When looking for a web hosting solution the first choice the user often has to make is whether to choose one of the varieties of free hosting available, or to pay a web hosting company. There are several factors that may weigh your decision one way or another – let’s look at some of them.

The biggest advantage of free web hosting is that it’s, well, free. There, choice made, now what? Not so fast – not only is that the biggest advantage, it is also just about the only advantage, and you may find that the disadvantages of free web hosting will make it a bad choice.

What are these disadvantages? Firstly, let’s look at the domain name, the name by which your web site is found. By choosing a free web host, your name may be, for example “www.geocities.com/yourname”. This would be fine for some users, for instance if all that was needed was a page for a small club, but for most companies seeking to establish a Web presence the ability to be able to use a domain name in the style of “yourname.com” is essential.

Free web hosting will also limit the amount of hard disk space you will be able to use. Again, not necessarily a problem for a small site, but for the user that needs more space, maybe for a large number of pages, or pages with high graphics content, the amount of space available may not be sufficient.

Also restricted will be the amount of bandwidth, or transfer, that your visitors will be able to use. It’s no use trying to run a business on the Web if all your customers see towards the end of the month is a page saying that “This site has exceeded its bandwidth allowance, please try again next month”. That is not something that would inspire your customers to have faith in your products.

You may find that some of the more sophisticated services, such as Perl, CGI or PHP that are being used more and more nowadays on the Internet are not available if you choose to use a free service. You may also find that shopping carts are not available, or that the service is not set up to allow the secure use of credit card transactions to make purchases.

Finally, advertising revenue. A free web hosting service is paid for by the advertisements and pop-ups which appear on the pages hosted by them. Not only will you have no control over which advertisements appear on your site, but also you will receive no revenue from them.

So, think carefully before you opt for a free service. For an individual or small group, the cost factor may outweigh the disadvantages above. A company will probably find that the choice of free hosting will put limits on their growth that are unacceptable.