The advent of blogging and free blog space has brought about a revolution in web publishing that pushes the boundaries of terms like “webmaster” and “website.” In today’s brave new world of Internet publishing for the masses, the traditional means of building and hosting a personal website has fallen out of favor for many new webmasters.
If you count yourself among the many bloggers who use a free subdomain blog account, you’ll have to think about web hosting sooner or later. Unfortunately, most don’t consider the ramifications until it’s too late. In the beginning, a free blog account or ad-supported web hosting seems like the obvious choice for a personal site. Unfortunately, this decision – or lack thereof – can cause problems down the road. Issues with free hosting and subdomain hosting range from SEO complications to ownership and control issues. Both free and paid hosting have their own merits and drawbacks, of course, so the ultimate decision is yours to make. But understanding these pros and cons is the first step in making a good decision for your site.
• It’s free. This is obviously the single most important advantage of free web hosting.
• It’s easy. Anyone can open an account on Blogger or any number of other free services and instantly get a free website requiring no more effort to publish than writing an email.
• No experience necessary. Anyone can create a site using one of these free services, with no programming, technical, or even HTML knowledge required.
• Branding. As your blog or website grows, a subdomain hosting account offers little in the way of branding, and may adversely affect your credibility.
• SEO. If you move away from a subdomain account to your own domain, you will have to start over building links to your new domain.
• No control over ad content. With free hosting, you are at the mercy of your hosting company’s discretion as to what type of ads will be displayed on your site. Pop-ups and ads for adult sites are not uncommon.
• Limited or no accountability for site outages and other problems. When you’re getting something for nothing, it’s all too easy to become the victim of corporate apathy.
• You can host your own domain. With paid hosting, you can brand your site with your own domain name (e.g. MySite.com) and add legitimacy to your content.
• Control. With paid hosting, you control every aspect of your site, including design and advertising content.
• SEO advantages. With a paid hosting account and domain name, you can build links to your site safely without worrying about whether or not you’ll be changing domain names. In addition, a hosting account allows you programmatic and scripting abilities not usually found in free, pre-built websites.
• Custom site development. Unlike free blogs, a hosted website can typically run a variety of CGI and scripting applications, and can be built any way you choose.
• Accountability and Portability: When you pay for hosting, you hold more leverage over your hosting company in the event of problems. Additionally, by retaining control of your source code and data, you can easily move your site to a new host.
• Expense. Though you can get hosting plans as cheap as $2-$3 per month, it’s still a cost that free hosting does not incur.
• Some assembly required. Though many paid hosts offer site builders and blog software as part of the package, it still requires more technical work than signing up for a Blogger account.
• Maintenance. When you create a site yourself, you become responsible for the upkeep of your own code. In fact, you become responsible for just about everything involved with the site except for the server and connectivity.
So in summary, making the right choice between free or blog site hosting and paid hosting is heavily dependent on both you and your site. Though I’ve focused heavily on hosting for blog sites, much of the same information applies to free hosting vs. paid hosting for other types of sites as well. The important thing is to take a good hard look at what you want your site to eventually be, how much effort you’re willing to put into it, and then make your decision.
If you do decide on paid hosting, make sure you look at all options available. Use a web hosting review website such as www.inetpublication.com to compare available options. Not all web hosting is alike, and many hosting companies offer free tools to ease the pain of migration as well as other perks you may not have realized you were missing.