Choosing a proper hosting is crucial for any website. It ensures smooth operation, security, and stability. However, opting for the right one might be a daunting task. Website owners should consider various essential factors including bandwidth, SSD storage, backups, and dozens of other terms that may have no sense, especially for non-technicians.
What is the best hosting? How much should you pay? What features will you get for that price? It is all about researching, comparing, and contrasting various offers. For this reason, free web hosting might be a better solution for a start. You will have a chance to dive deep into the hosting matter as well as understand how actually the server works without paying a single dollar.
In addition, free hosting might be a good way to pick up some knowledge and tech skills. Moreover, you may use it to host a tiny project in case of a limited budget or test how your future website works. Keep in mind that free hosting will never work out for dynamic sites with enhanced functionality. Let’s have a look at what free hosting options you have and how they may help.
Ways to Host a Website for Free
Before we start, let’s clarify a few baseline things regarding web hosting. Imagine that a server is a house while your website is a person who lives in that house with all the facilities, utilities, etc. Those utilities may be compared to the website assets (content, code, scripts, widgets, media files, and so on).
Each house located on the same street has the same address but with different numbers. The number assigned to your particular building is the website’s unique IP address. All your neighbors share the same facilities but for their own purposes and comfort. The same thing is with websites. They share the same server to make the most of it for smooth operation as well as online accessibility.
While we do not consider paid hosting offers, there are two major ways to host a site for free. They include:
- Setting up hosting on your own – requires deep technical and computing knowledge. Not good for newbies.
- Using third-party services like GitHub – easy-to-use solution, which is good for newbies with no skills.
Let’s have a brief look at both options to figure out, which one is better and why.
Setting Up Hosting Yourself
If you decide to host your site on your own, you are supposed to have deep technical knowledge. In addition, you will need some luck while not all Internet Providers allow web hosting. You will need to figure that out to contact the company’s representatives directly.
Any luck? Good. The next stage is to complete several vital steps:
- Figure out your own IP address.
- Access your local network.
- Detect the IP itself.
- Insert the address into the protocol.
- Download and install special software to manage website databases.
Note that the above-mentioned steps will only work out only for technical gurus. Newbies should avoid dividing into the procedure, considering the fact they have a simpler option.
Opting for third-party platforms like GitHub is a better alternative for non-technicians who do not want to get involved in the technical process. Such platforms are designed to put users at ease when it comes to website hosting. They are easy to manage and sometimes have a support team.
The bad news is that free server solutions are not for every website type. They might be a good alternative for static pages with little content. Website owners may use them as the testing platform to check how some of the websites features work as well as the way it is displayed on the web.
Getting free server space or bandwidth might look attractive. However, the downside results in some crucial disadvantages when hosting a site for free:
- Limited Transfer Rate and Bandwidth – we started our guide from crucial technical specs to consider when choosing a hosting. Well, a free server solution comes with limited bandwidth and transfer rate. In other words, the server will fail to cope with growing traffic. It inevitably results in constant downfalls and reduced speed.
- No Unique Domain – another crucial downside when it comes to online projects that require recognition and strong web representation. Free services do not provide users with domains as well as never operate as domain registrars. You are very likely to get a subdomain that consists of the main service name and your project, which is not good for evolving projects.
- Limited Security – a website calls for steady security means to protect it from spam, scanning, malicious codes, etc. Only paid platforms deliver enough security tools with Anti-Spam instruments, backups, and system updates. All you can do with free platforms is to connect the SSL certificate.
- Custom Ads – you will hardly appreciate third-party advertising on your website. However, this is how free web-hosting services do. They often show their ads without notifying the user.
- Limited Customer Support – another huge downside that makes it very hard to resolve technical issues directly with the service representatives. Moreover, a few platforms provide guides or tutorials. In most cases, you will need to figure out the system on your own. Once the problem has arisen, there is no one to help.
Considering the above-mentioned disadvantages, it is clear that free web hosting is good for tiny static pages, for testing or educational projects that do not require promotion. Some platforms claim to be good for small blogs or portfolios. Well, the statement seems to be false.
For example, if you plan to regularly share different blog posts and articles with images, charts, tables, and other media content, you will need a more reliable server solution with enough disc space and bandwidth to cope with the traffic. The same thing is with portfolios full of high-resolution images. For less demanding projects, GitHub might be a flexible enough option to host your site for free.
GitHub Pages Hosting Brief Overview
The platform has been on the market since 2009. It has proved to be a fast and easy way to host sites for free. It might be a good place to host your static HTML-based projects. Moreover, it comes as an open-source management and control system. Apart from a free server solution, it also provides some great collaboration tools for developers to share and edit codes when developing apps, sites, etc.
But we are mainly focused on its hosting facilities. GitHub Pages is a free hosting that features a web page generator letting you create the site of your own and host it directly from the GitHub repository. At the same time, you are free to host projects of your own.
The platforms come as a static hosting provider. It means zero chances to use it for dynamic pages with lots of content, no databases or file managers. Using the solution for eCommerce and business projects will be a bad idea. On the other hand, the system comes with a set of advantages beginners may find useful. Most of all, it is free, it has fast CDN and is easy to use. Have a look at our GitHub Pages hosting usage guide.
Getting Started with GitHub Pages
To get started with the platform, you need to complete the following steps:
- Create a new account. First of all, you need to sign in to GitHub. The registration process requires indicating your email, user name, and password. Click the “sign in” button and move on.
- Launch a new project. Now you need to create a new project for the new website repository. Simply click the button and rename the repository using your user name indicated during step #1. Choose the folder (local path) and click on “create a repository” button.
- Copy files. Now you need to transfer website files into the newly created repository folder. You will be transferred into a simple dashboard with the space for the code input.
- Go Live. Now that all your files have been successfully copied to the repository folder, you may add commits and press the “publish” button to go live.
Now you may check how your website looks lie online by typing in its address in the search engine address bar.
How to Connect SSL-Certificate on GitHub Pages Hosting
The platform has received that HTTPS support since 2016. It means, that all GitHub Pages users have a chance to connect the SSL certificate to make their websites safe and secure for browsing. Most of you have already come across the lock next to the website’s name in the browser search bar. That is actually the tool that encrypts traffic between the browser and the server (GitHub Pages in our occasion).
Moreover, the hosting provider established a partnership with Let’s Encrypt that is the SSL certificate authority. It means that enforcing the SSL feature on your site will be a peace of a cake. Have a look at the steps you need to complete:
- Enter your GitHub account.
- Go your website repository main page.
- Click on the “settings” icon in the upper right corner.
- Navigate to GitHub pages.
- Select the “Enforce HTTPS” feature.
Sometimes, manual settings may result in serving mixed content. It means that some of the files or pages are still available under the HTTP protocol even after you have successfully enforced SSL. It may lead to troubles when loading website assets while problem-solving requires some technical background. Using GitHub Pages with CloudFlare might be a simpler option.
Another way to enable the SSL certificate for your website is to use GitHub Pages together with Cloudflare Universal SSL option. It was implemented when the hosting provider did not support the https connection. Those times have gone while the option is still available through the HTTP/2 where CloudFlare acts as an intermediary that ensures secure connection between the website and the end-user.
GitHub Hosting: Pros and Cons
For sure, GitHub Pages platform serves users’ key goals. Its main mission is to let website owners host their projects despite the budget. It delivers some good features out of the box that makes it worthy as a free web-hosting potion. On the other hand, using it for small business or eCommerce sites is a bad idea.
| ✔ Completely Free – a crucial advantage that is hard to beat. The user gets baseline hosting facilities at no cost.|
✔ Fast Content Delivery Network – the platform uses powerful CDN to ensure fast content delivery.
✔ Integrated CMS – the system has an integrated editor that lets users generate sites, store files, and deploy the project.
✔ Optimization – the platforms automatically enables technologies to gzip and minify the website assets.
| ✘ Limited Facilities – for websites not larger than 1 GB. Users may count on limited bandwidth (100GB per month) and storage, which is bad for growing projects with multiple media files.|
✘ Static Web Pages Only – the system supports only static HTML-based pages. Not good for dynamic websites with constantly updating content.
✘ Custom Domain Only – you will not be able to get an exclusive domain for the project. It will include the hosting brand name anyway.
✘ No URL Editing – each page or section URL will end with .html.
✘ Limited Support – the system has a huge knowledge base although there are no ways to get instant assistance. However, users may still opt for a traditional email ticketing system.
Hosting a website for free might work out only as a short-term solution, as your project will require more facilities at some point of its development. Platforms like GitHub might be good for small and simple projects. You may use free hosting as a testing platform to check the site functionality under real-life conditions.
If none of the above-mentioned refers to your website or you are interested in launching small business or eCommerce projects that drive much traffic and require constant updates, you’d better opt for paid hosting offers. They deliver extended storage facilities and bandwidth, offer additional security means, enhanced customer support, and more to let users focus on the website evolvement.