One of my readers sent me a very good question that I’d like to share it with all of you!
Question: Hi Em, first let me congratulate you for your wonderful site. It’s really nice! I am planning to have one of my own website, I’ve started with a blog in WordPress. I want to take it further by looking for an affordable all in one package with blog integration. There are many free hosting company that offers promising services and website creation but I’m still shopping around as there might be better hosts. So what would Emily recommend? 🙂
Answer: Hi! First of all, thanks for sending the email! I really appreciate it!
Unfortunately there is really no perfect hosting company. There are thousands of free and paid services out there and it would be tedious to review them all. It will always depend on your personal needs and goals for your website. The hosting company that meets your personal needs is the best hosting company for you and it is also not uncommon that some people have to switch from one service company to another until you get it right. It’s like finding the right cable company! But if you really want just one straight answer from my personal experience, I’d go with TMDHosting for paid, or use WordPress, Weebly and Blogspot for free services.
Free services usually offers limited tools (and sometimes unwanted ads on your site) and if you noticed, most of them offer some kind of “Pro” or “Upgrade” service wherein you have t start paying to meet “certain needs” for your site. Limited is not bad but it just depends on what you need and what you want your future website to be. In short, it only offers the basic service. If you need a website, then it gives you what you just need… a website.
So what is the difference between paid hosting services vs. free services? What gives? Why do paid services still exist if there are free hosting service to save the free world?
A free hosting service usually does not give the “full autonomy to create your own website, how you want it, when you want it”. You are at the mercy of their tools. For example, if they offer you color yellow or 50 templates, then you only get yellow and 50 templates. Unlike paid services wherein you “own the rights to everything, you can have cyan, magenta, red, whatever you like beyond your imagination and most especially, “run with your files anytime!” On the other hand, there are certain situations wherein you have to move from one service to another and the least you want to happen is to not be able to transfer your content to another company. It’s always best to own your files and “run with it.” What if you already have hundreds of pictures and postings then later on decide that you want to move to a different service? You don’t want to rewrite those hundreds of postings you created already. You want the freedom to own your content and extract them at anytime.
Developers or advanced users usually do not prefer out of the box free service due to its limitations which may “not be obvious” to a non-technical person. I wouldn’t get into too much detail because I don’t want to bore you, but if you plan to make a successful website you have to integrate SEO and other tools to make your website popular. This means that at a certain point you may need to have access to your own files.
In spite of what I said earlier, I am not opposed to free hosting services. In fact, some great bloggers of our time started at a free hosting service and still are running with these free services. It’s really the outcome that matters.
But what’s more important to keep in mind is whether you get a free service or paid hosting service, ask them the following to see if they meet your needs:
1. Uptime and bandwidth= How many times were they down or unavailable in a year and how fast do their servers run?
2. Control Panel = Are you allowed to create additional mailboxes, allowed to create multiple users, can you park your own domain, allowed to change permissions on files, can temporarily close your website for maintenance, etc or do you have to call them for everything?
3. Do you own your files and content? If you decide to transfer to a different company or service, can you easily export and import your files, database or not?
4. Backup. What is their backup policy?
5. Storage. How much allowed storage space do they offer for pictures and files. Some companies will ask you to pay certain $ amount once you go over x amount of data… You want to know your limitations.
6. Customer service and support = Are they 24x7x365? Ask even about their billing service. How soon do they respond?
7. How many mailboxes are allowed? For example you may want Jsmith@yourownwebsite.com. Sometimes you want to create different emails for different purposes such as email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc.
8. Do they have a money back guarantee, what is their cancellation fee, extra fees, etc?
9. What are their SEO options? Is there anything they can do to help?
10. ..and of course, just research more on the company background. Are they trustworthy, a stable company, read more reviews about it online, etc.
There is no right or wrong hosting company. The right hosting service is the hosting company that works for your needs. I personally use a paid service because I can do whatever I want on my website and it is important to me that I have my own domain not something like emilyrecommends.otherwebsite.com for example.
Pick one hosting service and run a 30 day trial and you will find out which one works best for you.