Please note that the following post is my personal experience and opinion. Any assumptions I am making about the parties involved are that of my opinion based on my personal experience.
I spend quite a bit of my free time (which isn’t much these days) in the “Small Business” world working with small business owners and operators on how they can efficiently set up a digital presence while not hurting their bottom line. This can often become a cumbersome task because often in the digital space, especially dealing with awareness and social media the ROI is not immediately measurable.
So that being said, I often explore opportunities for clients on how they can bring their budget down and still effectively communicate their marketing goals for their business online.
With some hesitation I decided to look into the world of “Free Web Hosting”. When I was a youth plugging away at websites trying to make as much money as I could, the options for free web hosting were great. There were several sub domain options available, some to even host your own domain, and the most popular “Geocities”. Everyone in their 30s now probably hosted a website on www.geocities.com at somepoint in their youth if they are a passionate digital marketer. Now there are just as many options, but in a much more data driven eco system. What do you have to give them in order to get free hosting? Is it a giant banner advertisement across your site, is it that you are restricted to their “Blogging” platform’s templates? Or is it infrastructure related like extremely slow speeds and file size restrictions?
I set out to find a free web host to test an upcoming project (personal) on. I eventually landed on https://www.000webhost.com/ aka 000WebHost, a company owned and managed by Hostinger.com. Who’s domain appears to be owned by someone in the country Cyprus according to the whois data.
My reflection is not on Hostinger as a company or their paid services, this is strictly regarding their free web hosting platform 000WebHost.
I signed up for 000WebHost because it offered a few things that I definitely needed for this “test” website. That included the ability to host my own domain, some sort of cpanel-like access, e-mail forwarding and database hosting so that I could install and host a wordpress instance.
The Setup was rather smooth. I purchased my domain from LMT Hosting Solutions as I usually do and pointed the name servers to 000webhosts provided servers. The domain was updated as usual and now pointing to my account on 000webhost. Within 000webhost’s platform I easily created my wordpress instance through their platforms version of cpanel and started installing the usual plugins. Then I customized a template and started making my code changes to the CSS files as I usually do.
Next step (very thankfully) I installed Infinite WP, connected it to my server and backed up the entire wordpress DB + Files. This was a small step that I would later realize saved me hours of pounding my fist on my desk and yelling at my computer’s screen.
Two days after I got the website running (still in happy mode!) I started noticing that every second click while I was navigating the site had a DB error and the site didn’t load. Over time they grew gradually to every click and eventually the entire site failed to load about 90% of the time.
Quickly I jumped over to 000webhost.com to see what was going on.
They have a pretty awesome forum set up for free web hosting clients but I noticed that a message had been posted on the top of the forum for quite some time:
If you are experiencing downtime, read this. There are currently
1/6network nodes down.
The developers are working on changing the storage systems to permanently fix the
403 Forbiddenissue, and during their matenince, your site may go down periodically. This could take anywhere between a few days and a few weeks. Until it is done, we ask that you be patient and refrain from creating new topics.
Please rest assured that none of your website content will be affected.
Only 3 days into setting up my website it was now down. And there was no way to find out if or when it was going to be set up again. Every e-mail or message that came from 000Webhost prompted me to upgrade and pay for the professional hosting as it had no down time, included back ups and things of that nature.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the business model of giving away free hosting. The model is that you provide decent free hosting services and once you get a user into your CRM you start marketing to them to move them over to your paid services. It’s a great model … when you provide great service. Why would you not want to upgrade to better hosting services with a company who provided you excellent, however limited, free services?
There are a lot of great reviews of 000webhost out there, but if you pay attention to the site you are reading on, and the links you end up clicking on there is a lot of “advertising” going on. There are also some “horror stories” buried in forums, like this one on drupal.org relating to 000webhost.
With 000webhost it seemed everything related to absolutely any issues with their services (that were not performing as well as they stated on their website) was responded to in some form with a “you need to pay for our professional account hosting” message.
So. I moved my hosting to another hosting provider that never fails me with great customer service. Even though I am paying them practically nothing for the hosting, they understand that over time a loyal customer will bring in enough revenue to make it worthwhile.
My personal opinion and recommendation is that you stay away from 000webhost. My recommendation to any business is that you pay, even if minimal for hosting services.
If you are in a situation where you feel you have to use a free web host, and 000webhost is your choice, I highly recommend that you sign up for and utilize a platform like https://www.cloudflare.com to protect your site from downtime.