If you’re starting out in business, you have a lot of expenses right away. Before you can make a sale or contact a customer you need to pay for things like a physical building, or the goods you will sell. You may even need to file some paperwork with the government.
That’s why some people choose as many free services as they can. Whether it’s using your home as the business address for a while, or getting someone you know to help with labor on the weekends. And some people even opt for free website hosting.
But there’s the old expression, “you get what you pay for.”
We looked into some of the free web hosting services for Australians, and we found a lot of deficiencies. Some deficiencies could be overcome by paying a fee. Sometimes that’s called a paywall, or a ‘freemium’ service. Sure, it’s free up front. But if you want to do anything really functional, you have to pay for the premium upgrades.
We’ll review some of the drawbacks to the free hosting services, and then recommend some better alternatives. Some of these alternatives do offer free trials, and all of them are upfront about what the cost is for a real website.
Why Free isn’t Really Good
Whether it’s the free tote bag from the bank for opening an account, or the free airline miles we can never really use, we all know that free is sometimes worth exactly what it costs: nothing.
When it comes to free web hosting, in some cases all you get is a website name. They put the word “free” on the first few pages of their website, you scroll through available website names, you pick one, they show fancy screenshots of websites they host, and then they tell you to proceed they need a credit card number.
They say you can cancel anytime. When you say you don’t want to pay, they ask a dozen times if you’re sure. It’s the free raffle at the used car lot all over again.
And once you get your free website name, you find out it has their website name in it, as well. Something like, “landscapesbyoliver.freedomains.com”.
Now, if all you’re looking for is a place to blog or share photos, that might be okay. But let’s face it, that’s why we have Google Drive, the Apple cloud, and Facebook. If you want a real, functional website, the free domain hosting services won’t cut it.
If you do choose to press on with the absolutely free hosts, here are some drawbacks we found:
- You don’t actually own the website content. This means if you ever want to host with someone else, you have to start from scratch, and get a whole new website name.
- You can only have one or two pages. Your customers won’t be able to click links on your homepage to go to different parts of your business.
- No email. That means you’ll have to add a link to your free email account, which won’t be as secure.
- No retailing options. You won’t be able to actually sell anything on your website.
- Ads. If you don’t own the content on your site, or the actual domain name, then the ‘free’ host can put whatever ads they want on your homepage. Anything from adult products to flashy game ads. Not a very professional look.
- No guaranteed data storage. That means if the ‘free’ host’s servers go down, all your information could be lost with it. No backups. No retrieval.
- They can sell your data. In the fine print of many ‘free’ hosting websites is usually a disclaimer that they can sell information you provide. But sometimes there is no such disclaimer. That means Oliver trying to connect to customers for his landscaping can get inundated with spam emails from every rake and shovel maker in Australia. And that’s if they’re only selling Oliver’s data to targeted markets. Oliver could be getting spam from anyone. And if he provided his home address as part of the credit card information we mentioned, he could get worse than spam emails.
And with all those drawbacks, you usually still only have a website name and a blank homepage. When someone types in your website in their browser, they won’t see anything.
All that to say, a free web hosting agreement is often not worth the paper it isn’t written on. Some of the free hosts we researched had ways around the drawbacks above, but only if you paid a premium for each feature. There’s good news, though. While we were looking for free web hosting we found some almost free alternatives.
The web hosting services we reviewed below are all upfront about the cost of their service. And they all offer security and features that you can’t get from the free web hosters, even if you pay their premium upgrade prices.
Best Almost-Free Web Hosting for Australians
Here are the best five (almost) free web hosting services for Australians, many of which offer a free site-building tool or assistance. Which means you’ll actually get a website out of your website hosting service, something you don’t really get to the ‘free’ options.
We really liked Hostinger for how quick and easy it was to understand how to get started. Right away they list how much each plan costs, and they tell you exactly what you’ll get. And with plans starting at around $1.89 AUD per month, we liked the value.
Their basic plan includes key features like an email address, 30 GB of storage, your own domain, site building tools from WordPress, and yes, a 30 day money back guarantee.
We went ahead and checked out the WordPress Starter pack, for around $5.00 AUD per month, and we were blown away. You get up to 100 email addresses attached to the domain name, incredible security, 24/7/365 live support, and unlimited bandwidth.
Hostinger is perfect for the absolute beginner who just wants to experiment with owning a website, all the way to the business with multiple employees and services.
PROS AND CONS
We recommend Hostinger for anyone who is looking to get started in the website game. Whether you are operating a business, just getting started, or you just want a hobby. Hostinger has all the features we looked for, plus some great rates.
HostPapa hit our radar as one of the longest-running of the value web hosters. Based in Canada, HostPapa has a basic plan that starts at $3.95USD a month, and you can pay for premium features ala carte.
We liked HostPapa most for its website building help. They offer tutorials and even a free consultation if you want them to build your website for you.
PROS AND CONS
Overall, we liked HostPapa for their reliability. Uptime is what percentage of the time your website will be up. We’ve all seen websites go down, even for the biggest companies. HostPapa’s 99.9% guarantee is tough to beat.
When you’re looking for a straightforward, no hassle web hosting service, you won’t find much better than Siteground. They have three tiers of service, all great, and a data center right in Sydney.
Siteground uses the Google Cloud of solid state servers, all over the globe. This means that there are multiple layers of redundancy keeping your website up and running. This partnership with Google also means your website will be part of Google’s 100% renewable energy match.
PROS AND CONS
We recommend Siteground for anyone who wants a straightforward experience. However, we do recommend it most to people who already own a domain, as Siteground does not offer one for free.
Hostgator is a Houston, US based company that can take you from a basic website starting at $3.50 USD/month all the way up to having a dedicated server. Now, that latter plan is pricey (over $100 USD/month), but if you’re doing some serious website building, it may be the way to go.
Hostgator does offer free domain registration. All of their basic plans come with free email, WordPress, and unlimited bandwidth. Oh, and their money back guarantee is 45 days, a bit longer than some other sites we reviewed.
PROS AND CONS
We found BlueHost to be the most basic of the almost free website hosting services, which can be a good thing. If you don’t foresee doing a lot of online transactions, then BlueHost is the one for you.
Their basic plan starts at $2.95 USD and comes with a domain, free for the first year. And BlueHost has a number of features that make them ideal for the first time website owner, with tutorials and videos explaining exactly how to make your first website.
PROS AND CONS
Free can sometimes mean we get nothing in return. When it comes to your business, your blog, or even your hobby, you shouldn’t trust your online presence to just anyone. Especially if they’re trying to get you in the door for nothing.
We didn’t find any reliable domain and web hosting services for absolutely free. In fact, we couldn’t find any web hosting for free that didn’t come with some serious drawbacks. That’s why we reviewed the five almost free hosts, above.
We recommend any one of them over the free competitors, and believe you will be in much better hands with them.
Frequent Asked Questions
That really depends. If you feel comfortable with new computer programs, then you might find the process intuitive. But if you have the money, sometimes paying for a professional will give you the best results.
Not necessarily. Especially if you’re not looking to run a business with your website. But if you plan on doing a significant amount of selling through your website, you want to make sure your web host has the security and services you, and your customers, need. Even if you have to pay a little extra for it.
In most cases there is a flat yearly fee for renewing the domain name, if you haven’t purchased it outright.
In a lot of cases, it does matter. Data still needs to travel over fiber-optic cables, or some other medium. Some web hosts use CDN, or a Content Delivery Network, that works like cloud storage, only for communicating website data. In these cases, no, it doesn’t matter where the web hosts data center is, because they will be using data centers around the world for your website.
Absolutely. In fact, most of the hosts we reviewed offer free transfer of your website if you switch. That means you can try out multiple hosts over the years. And with most of them offering money back guarantees, that might be a great way to shop around.