Ten major limitations of free WordPress hosting and how to avoid them

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Rob
12 August, 2022
WordPress Products

Free WordPress hosting may seem like a good deal, but it almost never is. Here are ten common issues that you might want to avoid.

If you're starting with WordPress, you may be considering free WordPress hosting. After all, it's free - what could be better? However, it would be best to consider a few essential factors before deciding. This article looks at common limitations of free WordPress hosting back. which will help you make an informed decision.

There are two main types of unpaid hosting.

  • The first is “freemium” hosting, where a $0 tier draws you in but soon hits you with limitations that you have to pay to remove. From the hosting company’s point of view, you’re not a customer to look after but a hot lead to convert into a sale.
  • The second model is ad-supported, where your website is just somewhere for them to insert other people’s ads. The advertisers are the customers they care about.

Let’s look at exactly how these sorts of hosting can frustrate you.

Limitation #1: Low storage space, bandwidth, and site limits

No business can work by offering free web hosting on powerful servers and giving its clients unlimited disk space, bandwidth, or other resources. It all compares badly to the unlimited storage and bandwidth that you can get with our WordPress Hosting.

If you need more than these little amounts, you might be charged penalty rates, required to upgrade to a paid plan on the same overcrowded server or, if you don’t pay up fast enough, just cut off completely. Nudges to “upgrade now!” are annoying and often overpriced. But since you’re already on the platform, the provider is betting that you’ll start paying their prices rather than look for better value elsewhere.

You'll have low storage (sometimes barely enough to install your WordPress plugins), limited bandwidth, and often limits on individual file sizes as well.

Limitation #2: Support is slow, or unhelpful, or nonexistent

Site running slow? Need help with DNS or SSL? Good luck. When you need a bit of help from customer support, you get what you pay for with free hosting.

Expect to be left figuring things out for yourself, or waiting days or weeks to get your questions answered. Free hosting plans sometimes specifically exclude access to support, or place a low priority on all of your enquiries.

To be fair, there are also some paid hosting plans out there that come with poor support. At MyHost we work hard to answer questions fast, and to leave customers happy. We even track our own performance, live, on our home page.

If your time and energy is valuable, this is not a deal that will pay off for you.

Limitation #3: You are not a priority for technical maintenance

If a bug or security defect is discovered on your server (something that affects your operating system, PHP, or database for example), it is usually up to your provider to fix it. They’ll have multiple servers to work on and many customers to help out. You can imagine where non-paying customers sit in the list of priorities.

Instead, you want to be hosted on servers that are professionally maintained. To take an example from January, it took us about a day to finish patching all our Linux servers against a bug called PwnKit. Would you trust a free provider to act that fast?

Expect bug patching and security upgrades to be slow, which will give hackers more time to exploit your server in the meantime.

Limitation #4: NZ is barely on the map

Most, if not all, free WordPress hosting providers don't even have servers in New Zealand. Your website will be hosted in another country - it can be hard to work exactly where - a long way from your local audience. This lengthens load times due to the distance the data travels. In addition, time zones can make it challenging to contact customer service (if that’s even an option).

Before you sign up for free hosting, read up on why New Zealand-based servers matter, even in "the cloud".

NZ-based servers and service are better for local website visitors and for you.

Limitation #5: Using your own domain name restricts your options

A lot of free WordPress hosting plans only let you use a subdomain (e.g., example.wordpress.com) instead of your own domain name (or web address, like example.com).

Building a brand around your website can become a problem because it will be much harder to do so with a subdomain. (This is one reason why you need a domain name of your own.) In addition, it may make your website look less professional, which can turn potential customers away.

Full-function hosting like ours lets you manage your domain and hosting in a single platform, rather than trapping you on someone else’s web address.

Limitation #6: Other people’s ads on your site

Some free WordPress hosting providers show ads on your website as a way to generate revenue for themselves. You get no say in which ads appear, or where they are placed. It's annoying to you and your site visitors, and it detracts from your website's professional appearance.

The worst part is that your competitors may pay these free web hosting firms to show ads on your website.

If you don’t want to be someone else’s advertiser, you don’t want free hosting.

Limitation #7: Free hosting that expires after a set time

Many of these free website hosting services, on the other hand, soon turn out to be time-limited trials. After a while, you're encouraged to pay for it. This cost is often considerably higher than standard WordPress hosting fees.

If you’re signing up for a “free” trial but you need to enter your credit card information, be extra-cautious. Some companies will automatically renew your subscription when the trial period ends, and they'll start charging you the total price. Before registering for a free hosting service, read the fine print.

There's nothing wrong with an introductory promo - in fact, we offer your first month's hosting half-price with the code 50OFF. But if the real price hidden, you can expect other nasty surprises.

Free hosting might only be a short-term offer before payments kick in. Be cautious.

Limitation #8: Tools and interfaces that are hard to use and have poor documentation

The tools and interfaces offered by some free WordPress hosts can be challenging. In addition, the help documentation is often poor, making it difficult for you to figure out how to do things. In this case, you may spend a great deal of time trying to understand how to discover and use the features available.

When you pay for hosting, part of the cost is often the license fee for an industry-standard toolset like cPanel. That's what we offer, and in ourt expert opinion it's worth it.

Free hosting systems aren’t as user friendly as industry-standard options like cPanel.

Limitation #9: Older PHP versions can cause a range of problems

Some free WordPress hosts use old versions of PHP, which can cause problems with site speed, WordPress compatibility, and security.

For example, old PHP versions are not as fast as the latest version. In addition, older versions may not be compatible with the newest version of WordPress. And finally, old PHP versions are less secure than the latest version, which puts your website at risk of being hacked.

If you’re not in control of your PHP version or WordPress version, you’re not in control of your site speed and security.

Limitation #10: Connecting email to your site and/or domain

Another disadvantage of free hosting is poor (or no) email delivery. There can be a few different problems, including these two:

  • A lot of free web hosting offers no email hosting at all (unlike our WordPress Hosting packages which include unlimited mailboxes). This makes it hard to have an email address that matches your web address.
  • If free hosting providers do offer email, and they let anybody create an account, they’re attractive to email spammers. If a host becomes known as a source of spam they can be blacklisted by services like Gmail, meaning that any email you send is liable to end up in spam folders rather than inboxes.

If you want to manage email accounts that match your website address, free hosting probably isn’t the answer.

So, is free hosting worth it?

When you’re asking about the cost of hosting there’s more than money at stake. Poor quality hosting can put a cost on your reputation by inserting ads into your site, serving visitors slowly, or getting your emails marked as spam. Free hosting can carry security threats, thanks to out-of-date or unpatched systems. By saving money you can cost yourself time (and stress) thanks to difficult-to-use systems and unhelpful support.

And after all that you can end up having to hand over money anyway, thanks to time limits or technical limits on your zero-dollar package.

All of that might be okay if you’re working on a low-stakes website that doesn’t have to last forever. But often it's best to steer clear of free WordPress hosting providers. If you think that might be the right course for you, have a look at our article about what to look for in a WordPress host, and see if our WordPress hosting is what you, and your budget, need.

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