Looking for a free web hosting solution is an imperative decision. Try to identify a reliable web host can be a daunting task especially with so many service providers and options available nowadays. Throw in the feature sheets and promises, the task can be that much more intimidating.
But it doesn't have to be. Let's take a look at some of the most common features a good free web hosting provider should offer:
Disk Space and Bandwidth
Disk space refers to the amount of storage space assigned to you by the free web hosting provider. This space will be used to store your web site files, including text, images, audio, etc. files you use for your website.
Bandwidth refers to the amount of traffic that is allowed to access and leave your website. Access means every time a visitor types in your website name in their browser. Leave means every time a visitor receives something from your website, whether it be viewing a photo, listening to an audio clip or downloading a file.
For example, if your website has a lot of graphics (ie. photographs) then you will require higher storage and greater bandwidth.
Website Creator and FTP
If this is your first website and you have limited or no scripting experience, then look for a free web hosting provider that offers a free website creating application where you can create your website simply by choosing a template and adding in your own text and images.
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. It is the protocol for transferring your website files from your computer to your free web hosting server, or vice versa. This allows you to upload your finished website files (including images and other multimedia files) from your computer to your service provider's server. It also allows you to download your files from your web hosting server back to your computer. A good free web hosting provider should offer 24/7 unrestricted FTP access.
Yes, your free web hosting provider should provide you with email services - so that you can setup @yourdomain.com email accounts. In addition to a webmail interface (so you can login and manage your emails using your web browser), the email service should also include POP3 and SMTP access so you can setup and access your @yourdomain.com emails using your mobile devices.
Support and Uptime
You should always choose a free web hosting service with free, reliable telephone and email support.
While no host can offer a 100% guaranteed uptime (think problems out of their control, ie. city power outage), they should provide "just-in-case" measures to limit website and email downtime to a minimal. These measures may include 24/7 server and network monitoring, redundant hardware and network configurations, and onsite backup power supply. While you might not completely understand the technicalities of these, look to see if your free web hosting provider has these listed somewhere on their website. If not, ask them about it.
If you're looking for a free web hosting provider, then you should expect to pay absolutely nothing for all the basic features listed above. You shoudn't have to compromise pricing with banner ads. Any free web hosting providers that forces ads on your website is a no-no.