Small companies, start-ups and bloggers often have to watch their pennies closely at the beginning and cut costs where possible. But they don’t always do this in the right place: like web hosting, for example. While there are free offers out there for almost everything, does it really work out cheaper in the end? When it comes to making money with a website (there are also ambitious writers who would like to make a living by blogging), professionalism is key. Which usually leads to the question: is it worth paying for web hosting?

Who does the host serve?
It’s simple: the people that pay for the service. So who do free hosting services – which don’t have paying customers – serve? Probably not the customers who rely on their services, but advertisers, who pay for advertising on as many pages as possible. In other words, you and your site visitors’ annoyance with banner ads and pop-up adver-tisements that appear on, above or under your free hosted site is also a form of pay-ment. What’s particularly exasperating is that you have absolutely no influence on who advertises what on your website! There are also a few other problems. With free hosting, you often receive just one sublevel domain. For example, instead of www.cultural-information-platform.ch, your page may be called www.cultural-information-platform.freehosting.ch – which is cer-tainly not very professional. You may also find to your irritation that your site cannot be accessed sometimes. Or that it’s slow to load. Or that your inbox is full of spam. And if you’re really unlucky, the hoster may even simply terminate the free hosting ser-vice, leaving you and your beautiful site without a home.

Little things snowball into bigger problems
Okay, so you’ve decided that you don’t mind the occasional advertising. According to the free service agreement, you have plenty of reserves as you’re running a very small site, and you can live with only accessing your e-mails via webmail. But your company will grow, as will your standards – and your website. You may even-tually want to set up a small webshop. Sorry, not possible! You want another CMS sys-tem. Sorry, not possible! You’ve decided to buy the domain www.cultural-information-platform.ch and redirect the domain. Have fun trying to figure that out – you’re unlikely to receive any active support from the free providers. It’s left up to you to make it all happen.

Free hosting usually comes with strings attached.

All a means to an end
Often, free providers leave customers dissatisfied on purpose – that’s when they strike! Many free hosts have a single purpose: to get customers to upgrade to a paid hosting service, including by increasing your anxiety and disappointment. But that may cost you heavily. You may have to rebuild your site completely – and a professional redesign is expen-sive. You may lose all external links that direct to your site. You may pay a great deal for a service that may not be much better, more secure or reliable than the free version. And so on.
It’s true: not all free hosting services are equal. There are some that are reliable, offer a decent service and many options. Some even offer the possibility of earning or paying for ad-free hosting. But then you’ve already left the realm of free hosting again!

Our tip: ask questions.
Find out the ins and outs by asking questions such as: does the host guarantee 99% online accessibility? Can you register a domain directly? Can you be sure that the host-ing servers are in Switzerland and not just leased cheaply from somewhere in cyber-space? Does the host have a comprehensive security concept? And backup systems? Is the control panel clear and user-friendly? Does it offer a good tool for creating your own website? Can you set up an online store? Is there a database connection? Does it offer the possibility of hosting websites built with WordPress, Joomla! or TYPO3? Does it pro-vide support should a problem arise? Can you contact staff directly? Can you retrieve site statistics? Are there any how-to videos or tutorials? Does it offer enough e-mail addresses and access to them via IMAP or POP3?

And above all: do you have a good feeling when reading through its range of services and especially the terms and conditions?

If all of these questions can be answered to your full satisfaction, you can choose this provider without any reservations. The hosting may cost a few francs per month. But it will certainly be worth it!

Free hosting usually comes with strings attached.

Sandro Bertschinger

He didn't find computers very interesting for quite some time. An Amiga 500 as a games machine was the high point at that time. Computers began to move into his focus with the advent of the internet and the possibility of building cool websites. In 2001, he crossed paths with an internet company by coincidence.

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