If you're reading this because you want to put your first blog or website online, you probably want to keep your costs to a minimum.
Free web hosting is certainly a reasonable place to start. We've rounded up five services you can use, but even though these are the best out there, there are still numerous drawbacks compared to using a paid-for web hosting service.
These will become obvious as you start using a free service, and free hosting providers broadly fall into two camps.
In one are those who let you build your website (or blog) using any platform you choose - such as WordPress or Joomla. In the other camp are the free website builders such as Jimdo and Weebly where you are limited to building your site using their own tools.
There are pros and cons with both of these approaches and you'll find both types of provider below.
So what are the drawbacks? One of the main ones is that you won't necessarily get your own domain name. You'll either have to use the provider’s sub-domain (i.e. techadvisor.hostingprovider.net) or pay to register your own domain (such as www.techadvisor.com). And if you have to pay, it's not actually free.
A sub-domain looks less professional and may not rank as well in Google.
There can be other limitations, such as the number of pages you can have on your site, and the provider might put adverts on those pages to recoup the server costs. You might find that your website loads very slowly or that you can have a maximum number of visitors per month: hosting a website isn't free to the provider, so if you're not paying the costs, something has to give.
If you want to avoid these pitfalls then read our roundup of the best paid-for web hosting providers. You might be surprised how affordable a 'proper' hosting package is.
Whichever website builder or hosting provider you start with, be sure it meets your needs as you won’t want to be changing to a different provider in just a few months’ time because the first one is no longer suitable.
Best free web hosting 2021
Infinity Free offers a reasonably well-featured free “unlimited” web hosting package. The free hosting is monetised by showing ads on the company's home page and on the hosting control panel, although no ads will be shown on your actual website.
There's unlimited bandwidth and unlimited disk space, which sounds great, but the reality is that if your site gets too big or gets too many visitors it is likely to slow down significantly.
Infinity Free uses a variation on the trusted cPanel hosting control panel to enable you, for instance, to set up email addresses, email forwarders and access the file manager.
It also includes the popular Softaculous app installer which enables you to easily install WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and countless other applications with just a few clicks. When you sign up you can get a free subdomain of epizy.com (for example techadvisor.epizy.com) or you can register and pay for a normal domain name.
Infinity Free is part of iFastNet and, if required, you can upgrade to the premium hosting tier which offers fast SSD servers and free SSL certificates and starts at $3.99 per month (around £3).
ByetHost offers a similar service to Infinity Free and is, in fact, owned by the same company: iFastNet.
With ByetHost you get 1000MB of disk space and 50GB monthly transfer. You can also host 5 add-on domains with 5 SQL databases. You also get up to 5 email addresses, one FTP account and unlimited bandwidth all of which is accessed through cPanel.
Unlike Infinity Free, with ByetHost you get 5 sub domains and you can also use your own domain name which you can purchase at extra cost.
ByetHost’s hosting, as you may expect from a free hosting service, is not lightning fast but it is adequate for small sites with comparatively low levels of traffic.
ByetHost’s cPanel includes a number of regular features that you would expect to see such as the Softaculous apps installer but if you want more advanced features such as LetsEncrypt for free SSL certificates you will need to upgrade to the premium plans which start at $4.99 per month (around £4).
Another offering of free hosting comes from the aptly named Freehosting.com. Unlike ByetHost and Infinity Free, Freehosting.com doesn't offer you a free sub-domain so you will need to purchase a domain name either from itself or another provider.
And this is a small price to pay as it is unlikely that you are going to want to run anything but a trial website on a sub-domain.
Freehosting.com is designed for running just one website and limits you to using one domain and you get one email account and one MySQL database. It also comes with 10GB storage and unmetered bandwidth.
The account comes with a basic cPanel setup with the ubiquitous Softaculous app installer and you can add extras such as additional databases, mail boxes and SSL setup as individual items that you pay extra for or you can upgrade to premium paid hosting for $7.99 per month (around £6.50)
Overall Freehosting.com’s offering is slightly more limited than ByetHost and Infinity Internet but still offers a reasonable service for a single small website
Weebly is primarily a website builder that comes with free hosting. Unlike ByetHost, Infinity Free and Freehosting.com you do not have access to the hosting server and can only use the hosting with the dedicated website builder.
Like other free providers, you can of course pay for upgrades. Weebly’s free plan involves your site being on a subdomain of Weebly.
This makes the free plan only really suitable for personal and hobby sites. For £4 per month you can upgrade to add a full domain to your site (so for instance it could be techadvisor.com rather than techadvisor.weebly.com) but you will have to upgrade still further to the £9 ($6) per month plan to lose the Weebly branding at the bottom of your site.
Weebly’s free plan gives you 500MB of storage and access to the Weebly website builder with its built-in templates. The simple drag and drop interface enables you to easily add contact forms, sliding images, YouTube videos and more.
Although Weebly free is great for getting started, most people are likely to find that they need to upgrade to a paid for plan to get the best use out of it.
Jimdo is another website builder, like Weebly, which offers a completely free option. When you sign up you are guided through a list of questions such as the purpose of your site which will help Jimdo to automatically select the right design, colour scheme and features for you.
The interface is incredibly simple and you really can have a basic website up and running in about five minutes!
However, a big downside of Jimdo’s free package is that you are restricted to just 2GB bandwidth. So if your site requires more pages you need to upgrade to a paid-for plan.
It's highly unlikely that you'll be able to manage with just five pages long term so if you are going to use Jimdo you should assume that it will not be long until you upgrade to Jimdo Pro.
Prices range from £9 ($10) to £39 ($40) per month with the £15 ($20) per month being the package that most small website users will find meets their needs.