There may not be such a thing as free lunch, but there may be a lot of people touting free web hosting services these days. This means that your website files will reside on a server for which there are no charges. But doesn't that sound too suspicious? It may sound odd, but there is definitely a catch to it. But can reliable and sustainable web hosting work if it is made free? This article explores the possibility of having free web hosting services use alternate forms of revenue generation.
A major expense for web hosts is the physical hosting infrastructure. The servers, switches, networking, internet backbone and even backup services cost a significant amount of money. A big question that will come up for consideration is how to fund this sort of infrastructure if there is no direct income from sales. Another consideration which they would need to make is the establishment of SAN / NAS Storage and backup systems to secure the data of the customers. If the very bare-bones system is starved of funds, it would be quite difficult to expect the entire business to last for long.
What would be an alternate revenue model when providing free hosting? Would the other options be reliable, ethical and even legal? Currently many hosts who offer free space always introduce a catch to their offerings. They either inject ads into web pages or they simply steal their customers data. If they don't do either, then they have various other side businesses like collecting market information or upselling allied products to their clients. The sites which genuinely offer ad supported free web hosting have so many restrictions and limitations in their terms of service, that it would be impossible for even a medium sized website to remain with them for a long enough period to be established.
A free host will definitely not have enough money to provide you with technical support in any form. The only way you may get support for free products, like all free products, is from the user community or forums online. Maintaining a support team with the right kind of skills can be quite expensive, especially when dealing with high volumes of a free service.
I would shudder to imagine what type of security and defence mechanisms the free web hosts have in place. Even big providers face huge costs for server security and firewalls, backup systems and redundancy. In a free web host, it just has to be absent. Would a free host be able to afford the expenses of proper server and infrastructure management? It is pretty doubtful. It is also unlikely that they have all their software, Operating Systems and applications running with the latest versions. Even the mail servers and web server software would remain unpatched and ancient.
To conclude, it would be prudent to say that the current way of selling free web hosting is not sustainable and is merely a marketing gimmick to penetrate the customer base of other web hosts.