Free-Hosted or Self-Hosted?

In today’s increasingly simplified Internet, it’s easy to create a free ($) website for personal or business use. There are many free options available, including wordpress.com, sites.google.com, blogger.com, and many others. If you’re interested in using one of these services, look below for a list of the free website hosts that I recommend. On top of free hosted websites, some people prefer to maintain their web presence on social media alone.

These options work well and they satisfy the needs of most folks who are interested in creating a presence on the Internet. However, there are drawbacks to most of these services that many don’t consider.

  • Advertising is added alongside the content. In a lot of cases, not all, some type of advertising will be added alongside your content. In these cases, every visitor to your website helps the hosting company and their advertising partners make money. Rarely does a content producer (that’s you) get to decide which advertisers they’re going to allow ads from and which they’re not. So, in some cases, the advertising content might run counter to the ethical goals of the content producer. This can be a problem for nonprofit and political organizations. Also, rarely does the content producer share in the profits made from the advertising. These companies offer the free hosting service so that they can make money from it by selling advertising. The more popular your website is, the more money THEY make!
  • Tracking. Even if advertising isn’t displayed alongside your content, advertisers and other third-parties may be benefiting from you and your users’ behavior. Third-parties may include businesses, government, and other organizations. Most of the time, the tracking is built into the site so that content producers and users have little choice but to allow themselves to be tracked. This kind of tracking can come in many forms that make it difficult or impossible to block through one’s browser. Also, rarely is the money these free hosting service providers make from the tracking data shared with the content producer. Again, the more popular your website is, the more money THEY make!

In both cases so far, your energy, effort, and talent are being used so that someone else may make money. Sure, you get free website hosting out of the deal and maybe you feel this evens things out. But, it’s very likely that the cost to host your website is pennies compared to the amount of money they’re making from you. If it wasn’t so cheap to host your website and if they weren’t making a profit from hosting your website, then these companies wouldn’t be able to offer website hosting for free. What these companies do with the money they’re making is completely up to them. That may include doing things that run counter to your website’s goals! This is, unfortunately, one of capitalism’s many inherent contradictions.

  • It’s difficult to move. Many times, free website hosting services use their own proprietary system to store and display your data. This isn’t the case all the time, that’s true. However, in many cases, once you put your data into their system, it’s difficult to get it out in a reasonably usable form. It can be time-consuming to switch web hosts if moving away from some free website hosts.
  • Not fully customizable. Since these free website hosts are serving thousands and millions of websites, they often don’t offer complete control and customizability. You may have only certain styles to choose from. You may have only certain plugins to activate. You’re often restricted in how you can interact with your data in that you almost always have to use their web-based administration back end. Most importantly, it’s often not possible to use a custom domain name. If it is possible, it’s often difficult and frustrating to set up.
  • Poor Customer Support Have you ever tried to get customer support from Google? If not, try it sometime. Unless you’re paying for a Google service (and often even when you are paying), it’s impossible to speak to, email, or chat with someone at Google to support you and your website. Many other free website hosting companies offer similarly poor customer support.

If you’d like to avoid those problems, it’s a good idea to purchase your own website hosting package. See below for a list of web hosting providers that I recommend. The obvious problem with doing this is that you or someone you trust needs to understand all of the details involved with website hosting well enough to set everything up, maintain, backup, and restore when needed. It’s definitely possible to learn this and if you have the time and energy, I encourage you to do this and offer our help.

Finally, there’s the hosting service that I offer. It’s not always free, but it’s close. For a small fee, I’ll do just about everything for you, including updating your content if you prefer. All you’ll have to do is contact me, explain what you need, and wait to see your new website. When I’m done, you’ll have a fully functioning website that’s 100% customizable, portable, and free from unwanted advertising and third-party tracking. I’m also willing to teach you what I know so that you can do the same thing I’m doing for yourself and others.

Recommended Free Website Hosts

WordPress
Drupal Gardens
Noblogs

Recommended Paid Web Hosts

Dreamhost
Linode
Nearly Free Speech