The Real Cost Of Free

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    • The Real Cost Of Free

      Anyone can get a free website or blog and put whatever information they like on the internet. You may not get much help but it's free, so that's the trade-off. All it costs you is the time it takes you to learn how things work.

      Well actually there are a couple of things wrong with that argument - and they're important things too. First, you may not be able to put up whatever information you like and second, it might cost you more than your time - it might cost you your site.

      When you've got a free website you've got no control. Someone else sets the rules. Someone else decides, ultimately, what you can put on there and what you can't. If you spend a lot of time building a personal website it can be extremely upsetting to discover it's gone one day. If you're running a business, that scenario is absolutely disastrous.

      Are those just scare tactics? Not at all. If you search online you'll find hundreds of examples that illustrate that danger exactly. Case after case where people have spent weeks building something then tried to log into their free website or free blog one day only to find it's been taken down - and that they have no right of appeal!

      It's a horrible situation to face - and so easy to avoid. Even for those on a limited budget the costs are minimal. Investigate any proper commercial web hosting and the investment required is what's often called "pizza money": you can get your monthly hosting for less than you'd pay for a family pizza.

      When you compare the pros and cons it makes even more sense not to go for a free website.

      What you can and can't do is important, but even if you comply exactly with all the rules you still face problems. Free websites are notorious for the lack of space and lack of professional services they provide. Because choices are limited they tend to all look like they were designed by the same people. Often you can't have the social things that would engage your visitor, such as chat rooms and forums.

      It gets worse. You don't get a recognizable domain name. Instead of your you get - or something like that. Not easy to remember and, if you're running a business, not very professional either. To many people it simply says you don't care.

      We're not finished though. Depending on your provider you could get pop-up adverts over which you have zero control. They might be entirely inappropriate for your audience. Tough. Then there's your chances of getting ranked well in the search engines: low at best. Rightly or wrongly you get labeled with all the hundreds of spam sites out there. Google, Bing, Yahoo etc might eventually list you in their indexes but it doesn't matter how much work you put in, you're consigned to the lesser pages.

      Any web expert will tell you that going "pro" is the only sensible option if you're serious about your website. Your own domain name will cost you a little over ten bucks a year at most. Monthly fees for a fully-supported website - well as we've already said, pizza money.

      For that you don't just get somewhere to put your website that's reliable and secure, you also get knowledgeable support so it stays that way. You have someone to call on if you have any difficulties - and even quite experienced webmasters run into things they don't understand from time to time. You get lots of space to grow, and if you exceed that you get an easy upgrade path.

      If there's advertising on your site, it's you who chose to put it there and you that profits! You don't have someone telling you you can't incorporate affiliate programs or other potential revenue sources. Your site can look exactly how you want it to. How it's managed and developed will be entirely up to you to decide. Your visitors will get a slick, professional site that loads quickly and is there whenever they want it.

      Yes, you pay for having complete control, but from a business point of view that outlay is almost negligible. It's even tax deductible. If you don't invest in your website or blog, the alternative could be that you lose everything.

      Written for Admin-Hub by Robert Veal
    • One thing not mentioned in the article that people should also remember is, when going the free route it is very possible that you will not have access to your database if you ever decide to move to paid hosting. Who in their right mind would put tons of work into something if they knew in the end it wasn't actually theirs to keep?
    • Yes, I was thinking of all these points when starting my new blog about stocking flower making on I'm going to work on it for a year or so and see whether it's going to be profitable in any way. If it is , I'll pay for the hosting and move to my own site. If it's not, I'll continue with blogspot just for fun. It's one of the google's products, so it's rather unlikely they'll decide to close and I'll lose my work.
    • This was a good article and very truthful about the disadvantages of going free. But that being said I have also heard horror stories about paid hosting companies taking down sites that they claim was in violation of the TOS. The best thing to do here is to make sure you do your homework and look up reviews on the host you are wanting to go with.
    • Rinalds wrote:

      There is nothing for free in this world. In some way you're paying.

      You just remind me of my teacher of Physical Chemistry at the university, he used to say:

      My Teacher wrote:

      The First Law of Thermodynamics is nothing is free.

      At the end you get what you pay for but I think the free domain and hosting are good for testing purposes, no-one should start a serious business/website with a free provider that you don't know if it will let you migrate your site or even if just go offline, lose your data, populate your site with tons of ads, and/or many other things.
    • Semi-free is OK when you first start out. As pointed out, going all in without paying a single cent isn't going to get you anywhere. Your site eventually will outgrow the service & many of those services don't offer a buyout option & the very few who may usually cost you such an extreme that you'll be hurting to make up for that.

      Semi-free means you pay for the domain, which you can get fairly cheap & it does last you all year, plus you accepted the fact that you'll need to pay monthly hosting. When first open your doors, it is most likely going to be a one man show & perhaps a few friends. You're not going to need powerful server & can perhaps get away with either creditable shared hosting or if you know a thing or two, you could even get a starter VPS. I would recommend a starter VPS if only so you can just about guarantee that your resources are your own & someone else's site will not have a negative impact on you.

      The trade-off and why I call this "semi-free" is you're not putting down a downpayment on your software. Free software means free support which means not guaranteed & fairly limited when available. Your best bet is to learn it before you even try opening a site. And I do mean thoroughly learn it. If there is an emergency, you are your own tech support.

      There is some debate though regarding sticking to free software in the beginning. The demand for more advanced toys, particularly your user interface & adaptiveness to new mobile devices often can take a seat back when using free software. The growing debate is whether or not in our modern age, can you still attract people using a free interface which may also not be up to date to the latest bleeding tech (for example an iPhone 7 4 days after release).
      Disclaimer - Automatically assume that any link I copy & paste has a referral in it. Not because I'm the spamming type, but because I'm to lazy to edit them out or double check a really long url for that 1 snip of code.