Creating your first website can be quite the learning experience, and just like learning any new skill, you'll likely have low expectations for your first few attempts. This is what makes a free web hosting plan so appealing, it provides the space to learn without the financial burden. But this isn't an accurate reflection of reality.
First, there's no reason why your first website can't look and function great. There's mountains of material available online to help you get started or if you get stuck. Secondly, a lot of web hosts, ourselves included, offer access to free, drag and drop style, website builders which provides a second route.
Then we get to the free hosting plans and the problems start:
Massively Oversold, Massively Slow
A web server is equipped with hardware not dissimilar to your computer at home, and just like your computer at home it has finite resources to be shared between customer accounts.
Free web hosting servers are almost always oversold, meaning there are more websites hosted on the server then the server can realistically handle, which results in very slow loading times and frequent down time.
Miniscule Resource Allocation
Our next point somewhat follows on from the above however from a slightly different perspective. Web hosts don't really want to offer free packages, servers cost money to run and a million free packages won't help them pay the bills.
To tempt you into purchasing a real web hosting product, free hosting accounts have incredibly small resource allocations. By this I mean they have next to no disk space to store your files or bandwidth which allows visitors to interact with your website.
Free web hosting accounts are assigned to a subdomain of the hosting provider such as yourwebsitename.madeupwebhost.com. Clearly, this does not promote a professional image or one that is likely to attract the interest of potential visitors.
Domain registration and subsequent yearly renewals are not particularly expensive, usually somewhere around £10 for the year, but if you want traffic to your website you need to have your own domain.
Offering free web hosting is not a long term sustainable business model and is usually someone desperate for a way into the hosting industry or somebody very much on their way out, hoping an increase in exposure can somehow save the day.
Whatever the case, this kind of provider is prone to pulling the plug and disappearing, taking your website and all your information with them.
If they don't up sticks and disappear then they're just as likely to cancel your account and delete your website from the server. They don't need a good reason, in fact they don't need any reason. It will be written in the terms and conditions you signed up with that they're free and able to do as they please.
Surely your website deserves more than the ever looming threat of deletion, slow load times and a portion of a domain name?
If your website was worth making in the first place then surely its worth spending a few pounds a month on a serious web hosting plan, one which will offer you consistent performance and reliability year on year.