When setting up a new web site or blog it is tempting to look for free web service hosting. Is this a good way forward or is it better to pay for hosting? If your site or blog is personal and the performance of the host is not important then free hosting may be a viable way forward. However if your site is for business purposes you should take a paid service.

Free web service hosting is available for a number of reasons. The service might be financed by advertising (which means that ads will be placed on your site), it might be provided free with some other service, it might be a very basic service offered by a hosting company (who assume that you will soon upgrade to a paid service) and it some cases it actually is free (but don’t expect a great service).

However reputable the supplier you cannot expect a free service to provide the level of service you would get from a paid supplier.

Limitations – There may be low restrictions on the amount of diskspace, bandwidth, domains, databases, email accounts and FTP accounts.

Speed – Your pages may load slowly if there is too much competition for the available resources. People have been known to misuse free services for operations such as sending spam which, as well has hogging resources, could lead to your site being associated with such activities (as you share the IP address).

Reliability – Paid hosts will guarantee 99.9% uptime so that you site can almost always be found (nobody can offer 100% uptime). The priorities of a free service may be different or they may simply not have technical support outside office hours.

Support – This is a significant cost so you may find that support is only provided by email with limited, or no, response outside office hours. With a paid host you would expect proper technical support by telephone 24/7.

If you decide to go for free web service hosting the safest option is to go with one of the hosting companies that provide a free basic package (as the last three items above should not apply to them). You can then easily upgrade to paid hosting when necessary, although you should check that their paid hosting plans are competitively priced.

As an alternative to hosting you could also consider using a free service such as WordPress.com or Blogger.com (where you can use your own domain name) or you could have your own “site” on sites like Squidoo or Wetpaint. These are reputable sites where the limitations of the service are clear.