Is it possible to host a website free of charge? The answer is yes!
Web hosting is a service that allows a website to be visible on the web. Normally you would expect to pay a web hosting company anything from a few pounds to hundreds per month, depending on the site and complexity of your website.
But you can host a website completely free of charge.
You can take advantage of the fact that web hosting companies want you to get on board with them (because getting off again is more complicated) and therefore they have free offerings to entice you in.
Or, you can go down the completely DIY route, setting up your own web server, building a site from scratch, and hosting at home or with one of the ever-growing number of platforms where you can host web pages.
Here are 10 ways to host a website totally free, except for your time and perhaps a little expertise. These methods vary widely from the really easy to some that require some effort. In most cases the more complex ways of hosting a website are worth the effort because you’ll get more flexibility, speed, customisation.
There are some ideas here you might just not have thought of!
So let’s jump right in and look at the 10 different places that offer free web hosting.
Wix is a very popular web hosting platform that allows you to build and serve a website free of charge. There are limitations, of course. The idea is that you sign up for a free site with Wix and then upgrade to their premium features.
They explain their free offering on this page.
WordPress is the world’s most popular website builder. It’s really easy to learn, it’s open source, very well established and well supported by a huge community of users and developers around the world.
There are two varieties of WordPress – one which you can host yourself (and there are many ways to do this for free) but also one offered by WordPress to help you get started online for free. This second option is called WordPress.com.
You cannot use your own domain name with WordPress.com. Instead your website’s URL will look something like https://mysite.wordpress.com.
Host a website on your own computer
It’s quite possible, and even quite simple, to host a fully-fledged website on your own computer.
You will need to install some software to act as your web server. If you use a Windows computer, this could mean installing IIS (Internet Information Services).
You can publish your website from your computer to the World Wide Web. To do this, you’ll need to point your domain name to the IP address that you use. To find out your IP address go to https://www.whatismyip.com/.
One thing to bear in mind if you are hosting your site from your home PC, is that most Internet Service Providers don’t provide you with a static IP address. This is needed to host your site reliably. If your IP address continually changes, your domain name will not link to your website, and your site won’t appear on the web.
Home-based Internet Service Providers are not geared up to serve web content, so your site will most likely be extremely slow and unreliable.
But that might not bother you, depending on your needs.
These little beauties can do so many things. One thing they are great at is becoming mini web servers, because their Operating System (OS) is often the same type of OS as is used in the major web server software programs.
So fire up your Pi, install a web server, develop some pages, then punch a hole in your firewall to allow Internet traffic through. Then point your domain name’s A record to your IP address, and the requests for your pages will be routed to your Raspberry Pi.
Amazon Web Services
Amazon have been in the business of providing Internet infrastructure for many years, and this is available to users under the name Amazon Web Services.
Although you host extremely sophisticated websites via this platform (like Amazon.com itself) there are many free offerings that you can use to get your site online without charge.
This service can be thought of as Microsoft’s alternative to Amazon Web Services (neither is better or worse, they are just different).
Just like Amazon, Microsoft want you to get started and embedded on their platform. Therefore they offer some free services to get you on board and hooked in.
Who knew you can actually host a website on GitHub? Well, you can!
GitHub (in case you haven’t heard of it) is a platform that was originally developed to help programmers share their code with each other. The original platform is called GitHub, and the online sharing centre is called GitHub.
It’s one of the most popular ways of sharing and collaborating on code. Over the years, it has gained features, and one of the features is the ability to upload static web pages.
To upload to GitHub, you use the Git commands that are available to programmers. Each project in Git is called a repository.
You create the files locally on your computer, then push them to your repository, either using command line on your computer, or by using graphical tools which use a point-and-click approach.
One other thing you’ll probably need is way of creating your web pages in the first place. Although you can hand-code web pages perfectly easily, and this is a great way to learn how to code.
CloudFlare began life as a Web Application Firewall – a way of defending websites against attack by viruses, hackers and the like.
It has since developed into a sophisticated platform based around web security and speed.
You can host websites free of charge on CloudFlare using their CloudFlare Pages offerering. This is mainly aimed at developers, but there’s no reason why anybody couldn’t host a sophisticated website there.
You get all the advantages of CloudFlare’s security, plus GitHub integration so you can deploy your website with one command.
Weebly’s free tier gives you a lot of goodies to play with, including their website builder which includes many free and well-designed website themes.
It also includes a free SSL security certificate, free e-commerce capabilities, and the ability to add useful tracking tools such as Google Analytics.
Important elements for any website are also included, including contact forms.
However, you cannot connect your website to a custom domain so you’ll have to put up with an ugly URL.
Use a spare hosting slot
Many web hosting companies give you the ability to host multiple websites on one account. But the vast majority of people don’t use this facility, leaving many free hosting slots available. Why not ask somebody who is already hosting a website whether they have any spare hosting slots available you could use? They may be generous and let you host on their account for free, or at least share the cost.