ok, but they will also still want to put paid advertising on your pages, and you will not get the full array of services you would get with a paid hosting account
You need to be careful of "free domain hosting", because in almost every case, free domain hosting does not allow you to point a domain name (www.yoursite.com) to an actual page. Instead you are forced to use a concept called URL redirection. URL redirection allows a webmaster to identify a site that the URL should point to.
So if a user types in: http://www.example.com/, and it has been configured to redirect to a free hosting url such as: http://www.freehost/users/mysite.html , it will end up on that page instead of at your domain address.
This does not seem like much of an issue until you begin trying to get your website indexed in the search engines. The problem is that www.example.com has no data, it has no content, it simply redirects to your actual page at www.freehost/users/mysite.html. Search engines not only will not index a page with no data or content but they may even view this as an attempt to fool their algorithm, thus banning your domain name.
So be careful about having a domain name hosted for free. You may be doing yourself way more harm than good. You'd be better off with a freely hosted sub-domain web site in that case! At least the search engines know where your page is, and you can optimize it properly.
About Free Sub-Domain Hosting:
There is plenty of free sub-domain web hosting to be had, but usually the price you will pay is having banner advertisements on the top of your pages, or popup or pop-under ads which will aggravate the visitors to your website and drive them away, in exchange for getting free server space to upload your website to.
You need to investigate very closely about how many banner ads or popups your free sub-domain hosting company will put on your web site. There are many who do not put any ads, or who put very minimal ads on your site. These are the ones you need to look for.
Also, take a look at the tools they include with your free site. Do they include a forum, guest book, contact forms, mailing list, ftp service, and free web site editor with your free web site?
Some free sub-domain web hosts I have had the bad experience of dealing with in the past have overloaded my pages with so many popups (6 per page!) and banners, that my visitors could not even get to my web pages! One disreputable place even used my web hosting account to mail out spam with! (They even made the mistake of sending spam to ME from my own hosting account! Sheesh!) Fortunately, that case was an isolated one.
Most free sub-domain hosting is ok, though. They will give you a sub-domain address for your website that maybe look something like: " http://www.yourwebsitename.webhostname.com/
For some reason, your web site is thought to be more "serious" and "business-like" if you invest in a registered domain name for your website.
As for myself, I see nothing wrong with free web or blog hosting accounts for beginners. It gives you the chance to practice your html and web design skills, and the opportunity to experiment with your SEO and promotion techniques. You will be able to test out what kind of web site and what niche topics do well, and which marketing techniques work the best. If you find that your free sub-domain site is doing well, you can always invest in a domain name and paid hosting later on.
As far as a free web hosting account being less business-like than a paid hosting account with a registered domain name, I really don't see it. You have to give your personal information to register for a free account just the same as for a paid one. If you do something illegal on your free website, you are just as responsible as you are on a paid one. In fact, the rules are often stricter for sub-domain hosting services than they are for paid-hosting accounts.
Some of the best websites I have ever seen have been on freely hosted, subdomain named server space.
Free Remotely Hosted Web Sites:
Some companies have affiliate programs that will give you an affiliate referral web page, or a product datafeed, and remotely host it on their own servers for free. Then you will have an address like: "www.thecompanyname.com/?affiliate=yourname". In the case of remotely hosted pages, you will not be able to customize, nor optimize the website as much as you'd like.
For an example of a remotely hosted affiliate web page, go look at my Tweet My Blog referral page. (Sign up and you'll get free blogging tutorials while you are there, too - it's good stuff, and it's all free!)
For a look at how I built a page around a remotely hosted store in an IFrame, please see: Angelina Ballerina Dance Shoppe.
The main draw-back with a free remotely hosted web site, is that it is hosted on someone else's server, and is not actually a part of your own web site. This means that you can not optimize it for the search engines, nor promote it the same way.
One way you can get around this big impediment is by building a page on your own web site, optimizing the meta tags and page content, and then sticking the remotely hosted page into your own page within an IFrame. (This is pretty easy to do - all you have to know is how to write an short little IFrame code and insert it where you want the page to appear.)
Buy a Domain Name and Host Your Own Web Site:
Even better than paying for having your files hosted on someone else's server, is to buy your own domain name and serve the web site off your own computer! Serving your own web site is not very hard to do at all - not as hard as people think it is! All you need to do is learn how to save your web page files onto your computer properly, and download and configure a web server program which will allow you to be your own host for free!
I have several free server programs on my computer that are extremely easy to use - all I have to do is click and tell it which folder to serve and click to turn it on! It even tells me how many visitors I have and which pages they are looking at, in real time! (You must have high-speed internet for this, and enough RAM to handle the bandwidth demands, but most new computers can handle this just fine. If you are getting boat-loads of traffic, then you will make enough money to buy a bigger system!)
With hosting your own files from your own computer comes the very real risk of the threat of viruses, or a hack job on your computer. Your own computer could crash, get hacked, or be infected with a virus, and you could lose ALL of your files. You will need a good security program installed on your computer for protection. If you decide to host your own files, please take the time to back up all your files, and upload them onto a back-up server somewhere, or onto a portable USB drive, so you won't lose everything!
Make Your Own Decision:
It is really your decision what kind of hosting plan you want, and which way of doing it fits your needs the best. You will get more features and better support if you pay for a hosting account. Just be careful and read the fine print so you will know what you are getting.
Whatever way you choose to get your web site onto the internet will depend upon your skill as a webmaster or developer, and what kind of services you want to have for your website - whether you want to host one domain or multiple domains, how many visitors you have, and whether or not you want to be able to host your own databases.
If you are a beginning Webmaster, free sub-domain hosting is a great place to start, and a good way to learn!