Free web hosting is a bad idea

In a misguided effort to save money, many new entrepreneurs decide to skimp on the most critical element of their business' online presence: their company's website. Rather than purchasing a domain and web hosting, they sign up for a "free" service offering "websites-in-a-box."

"Free" hosting providers have their place. They're fine for strictly personal uses, such as blogging about your gardening hobby or sharing pictures of your pets, but they are terrible for business purposes, for a number of reasons:

"Free" hosting comes at a cost, namely the provider plastering advertisements on your site. Not only does this look chintzy, cheap and unprofessional, but the ads may be for your competitors or for businesses you do not wish to be associated with.

"Free" hosting includes very limited space and bandwidth. Once your site exceeds your host's monthly allotted "free" bandwidth, your site will be suspended until the following month, effectively shutting and locking your doors until then. Once your site exceeds your host's allotted disc space, you cannot add more content; you must either upgrade to a paid plan or delete existing content.

"Free" hosting does not include a domain name. Real businesses have domain names, like [http://www.mybusiness.com], not mybusiness.freehostname.com. Like it or not, a "business" without a domain name comes across as shady and fly-by-night. Additionally, since your site does not come with a domain name, it also does not include email addresses at your domain, further making your business appear unprofessional and possibly questionable.

You do not own the content of a "free" site; the hosting provider does, and they can decide to delete all of your content at any time, for any reason they deem appropriate. Horror stories abound of rather extensive websites being deleted for "spamming" or "inappropriate content." This leads into the next problem with "free" sites...

"Free" hosting has extremely limited or nonexistent support options. If the "free" hosting provider deletes your site, or if something simply goes wrong with it, there is no one for you to call or email for help.

"Free" hosting includes no advanced features, such as shopping carts or opt-in email lists, and design options may be limited to a small number of templates. For example, the "free" version of WordPress does not allow the installation of plugins-which are the heart of WordPress-or custom-built templates.

That "free" hosting may not be "free" forever. If your web hosting provider decides to do away with free packages, they may delete your site without notice, and charge you a pretty penny if you would like to get all of your content back.

With domains and web hosting being so inexpensive, and with platforms such as WordPress making it insanely easy to design professional-looking sites, there is no valid reason not to purchase a domain and hosting for your business. If you can afford to buy a pizza once a month, you can more than afford to purchase web space for your business.