Computer Nerd Kev
Projects > Hosting
Finding a Free Web Host
Hello, thought I'd take a quick moment to mention the process of finding a free host for this website. At heart I'll always want to host it myself on one of my many spare PCs (including a proper server which isn't all that old), however at the moment my ISP situation doesn't cater for this desire. Not wanting to turn my site into a feast of ads, yet still wanting the best deal in hip pocket terms, I tried some of the best deals in free web hosting.
My guide through this has been Free-WebHosts.com, although I recommend doing a web search on the name of any web hosting service you consider to read reviews posted on similar sites.
Seem to be UK based and offer paid services as "Trustnet Solutions" (I should have taken that name as a warning). I liked their cheap paid options for the future, so to try them out I registered a free account with them (for some reason the process didn't let me use a password longer than eight characters). I logged into cpanel fine the first time and all the various settings were there. Then I found that the FTP login wouldn't work whatever I did, even though I could copy the username and password for it from the Email they sent me. The second time I logged in to cpanel only the statistics and help options were displayed. Confused I waited until the next day in case my account was still being processed, but still no FTP or proper cpanel controls. Finally I looked on the forum and saw two topics from the last few weeks on the same problem occouring for people who has already been using the service, no replies from the admins. With this I decided it wasn't worth the effort and went on to my second option.
As I write this I'm still waiting on this crowd. I'm more confident with them because they've been around a few years and there are a few reviews online about their service. When I went through the resistration procedure, I clicked their scripted option to register a domain name to see their prices, deciding against it I want for the ".host-ed.me" domain option and continued with everting saying "Free" or $0.00. At the end I looked in my Emails and was surprised to find that the confirmation message seemed to show that the script has got confused by my change of mind and set me up for a .com address. Sure enough, when I logged into cpanel it showed this as my resistered domain, looking at everything it seemed there was no way to access the website other than through this domain (thankfully they give you an IP address for cpanel due to the delay in registering new domains). I could have resistered another domain and set it up, but I wasn't sure if this could cause problems in the future, so I sent an Email to support. That was yesterday and I haven't got a reply yet, so I'll report my findings when I do.
Been two or three days now (4th July 2014), still no word...
Well nothing changed from Host-Ed. I could have done more to get that service to work, but I discovered HelioHost while I was waiting. I originally overlooked them because I thought you needed to post regularly in the forums to keep your hosting account, but looking at their site it turns out that is only if you want them to buy a domain name for you. I've signed up now and (after waiting their activation period) it seems to be working well. They don't offer a paid service, so I'm a bit unsure how they afford the use of the datacentre where the servers are supposably based; the ads on their forum pages maybe? Anyway, they've been around since 2005 so something must be working.
Other than freedom from attempts to upsell you, their other main advantage is that they offer unmetered bandwidth, albeit with half of the data storage allocation of Host-Ed (500MB Vs 1GB). As you can see, I'm not really pushing the storage limits anyway, so it's fine for me.
One more annoying downside is that they won't let you access the server logs for your website (supposably to ease server load, likely also to simplify administration). They suggest you use a script or a external service like Google Analytics for the job, but that unfortunately rather contridicts the principals I had in mind for this site (plus anyone who browses the web like I usually do wouldn't show up with such a system). I guess I'll have to hold off on that one until I can run this site from my own server.
It does seem that the reliability of Heliohost's "Stevie" server is rather worse than the near 100% uptime statistic on the Wiki would indicate. For one thing, the nameservers (which resolve the www.xyz.com address you type into your webbrowser) have been down a bit lately, which makes the sites inaccessible even if the Stevie web server is working better than ever. At least there is an accessible server log to see what's happening.
Since replacing their main server hardware after Stevie died in 2016, Heliohost now allow provide HTTP access logs, and they can be analysed in Analog Stats, AWstats, and Webalizer via the cPanel interface as well as downloaded raw. The storage limit has also increased to 1GB. Reliability has been good since the hardware upgrade, with remaining problems seemingly most often due to DDOS attacks, which are at least only occasional.
I got so enthused that I recently wrote a Wikipedia page about them, which might have attracted more users and in turn helped
with their recent funding issues, but it was rejected by Wikipedia for not being notable enough (which is stupid in my opinion, if users want
an independent place to describe web hosts, why shouldn't Wikipedia fit the bill? Grumble grumble). So
I've added it to this website instead.