The process of building, launching, and maintaining a professional website is by no means cheap. Unfortunately, web development costs are merely the tip of the iceberg, and for many, web hosting can come as an unexpected and unwanted additional expense.
For this reason, free web hosting services may be attractive to some. But while lots of providers claim to offer this essential service at no charge, some are better than others. To make it easier for you to decide whether free hosting is right for your business, we’ve compiled a list of the best free web hosting providers available.
Our shortlist is smaller than we’d expected. After identifying 18 free web hosting providers, we were surprised to find that only eight were worth investigating further, and a mere six made the final cut.
Out of the free web hosting providers in our shortlist, Infinityfree came out on top, followed by Byethost, Googiehost, 000Webhost, FreeHostingNoAds, and FreeWebHostingArea.
The trouble is, the support offered by free web hosting providers is at best minimal, and at worst non-existent. If something does go wrong, it’s generally up to you—the user—to deal with the consequences. This is because free services don’t have the same obligations that paid-for services do.
Not one of the free services we tested came close to even the cheapest paid-for alternative. And the issues don’t stop at customer support.
We found out in our research that some of the free web hosting providers failed to secure their websites against cyberattacks. This does not bode well at all for users of these services, whose websites may well be at risk.
Ultimately, we would advise readers to avoid using free web hosting altogether unless there is no other alternative. The fact of the matter is, there is no guarantee that you’ll benefit from the same levels of security and service you can expect from a paid-for provider.
- The best web hosting providers
Infinityfree stood out as the best option in an often questionable list of free web hosting providers. First impressions count, and its website was well-designed and professionally presented. In our load time test, it only got a C performance grade, but other than this we found few faults.
According to Infinityfree, it has over 300,000 users and has been in operation for over six years, a promising sign. Infinityfree users are given unlimited storage space and bandwidth, and there is no restriction on the number of domains you can host. That said, email accounts are capped at 10 and you are only allocated one File Transfer Protocol (FTP) for content uploads.
We were pleased to find that Infinityfree guaranteed 99.9% uptime, and we discovered no hidden costs. Another bonus was access to the Softaculous script library, which contains over 400 apps.
Surprisingly, Infinityfree also includes 400 MySQL databases, SSL, Cloudflare CDN, and a DNS service. However, if a major incident does occur, you’d receive little or no support to get your site back up and running.
Infinityfree Ultimate Premium is the provider’s cheap paid-for alternative, offering an unlimited service across the board as well as access to CloudFlare Railgun at a cost of $6.90 per month.
Byethost is a major player in the free web hosting marketplace and claims to host over one million websites. Part of Byet Internet, a hosting and domain name provider and reseller, Byethost is sold as one of the world’s most powerful networks solely dedicated to free hosting.
Features include 5GB of server space per user, MySQL/PHP compatibility, and unlimited bandwidth. Unlike many of the services we tested, Byethost is dedicated to customer support with open-all-hours tech support and a well-structured, comprehensive, community-focussed knowledge bank.
Byethost even makes it possible for you to become a player in the free web hosting industry via its myownfreehost subsidiary.
Established in 2012, Googiehost still provides users with one of the best free web hosting services available—just don’t be put off by the misleading wordplay on Googlehost.
Unfortunately, Googiehost’s website is full of worrying flaws. For example, copyright is valid until 2021, grammatical errors are rife in the small print, and there are several discrepancies in the features and allowances offered to free users.
But there are benefits to choosing this service too. For example, it includes cPanel and Cloudflare, the only free provider we found that did. Sadly, these benefits were in some ways overshadowed by the security concerns that accompanied them. We had a few pop-up notices informing us we were using an insecure connection when connecting to cPanel, a bad sign indeed.
In contrast, Googiehost’s Recaptcha software is particularly sophisticated, requiring users to provide a reason as to why the company should host your website.
Googiehost hosts over 165,000 unique websites at no cost, according to marketing material, but is required to turn a profit. As a result, you’ll find banner ads on its website, and the company makes a commission when users convert to paid-for alternatives through Interserver.net.
An offshoot of the well-established hosting provider Runhosting, with FreeHostingNoAds the clue’s in the name. Choose this service and that’s exactly what you can expect, a free web hosting service minus ads.
But, like many of the free services we trialed, FreeHostingNoAds offers only a fraction of what you receive with a paid-for account and uses the same simple dashboard as both Batcave and FreeHostingEU.
Runhosting offers a paid-for plan costing just $2.39 per month that includes unlimited disk space and traffic, which in many ways renders this free service obsolete.
Account setup was easy, but confirmation emails went straight to our junk folder. This could indicate that the service is hosting blacklisted sites.
FreeHostingNoAds’s control panel comes from Zacky Tools Installer and is very basic, with only one-click install options for Grav, WordPress, and Joomla. If you want to install your own, you can, but the file size is limited to 15MB.
We were also surprised to find that to provide your site with an SSL certificate you’d be required to pay the company $30. This is a particularly high price-tag for a service that can be acquired for free.
000Webhost is a free website hosting provider from Hostinger that’s been operational for over a decade. In that time, it has amassed millions of users, but this popularity has also made it a prime target for cybercriminals.
000Webhost’s complete database was infiltrated back in 2015 by hackers who made off with credentials from an estimated 13.5 million user accounts. The service has very much evolved since then, but the memory of the attack is still fresh in many users' minds, making it a somewhat controversial addition to our shortlist.
Notable features include a website builder, the absence of ads, cPanel, and an auto-installer for WordPress. But both bandwidth (3GB) and disk space (300mb) are limited.
000Webhost doesn’t provide an SSL certificate, subdomains, email accounts, or ticketed support. If you do need any technical help, you’ll have to root through forums and find the answer yourself.
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to install two sites with 000Webhost. However, we were unable to do so and instead were met with an error message stating that we had reached our limit. On top of this, the account confirmation email was identified as suspicious by Google because of malware previously originating from the URL.
It’s worth noting, though, that the credentials used for 000webhost.com can also be used to build a website on 000webhostapp.com.
It may look a little retro, but with an offer of unlimited bandwidth, FreeWebHostingArea is a worthy contender.
One of its key selling points is a bountiful 1.5GB of storage, plus three MySQL databases. With most providers offering fewer databases and much less storage, this certainly makes the service stand out.
There were some very obvious flaws, however. The maximum file size is 12MB, the control panel is at best basic, and during our tests, neither the site builder nor the auto-installer was operating correctly. This meant anyone wanting to build their website would have to upload files via the FTP.
Despite this, we were pleased to discover that the service included regular offsite backups and ad-removal on low-traffic sites. The company is also active on social media, which is a good sign of legitimacy.
The FreeWHA Basic package costs $12 a year and includes ad-removal regardless of site traffic, five MySQL databases, one-click backups, and advanced tech support.
And the rest...
After careful consideration, we found the following services to be highly flawed and a long way from having the functionality required to make our shortlist.
- AdvancedFreeWebHost: This service came with an unusual condition. Users are required to subscribe to a YouTube channel. The moment you unsubscribe from this channel, you’ll have your hosting account deleted.
- X10hosting: There is no way to log in to this service as the login function is no longer operational.
- Uhostfull: Despite numerous attempts, we were unable to create a new account for this service as an error message kept appearing telling us we were attempting to use invalid characters for a domain field that didn’t appear to exist.
- Freevirtualservers, Freehosting, and Freehostia: Each of these services, although claiming to be free, requires users to purchase a domain name from it or transfer an existing one over.
- 5GBfree and Hoophost: Neither of these providers is accepting new accounts. According to Hoophost, this is because of the number of spam accounts currently on its network.
- Instafree: Signing up to this service is overcomplicated and elaborate. Not only are you required to give your date of birth and gender, but you are also required to wait for 48 hours for your request to be approved.
Why does free web hosting exist?
In many respects, free web hosting is little more than a marketing strategy—with no official obligations to users. As a result, you can expect terms and conditions to fluctuate, and with no SLA (service level agreement), more frequent downtimes.
Ultimately, the aim of free web hosting is to give companies an opportunity to sell paid services to existing users that might require advanced capabilities as their business scales up.
If you do decide to go with a free provider, always bear in mind the limitations that come with the opportunity, including reduced server space, slow site speeds, limitations on traffic, a lack of uptime guarantees, and bare-bones support services.
And remember, there are lots of cheap paid-for web hosting providers offering much more at a very affordable price.
- The best web hosting providers