000WebHost: Truly Free Web Hosting… But What’s The Downside? We Found Out
If you want free web hosting, you usually have to live with ads on your site. With 000webhost, though, you can get a site which doesn’t cost you anything and won’t have any ads added by the host. There are limits to what you get, of course, but it’s a viable way to create a site for an individual, club, or small business. You can even place your own ads on your site.
What You Get
When you sign up for a free account, you can create a site using the Easy Website Builder, WordPress, or direct uploading. That’s an impressive range of options for a free site. You get 1000 MB of disk space and 10 GB of bandwidth, which should be fine as long as you don’t have a lot of huge images.
Users can manage their websites through cPanel. It allows management of databases, email, files, backups, and FTP accounts through a web page. Files are automatically backed up monthly, giving minimal protection, but you can initiate backups of the website and databases from cPanel to keep them more up to date.
A free account can have up to 5 email addresses, which can be set up for webmail, POP3 or forwarding. SMTP access, spam filtering, and autoresponding are supported.
Easy Website Builder
The Easy Website Builder is the simplest choice for someone who doesn’t have much technical knowledge. The editor, for some reason, is on zyro.com, and there’s no explanation or warning when you’re taken there. It’s legitimate, though.
You start by choosing a template and then edit the components to look the way you want them to. You can drag icons for “text,” “picture,” “YouTube,” and so on into the page and then add content to them. The template provides standard pages, and you can add more or delete existing ones.
While no technical knowledge is strictly required, someone who understands the concepts of CSS will have an easier time of it. For example, you can’t directly change the font, size, and color of a text object. You have to select a style for it and then edit the style, using the less than obvious “Edit styles” item at the end of the menu. There appears to be no way to add to the handful of available styles. Styles can have different renderings for different classes of devices, making it easier to set up a mobile-friendly site. You can even add raw HTML in a pane, so there’s a place for expertise.
There are some oddities. Links are live in the editor, and clicking on them by accident can take you away from the page you’re editing. A certain amount of editorial carelessness detracts from the impression. The “Properties” dialog has an option for “Show in a specific pages,” and a label mentions “standart buttons.”
PHP and MySQL
One of the most impressive features is that you can run PHP and MySQL from a free account. This requires using WordPress or uploading files rather than building the site online; some expertise is obviously necessary. Free accounts are allowed two databases, without size limitations. Management of the databases with phpMyAdmin is included. You can use PHP to send out email automatically.
If you run a WordPress site, there are few restrictions. You can add your choice of themes, plugins, and widgets. The space limitation could be a problem if you add a lot of them.
While 000webhost doesn’t provide support to free users, it lets them post questions to a forum where other users may give helpful replies. Searching the forum may find answers to questions right away. Their quality will vary, and older discussions may not reflect the current feature set, but they’re a good place to start.
What You Don’t Get
When you pay nothing, you don’t expect everything. Some omissions, though, could be serious concerns to many site owners.
The most important absence is SSL support. This makes any site which accepts passwords or other confidential information a risky proposition. With many people using unsecured Wi-Fi, interception of data is a very real danger. Running e-commerce without secure access would be a bad idea.
PHP on free accounts tends to be behind the latest version. This can keep some software from running.
You need to remember to run backups periodically. The automatic monthly backup is just a safety net if you forget completely.
While you’re working on your free site, you’ll see plenty of reminders that you could get more with a paid account. The site is frank about the limitations of its free service. There is no guarantee, accounts can be removed without cause, and performance may be erratic. Paid plans and contributions are what make the free sites possible.
A paid account comes with a free domain. At the top tier, customers can buy as many additional domains as they want and run any number of sites. Paid accounts don’t have caps on bandwidth and disk space. The limit of 2 databases in a free account is lifted. You can create as many databases as you want.
The service commits to 99.9% uptime. Support by live chat is included with paid accounts, 24 hours a day. Private SSL certificates are available with paid accounts.
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Pros and Cons
The obvious plus of 000webhost — the whole point of its existence, in fact — is that it’s free and doesn’t put any ads on your site. If economy is your main priority, you can put up with a few shortcomings. You can create an attractive site with the Easy Website Builder, even if you don’t know HTML.
The resources you get for free are limited but adequate for a simple site, and being able to run PHP and MySQL is a strong positive for a free service, even if it isn’t always the latest version. Being able to manage everything from cPanel is a rare feature among free sites.
Don’t expect a highly available site. A site may temporarily go offline for exceeding limits, accounts can be terminated without cause. A free service must constantly cull spam accounts, and it’s easy to make a mistake. Files larger than 5 megabytes aren’t prohibited but may be deleted without notice if space is tight.
There have been security issues. In 2015, over 13 million passwords were stolen from 000webhost. Security experts concluded that the passwords had been stored as plain text, which is a substandard security practice.
If you’re willing to spend money on an account, there are better options. Phone or email support is a necessity for a serious business, as is secure SSL access to the site. The strength of 000webhost.com is in its free sites, and there it’s quite impressive.