After being asked this question many times, we thought we would write the answer up so we can simply refer people here.
In order for people to access your website, the files that make up the site must be saved (hosted) on a fast computer that is permanently connected to the internet via a very fast pipe. We call this type of computer a server as when users visit your pages, the server responds and serves up the content that is being requested.
If you try to host your site over a standard broadband line, or the server is overloaded, it will take longer to display your pages and visitors may click away before they have ever seen your site! Some hosting providers charge you based on how much data is being transferred (your bandwidth). With our hosting, you have unlimited bandwidth, so if your site gets a sudden increase in popularity, you won’t get any extra bills, plus you’ll always get great performance and all of your content is being backed up to two different physical locations.
If you are a student, faculty member, or staff member at a college or university, chances are you can get free Web space on their server. Some colleges even offer free web space to alumni or affiliates. I am a staff member at a religious college, and we offer Web space to parishes, schools, and church members, free of charge.
If you are taking courses in various aspects of Web site construction, you will need to have some Web space to upload your work, make sure it works on a real server with various Web browsers, and share your work with your instructor and your fellow students. You have a number of options worth looking at here, from free to various cost levels, depending on what you want and what tradeoffs you are willing to make.
If you have the intention of selling downloadable files from your website, as is the case with many people, then you want to find hosting that specifically supports that feature. You should consider a host such as MadBeeTech — they sell a complete system that includes web hosting, shopping cart, and an automated means of sending out a download link email to visitors who purchase a downloadable file from your site.
There are certainly tradeoffs, because providing Web space costs real money. The company providing them has to purchase data lines to connect to the Internet, servers to store the Web pages on, salaries for staff, etc. So they need to charge you for the site, or they need to find some other way of making money off of your site, such as by putting advertising on your pages. Know what the tradeoffs are, and make the choice that works best for you. Here are some options you might want to try.
While there are some free web hosting services available, there are several good reasons why you’ll want to pay for web hosting.
- You can have your own domain name. Free sites generally make you list your site as part of their domain, like mywebsite.wordpress.com. If you want www.peterpan.com, you will want a paid host.
- You can get additional services, like e-mail, as part of the package. This way you can have email@example.com as your e-mail address.
- If you want to have database access, e-commerce, or in some cases CGI scripting, you will probably need a paid account.
- It looks more professional if you have your own domain name on a professional hosting server.
- If you have your own domain name, you can take it with you. If a particular host goes out of business, or tries to charge a much higher fee all of a sudden, you just move your site to a different. After a few days for the DNS servers to update, you are in business with the same Web address, same e-mail address, and no one will ever know.