Low-Cost Web Hosting V. Free Hosting
In order to have an online presence (a website), you must seek the services of a web hosting company. These entities are either large companies with data centers full of servers broadcasting websites online via fast connections or they are smaller firms renting a dedicated server in such a data center. These smaller firms, in turn, resell space and bandwidth on the dedicated server to their clients.
In either scenario of web hosting the initial bottom line decision for you is one of cost. There is not a web site owner alive who has not been or is not now interested in low-cost web hosting solutions. But cost is not the only consideration in securing space for your website. Sometimes in saving money, you increase your potential headaches.
The most low-cost web hosting solution of all is a free hosting service. If you subscribe to the philosophies inherent in the phrases "let the buyer beware" and "you get what you pay for," you may already have an inkling that there are drawbacks to free web hosting. These services are essentially in the business of selling advertising. If you go with one of these free web hosting offers, you must be willing for your site to be covered in ads and to accept that you will have no control over the content of those ads. Few people are willing to do this.
In addition, with free web hosting there is no reliability of service. Sites can and do blink off the web with no warning and no indication of when they will become visible again. Customer support is non-existent. Free web hosting is only for people on the tightest budget imaginable who have a very small, very static website. The space you will be given is miniscule and once you use it up, you won't be getting an increase. Having said all of that free is still free, and for many folks, that's enough.
Low-cost web hosting, on the other hand, is available in the range of $1 to $20 a month. (Less if you join an affiliate program and can get flat payments or monthly percentage decreases from referring new customers to your host.) Since most web pages are around 50kb in size and even a heavily graphical, twelve page site is still under a megabyte in size, a low-cost web hosting package offering 20mb of web space will more than likely be all you will ever need.
Another thing to consider is the amount of bandwidth you receive. Don't be lured by low-cost web hosting offers built around promises of unlimited bandwidth. There's no such thing. Bandwidth is a measure of traffic your site is allowed under your hosting contract. A full 99% of sites currently on the Internet use less than 2gb of bandwidth a month. A site getting 6000 visits a month will still be under 5gb of bandwidth.
By evaluating the amount of space you need for your website and the amount of traffic it is likely to attract, you can opt for an absolute bare bones, low-cost web hosting package with reliable service and customer support, and spare yourself from the advertising laden, unreliable free-packages. For most website owners, free packages are simply not worth the headaches that come as a standard part of the deal.
It is worth mentioning that e-commerce websites, sites with database applications, or other dynamic elements may need more resources and capabilities than you can receive in a low-cost hosting package. If you are working with a web designer and have not yet signed on with a web hosting provider, discuss with your designer what your site will require in terms of server resources before paying for a hosting package.
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