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blowee, the answer to your question depends on your needs. Free hosting might be fine for a family Website or a Web hobbyist. It is not sufficient for an e-commerce site. Paid hosting also typically offers features that are not found on free hosting. So it all depends on exactly what you need the hosting for.
The technical differences are customer and data center support. How long has the free web host been online? Do they change domain names every other month? Reseller Free Web Host, Dedicated Server Free Web Host? The History of the free or paid web host. So many things to consider before diving rite in.
Free web host providers with a reseller means the end user (free account holder) does not have to worry about all the technical stuff. Only the reseller has to. The end user just uploads, manages and advertises their website and content. But if you need specific ports opened for like a "gaming statistics" plug in (as an example) you have to contact your web space provider, make a request, and wait for them to get with the data center to first ensure that port can even be opened. This is then specific for that account on the reseller. Then the web space provider gets back to the account holder. So there is some "middle man" work to be done.
Free web host providers running dedicated boxes means they better know what they are doing. Your web space provider has to know commands on the fly and how to secure them. Like iptables -I INPUT -p tcp/udp .......... service iptables save - for a specific account. Again this is only using a gaming port to be opened, as an example. Free web hosts using a dedicated server for free web hosting services, means you deal directly with the person Leasing the box on a rack, or if they are colo and paying for their own 1,2,3,4,5 u rack space.
Paid hosting, using the same scenario, means the end user calls the data center ( then told to open a ticket lol ) and handles the request one on one.
Service uptime between paid hosting and free hosting has some differences. The biggest one is a free web host provider that over sells. That means the provider crams the dedicated server to the max with accounts on the usable disk space, and PRAYS OUT LOUD :fangel: all those accounts do not use full resources. This usually causes the web host provider service to lag, time out and in some cases get shut down because the data center will not put up with it, based on their TOS.
Do you want a shared IP, dedicated IP, more control over your free account, full cPanel service rather then a chopped down version which forces you to upgrade, ads on your pages for the free space, some do not place ads, forced ads you have to click or the most annoying is post to host or take a survey every day which usually doesn't work right anyway because of poor scripting.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention there is no such thing as unlimited. Even the back bone providers OCT-48 and Up - charge for over usage.
If you use an advertised unlimited web host provider, and start using a terabyte in bandwidth every 2 weeks, lets be fair and say even in a month, kiss your unlimited good bye. You will be asked to either cut back or start to pay a little more for that usage. Nothing is unlimited.
Paid hosts have some more benefits available compared to some free web hosts. Credibility (for some) and Support Time are the number one factors. But these days free web hosts provide the exact same hosting uptime and control panel quality as paid hosts. Small business owners turn to free web hosting providers simply because of those reasons.
Through my experiences over the last 7-8 years, HostGator, LiquidWeb and Wired Tree provided almost immediate responses while leasing their dedicated and Reseller solutions. PowWeb is another good example of immediate response times. Some of the smaller hosting providers like Jaguar PC and AlienLayer provided "ok" query support for their VPS plans.
With the economy the way it is right now, new entrepreneurs are looking for ways to save money in their startup costs. Everyone seems to be looking for free web hosting but they really don’t understand the cost to their business by doing this. If you are reading this after the recession of 2008-2009, the following information is still relevant as it relates to building a reputable online presence for your business. Let’s look at the cost to your business if you go with free web hosting.