Why Free
Web Sites Cost Too Much!
Site Build-It! The best value in web site design, domain name registration, and web hosting gets even better!  Click here for details. Also see: Build a Site That Sells!  Astrology Zine by Michael Star

Why Free Web Sites Will Cost You Way Too Much!

You know the old saying, "You get what you pay for." Well, I have learned the hard way that there should be another saying...

"What you don't pay for can cost you a lot of money!"

In other words... What looks like "free" can lose you lots more money than you thought you would save.

I want to warn you about what can happen to your business if you try to start it on one of these "free" web hosting services...

  • a "free" web site at places like Tripod or Geocities which offer personal home pages
  • the "home page" that comes at no extra cost with your Internet Service Provider's dial-up or cable or DSL connection to the Web, such as those offered by AOL or EarthLink or PSI.net to their subscribers.
  • the "free" web hosting offered by commercial web hosts in exchange for the right to display their banner ads at the top of every page in your site, where you use a URL that has their domain name in it instead of your own
  • a "free" storefront or "sales letter" web page offered by a business which you have joined as an affiliate, or as a member of a multi-level marketing group.

Now, there's nothing wrong with any of these when you use them as they were intended. But when you use them to start a business of your own... the problem is that you don't really own your business address - the one where all your customers and prospective customers can always find you.

It's natural to try to keep your expenses low when you are just starting out, but when it comes to putting your business on the Web, going "cheap" can cost you much more than you bargained for!

What you hope to gain from saving $10 or $20 per month on web hosting can end up costing you time and money - and create situations where you would gladly pay back that $20 per month if only that could make your troubles go away.

By then it will likely be too late to avoid those costly mistakes, but you can avoid setting yourself up for those trials and tribulations that can tag along with the illusion of "getting something for nothing".

There are some really "bad" things that could happen to your business. Read on to see why "free" web site hosting can cost you way too much...

Some Advice on Avoiding Expensive Mistakes that Start with the word "Free"

"Free" is nice. It's not a dirty word. But there can be some "dirty little secrets" about things that seem to be offered "for free". It may look like there are "no strings attached" or that you "have nothing to lose" - but often there ARE strings attached which would not make the offer so attractive if only you knew about them at the outset. And you might find that you DO have much more to lose than you thought you would.

You might lose your time. You might lose a lot of money. And you might even lose your business!

First, don't waste time and effort on "free" web sites that will never get listed high in the search engines. They won't attract many paying customers.

People who aren't serious about their web sites use the free services like Tripod or Geocities; and some of the search engines know this and rate them lower, just because their domain name indicates the site is on one of these "free" servers. Some directories will not even include them.

When your site is not listed high in the search engines and directories, you won't get any visitors because no one will find your site there. You will miss out on lots of "free" traffic - and search engine traffic is composed of people who are actually interested in what you are selling! That's why they went "searching" for it.

The search engine operators know from experience that too many of these "free" sites will simply disappear after they list them in their directory (because the webmasters are just playing around with a "hobby site" or making a half-hearted attempt at starting a web business, and often lose interest later) - and it can make the search engine look bad to have "dead links". Would you keep using a search engine when most of the links you clicked on didn't take you to the site that was listed?

A lot of free sites are put up by students using the school or college computer system, and then the site goes down when the student leaves. And, of course, most of the scam artists and con men use "free" sites, so they cannot be traced by the authorities through a credit card that they would have to use to pay for a real "commercial" web site. (They use free email accounts too, such as hotmail.com and yahoo.com.)

Your potential customers will know this too - that your "free" site might simply disappear. When someone is thinking about parting with his money, will he trust the guy selling from a fold-up table on the street - or the established businessman who has invested in a store of his own?

I see a lot of business people using a @hotmail.com or @yahoo.com email address. While there are some good reasons to use these web-based email systems, there are three reasons why you shouldn't use them with your prospects and customers...

When they see you are using a "free" email account, they are likely to think one or all of three things:
(1) "Is this guy so unsuccessful, that he can't afford to have an email address with his own business name in it? Do I want to deal with someone who might go out of business and not be there when I need some service?"
(2) "Is this guy using a free email service so he can just close the account to avoid having his customers contact him about service or complaints?"
(3) "Is this guy a con man using a free email service so he can avoid being traced?"

You'll lose credibility and customer confidence when you use a free hosting service for your web business. Same goes for free email services.

What's worse... you will LOSE your web address and your web business if that "free" hosting service goes out of business!

All that hard-earned "traffic" will disappear. Your loyal visitors (and returning customers) will not be able to find your site again. Even if they find it listed in the search engines, the links won't take them to YOUR page any more. If your web host closes down because they couldn't make enough money giving away services for free, your visitors will find a "404 Page Not Found" error message instead of your web site.

Or if someone else buys up the domain name of your former web host and directs the traffic to their own site, your visitors may end up on a page owned by someone else. It might even be an "adult" site looking to get some extra traffic from all the links still pointing to your former web host's domain name and sub-domains - including YOUR URL! Would you want your visitors and former customers to end up on one of those sites, and think you had changed your line of business to something that would embarrass you or hurt your reputation?

Do you really want to have YOUR business fail because someone else you depended on failed to stay in business? There is a simple and inexpensive way to avoid it, even if your web hosting sesrvice does go out of business.

Get your OWN easily-remembered domain name so you can OWN your Web name and URL - which is your "web address". Then you can quickly move your site anywhere you want to, and no one will see the difference, because your domain's URL will now point people's browsers to the new place where your site is hosted.

No matter where you actually store your web pages, no matter what new web hosting service you may use in the future, your web pages will always be found because the Domain Name Servers (DNS) can always point your URL (e.g. www.MyBusinessName.com) to the new IP address assigned by your new web host. It's really more like a toll-free phone number that will ring in any office or home you may move to. As long as you keep paying for that same number, your customers will always be able to reach you, no matter where your telephone set is physically located.

You might have to change hosting services later on, for a variety of reasons. But once you have transferred your domain to the new host, then most of the DNS servers (Domain Name Servers) will start sending people to your new site in a matter of 2-4 hours, and the new address will be revised on every DNS server around the world within 2-3 days. It's like changing your phone number without having to change your name - but on the Net, everyone's "phone directory" gets automatically updated with your domain name's new host IP number, which is listed everywhere within a few days!

Your web address (domain name) is too valuable a resource for you to just leave in someone else's hands. Even the guy selling hot dogs on a city street corner knows how valuable that spot is to his business, and he will NOT want to have to move to another corner once he has built up a steady stream of paying customers who expect to find him there when they want to buy a hot dog.

Let's think about this for a moment. Which web hosting service is more likely to go out of business, or just stop offering their web hosting service for some reason?
(1) the commercial hosting service which has paying customers who are serious about continuing their business? or
(2) the "free" hosting service which (a) attracts people who are not serious about their business and might quit at any time, and (b) which doesn't have any paying customers and must rely on selling advertising to support the hosting service?

Be afraid, be very afraid of that ever happening. If your free web host goes out of business, your web business goes down too. Here's why...

All those people who bookmarked that link to your fine site will not be able to find you now.

All those great incoming links you got from other webmasters' sites will suddenly not work (and a smart webmaster will immediately remove any dead links from his site).

When the search engines come back to spider your site again, they will find it doesn't exist - and then you will lose all your valuable search engine listings!

If you handed out business cards or put up posters or paid for magazine ads, or posted messages in on-line forums with your site URL in the signature line, and they all promoted that old web address that no longer works, your prospective customers will not be able to find you! If your free host goes out of business, you won't even be able to pay for URL redirection to send people to your new web site URL. You will have wasted all the time and money it took to promote your business.

You will have to start building your business all over again!

But if you built a list of email addresses of your customers, then at least you can send THEM your new web site address - if they haven't changed email addresses by then.

You could avoid all these troubles by hosting your web site with a commercial hosting service that has a good reputation and reliable equipment that will keep working for a long time.

And if you ALSO register your own domain name, you can always move your site to a new host in the event that your old hosting service goes out of business, or raises the fees too high, or can no longer provide the level of service you need.

Your Domain Name Is A Valuable Resource - So Make Sure It Belongs To YOU!

When you use a "free" site, the domain name and URL belong to the owners, NOT YOU.

They are usually long and hard-to-remember URLs which don't say much about what you sell, and they don't contain key words which will help you get higher rankings in the search engines. Yes, having an appropriate key word in your domain name helps your pages get ranked as more "relevant", so they will show up higher in the list of sites someone has searched for. And having a good domain name can help your prospective customers remember it in case they forgot to bookmark it, or lost the ad or email it was listed in, or heard it mentioned by someone on the phone or radio and couldn't write it down.

Having your own domain name can also help your prospective customers know what you sell, and can help them remember your name more easily (which helps build "brand recognition). You do want them to remember you, don't you? Often you will want to tell someone about your web site, but don't have a business card or pen handy. It really helps to have a "memorable" domain name and URL, so they can just remember it when they get to their computer and want to visit your site.

My first "home page" site had this URL: home.istar.ca/~starman" - which was too obviously a "home" page and not a real "business" site. And the words didn't help the site get higher search engine listings as an "astrology" or "horoscope" site.

What's worse, no one ever seems to know what that ~ squiggle thing is, and I had to tell them it's the "tilde" key whenever I tried to give people my web site's URL. They would never remember that URL, and even when I wrote it down for them they probably would get the squiggle part wrong later on. If just one wrong letter was typed into their browser's address window and they would not get to my web site.

Setting up my business on a "home page" account was a big mistake, but I didn't know any better back in 1996. I made money in spite of my ignorance, for there wasn't as much competition then, and the customers didn't know any more than I did about web site hosting.

If you don't OWN the domain and the URL, then if you ever move to a different host you will have to write to every web master who kindly put up a link to your site and beg him or her to waste their time changing the link to your new URL. Many won't appreciate this, and some won't do it. Unless you have a personal (or profitable) relationship, they are more likely to just remove your link when they find it doesn't work anymore.

Then you will have to start all over again with the search engines to try to get your new URL listed and ranked high, but it will be harder now because all those links from other sites are not pointing to your new domain, but to the old one.

Would you start a business in a store which did not have a renewable lease? What if the landlord decided to kick you out just when you had attracted enough paying customers to be making a good income? Do you think he would put up a sign to tell your former customers where you have gone?

So what seemed "free" at first could cost you much more than you thought you were saving. It could result in you losing customers you worked so hard to find - because now they can't find you!

You might wonder why you couldn't get a domain name of your own, and then have it point to a "free" site, or to your "home" site on your ISP's server. There are some free hosting services that will allow you to use a domain name, but many will not. Or they may charge extra, so you might as well pay a little more to get a site which doesn't display their own banner ads on your pages.

Few, if any, ISPs such as AOL or Earthlink will want to provide you with a domain name of your own that you can point to your "home page" on their servers. They will want to sell you a "commercial" hosting account, which will probably cost you more than hosting with companies that specialize in commercial web hosting. The hosting service I started my home page on had rates for "commercial" accounts which were about twice as high as I could find elsewhere, and their fees for "bandwidth" were much higher too. When I was just starting out, this was too much to pay.

There IS a way to do redirect your domain name to a home page by using what is called "domain name redirection", but you would still need to register a domain name with the DNS company and pay even more per year to have them redirect that domain name URL to a subdomain URL on your free web hosting service. This is not a bad idea, and I do this to point an extra domain name to some of my sites which are hosted on commercial servers. But if "free" is very important to you, then you would not find this a useful option, since it costs me nearly US $40 per year just for the domain name and redirection service.

But if you are trying to start your business with little money, then at least invest $10 to $15 to register a domain name URL of your own, and try to get it pointed to a free "commercial" web site where you can upload all your site's pages using FTP (File Transfer Protocol) - even if they show their banners on your pages.

The important thing is to own your own domain name! Even if you start your business on a free web hosting service. Later, you can always move your web site to a professional-quality hosting service when you find you need greater reliability or a greater range of services than your "free" web site provides. Or you can move when you find a host with better service at lower prices.

Almost all domain name registrars provide a "redirection" or "URL forwarding" service of some type at no exra cost. So you can buy a domain name (or several domain names) and have it send your visitors to some other web site on any other hosting service in the world. If you change your web hosting service, you just log into you domain name provider's web site and change the URL that your domain name points to - just like changing the phone number your regular number will "forward" to.

They also provide "email forwarding" at no extra cost so you can also set up "forwarding" for your email address like "myname@mysbusinessname.com". So even if you wnat to use a free web-based email account like "myname@yahoo.com" you can still tell people your address is "myname@mybusiness.com" and all your email will get delivered to your Yahoo account - or to any other account you may decide to move to at a future time. As soon as you register your own domain name, set up the email forwarding and start using the email address associated with YOUR domain name. Why would you want to continue advertising the name Yahoo.com when you need to start advertising your OWN business name?

(Note: if you decide to use the excellent Site Build-It! system listed at the top and bottom of this page, don't register your domain name first, since domain registration and automatic renewal is already included. And the system provides a unique tool for deciding what will be the best domain name to choose for your Web business! This is important, so you should use it. Unless you need to scoop up a special name real fast, it's better to use the system to choose and register your domain name.)

When you own your own domain name and have built your business so that you are getting a signiicant flow of traffic and paying customers to your web site, be VERY careful to RENEW YOUR DOMAIN every year before time runs out and you LOSE it. Be aware that unscrupulous people use services which inform them of pending "expired domains", and they might buy up your domain if you let it lapse. Then you have just lost all your traffic which you worked so hard to build, and you won't likely get it back unless you arrange to buy your domain name back from the person who snapped it up when you weren't paying attention to your renewal notices. You will likely have to pay a much higher fee that seems like "extortion" to you.

And, to add insult to injury, whoever buys the domain can (and will) divert all the visitors to your former domain name to another web site where they can capitalize on all that "free traffic" they just grabbed from you for merely the small price of a domain name registration. What's worse, that new site is likely to be the kind with "adult" content which you wouldn't want associated with your business name! All the returning visitors to your domain (including your friends and your customers) will then be surprised to see some raunchy pictures there, and think that YOU have gone into a new business of the kind you wouldn't want your friends and family to see.

Don't let this happen to you! Renew your domain name early to avoid this unpleasant possibility. It does happen, and the more traffic you have, the more likely someone will be waiting to buy up your domain if you let it lapse. If you are sure your web business will be successful, pay to extend your domain name renewal for 5 years or more so that you won't have worry about renewals every year.

When "Free" Is NOT Really Free

The other problem with "free" sites is that they really are NOT free. They cost the hosting company money to run, so they usually run a banner ad at the top of every one of your pages so they can make money selling that ad space. Those ads may be for things you do not want associated with your web site, such as online gambling casinos, or alcohol or tobacco ads. You won't even see everything that's being displayed to your visitors, even if you occasionally visit your own pages yourself to see a few ads.

How will your visitors know that you did not personally arrange to show each of those ads on your site? If they don't like the ads they see, who will they blame for annoying them?

Those ads could also create "competition" or "distraction"...

Do you want your visitors to buy what those ads sell, or what YOU want to sell?

It's one thing to run ads on "content" pages, but you certainly don't want your "free" web host to run their ads on your "sales" pages where they will distract or steal away your potential customers who were ready to buy from YOU!

Are you spending money to advertise your web site, just so your "free" web host and his advertisers can make money from the vistors you paid to attract - while YOU don't? If they didn't make money from those ads, the ads wouldn't be there, would they? So you can bet that some percentage of your visitors are going to buy from those ads, instead of from you. Will you lose more profits than you are saving with the "free" hosting service? For $10 to $20 per month you could get rid of those unwanted ads - some of which might be annoying "pop up" ads.

Also consider this about those banner ads at the top of every page on your "free" site... YOU could be making money from them, instead of your web host!

You could advertise things YOU want to sell - such as more of your own products, or the affiliate program for some product or service related to (but not competing with) your web site - things that could earn you enough commissions to cover the cost of your web hosting, or could make more money than you are spending for hosting!

You can join most, but not all, affiliate programs for free, even if you are running your business on a "home page" account. But you will not likely get any ad agency to help you sell your "ad space" unless you have a business Web site and your own domain name.

IF you have your own domain, you could get paid at least one or two dollars per thousand ads that your site displays (it's called "CPM advertising"). You may need to have built up a certain amount of traffic before an agency will deal with you and sell your ad space, but I did - and now I can make over US $200 per month (and have been paid as much as $500 in one month) from one ad agency to display just one of their banners on some of my site's pages (and yet I only pay about US $20 per month plus small bandwidth fees for hosting my site on a good commercial server). The ads are usually served to your visitors' browsers directly from the ad agency's servers, so you don't even have to pay for extra bandwidth to display those ads.

If I were running my site on a "free" hosting service, the host would be getting paid by some other ad agency and earning $200 or more per month for running ads on my site - not me. That certainly doesn't look like "free" to me! It would be costing me $200 of monthly income just to save $20 in monthly hosting fees. What seemed like "free" at first would end up "costing" me $200 per month or more in lost income! A "free" web site can turn out to be a very bad deal for you, but great for the hosting service which makes money from the traffic you bring to your pages which reside on their web servers. But YOU brought in that traffic, and maybe paid good money to get it.

Wouldn't you prefer that it was YOU who earned that income from selling advertising on your site? You can if you pay for your own web hosting and then show to your visitors the ads which YOU get paid for.

So my advice to you is... "Get your own domain name and install your web pages on a commercial web hosting service that lets you show YOUR ads instead of THEIR ads." Don't worry if it costs you $10 or $20 per month for a while - you can make MUCH more than that later if you set things up the right way at the start. Of course, if you don't think your web site will eventually earn you more than $100 per month, why bother setting it up in the first place? If it's just going to be a "hobby" site that doesn't make money for you, then a free hosting service may be all you need.

But be aware that some hobby sites have turned into high income-earning business sites, so it's best to have your own domain set up right from the start so you don't lose the people who have already visited your site and want to come back. It only costs $8 to $15 per year. That way, you can later change the focus of your site from part-time "hobby" to "making good money" from the hobby, without having to change your site's web address later on. People already know that address, and you don't want them to be unable to find your site just when you hope to earn some money from them because they might be the people who will purchase goods or services from your web site.

Remember, on a "free" site you will only be able to re-direct your traffic to a new web site with your own domain for as long as that free hosting service remains in business. If they close down or remove your web pages for any reason, you will immediately lose any chance to send your returning visitors to your new site. And since they are giving you "free" service they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. They control your traffic, not you. Personally, I don't want my business and future income to be controlled by others - do you?

First Impressions Make You Or Break You

I know it can be hard if you are just starting a business and don't have a lot of money to pay for web hosting. But if I haven't already convinced you to avoid running your business on a "free" site, then also consider this:

What will your potential customers think of you when they see you can't afford to pay even $10 or $20 per month for a commercial web site? Many people are already suspicious and even paranoid about spending money on the Internet, so you don't want to make them even more suspicious, do you?

Will they trust you to be around when they need some product support or service or want you to honor a guarantee you promised, when it looks like you are so unsuccessful that you have to use a "free" web hosting service for your business? Or a "free" email address?

Or maybe they will think you are some "fly by night" scam artist who doesn't want to give his credit card information to a legitimate commercial web hosting service, so that he can just disappear anytime when the scam is revealed, or when the authorities start looking for him - or when the customer wants his money back.

Even when you are trustworthy, you still must create the impression of being trustworthy.

Please excuse me for being blunt, but if you are really serious about starting a money-making business and can't afford good web hosting, perhaps you could stop paying $20 per month for a few things you really could live without for a while - such as a cell phone service or cable TV channels or over-priced convenience foods - and invest the monthly savings into a dependable and fast commercial web hosting service that will help you operate a successful and profitable business? We are only talking $10 or $20 per month here, maybe even less to start with a small site. Your TV and cell phone probably don't make money for you, but your web site could make a LOT of money for you, and for a long time! Mine has been earning money for over 7 years now, and earns more every year.

Just that extra US $200+ per month I make from selling a small advertising space on several pages of my main web site could cover the cost of leasing a small car! And that income keeps going up, so I could probably lease an even better car later on. For December 2004, it was about US $500. And that's just from selling a little "ad space" near the top of SOME of my site's pages. It takes me absolutely no time or effort to earn that income. I just set up the HTML code on my pages to get started, and the ad agency does all the rest - including sending me that nice check each month. (Update: in 2005 that ad income was $500 to %600 per month. And my web sites were earning USD %5,000 to $15,000 per month.)

Would you trade a car for some cable TV channels? In effect, that's what you may be doing if you don't invest the cost of your cable TV into your own business, so you can make it successful and very profitable. If you really do need cable TV or a cell phone, then consider some other item you don't actually "need" that costs about $10 to $20 per month.

Your site is like a store - and you need to rent a good-looking space in a good neighborhood, so the people who have money to spend will believe that you belong there. You'll get that $20 back many times over if you build your business the right way. You can make a LOT more money by investing money in your own business than you would make by investing the same money in the stock market. Sure, you might lose some in either situation, but at least you have some personal control over what happens in your own business.

Why Starting Cheap Could Kill Your Business Later

There is a big mistake I made when I started out, which I want to warn you about. To connect to the Internet you need to get an Internet Service Provider (ISP) who offers a connection via dial-up, DSL, ADSL, cable, or satellite for a monthly or yearly fee. Your ISP, such as AOL or EarthLink or Comcast, probably offers you some "free" disk space on their web server so you can put up your own "home page". You can probably put up several pages to build and host a small "web site" for "free" right on your ISP's own servers. Actually, it's not free, but if you don't use it you are paying for it anyway.

This is great for a "personal" page or a "hobby site" - but don't start your web business on a "home page"!

I did start my web business in 1996 with a little home page site at home.istar.ca/ in Canada, and was quite successful for three years. Then in late 1999, just when I was getting 3,000 visitors per day to my site, the second-rate web servers they used for the "personal" pages broke down, and my site went off-line for two straight days! For those two days, and then again for ANOTHER two days later that same month, no one could access my web site. By the end of that month I lost a third of my regular visitors, who must have thought my site was gone for good!

That was when I quickly got a domain name and a reliable commercial hosting service set up to host a new web site in the USA, and uploaded copies of all my pages to the new web server. Good thing I had kept back-up copies of all my web pages on my own computer (and also on some floppy disks). Thankfully, istar.ca did NOT go out of business entirely, or I would have lost ALL my traffic! And if that had happened, and I didn't have back-up copies of my web pages, I would have lost all my web site content too!

Once the old site was online again, the only way to get my old site's visitors to find the new site was to change all the links on every page of the old home.istar.ca/~starman site in Canada to point to the corresponding pages on the new www.AstrologyZine.com site hosted in the USA. At the time, this took a considerable amount of work, since my site had about 200 pages then, with a total of at least two thousand links. (Now I have a "universal search and replace" tool which can change selected pieces of text or HTML code on all my pages right on my hard drive, so this would no longer be such a time-consuming task. I could just change the code in a few minutes and then upload all the revised pages to my web site.)

I have to keep paying for that old site because it had been listed in many search engines, and many other web sites had linked to it too, so I don't want to lose the many new visitors those listings and links are still sending to my old site. But I have to pay over $20 per month for the privilege.

If I stop paying for that home page site, I will lose a lot of what I worked so hard and long to achieve. It is like being held hostage - and it's something which could have been avoided if I had just bought a $35 domain name (it cost more in the 1990s) and pointed it to a commercial hosting service in the first place.

Now you can get domain names for as little as $8 to $15 per year. It's cheap "insurance" against an expensive loss, and it will help your business grow faster. Don't go to work without one!

And remember, that domain name is not just your business address, it's also your email address - and no one can take it away from you as long as you keep paying that small annual domain registration fee. You DO want your customers and prospective customers to always be able to write to you, don't you?

Beware the Bandwidth!

One day, you will have to leave your "home page" site if you are too successful, because they will not offer all the features you need - such as "cgi-bin" access to run programs on your site, or to install a database or other special features. And they will probably not tolerate too much "bandwidth" (even if they have advertised "unlimited bandwidth") - because it costs them money to provide it for you.

When you have cheap "Shared Hosting" they put your web page files on a computer called a "web server" - and they also put a large number of other clients' web pages on the disk drives of that that same web server. You all share the same disk drive(s) and "bandwidth", so if one of you is getting too many visitors per hour and the server has to serve up too many pages per hour, this means that your site and all the other sites sharing that server will experience a slow-down in the speed the pages are shown.

If your site gets too many visitors, the other web site owners will not like this, and will complain to the web hosting service - and you will be seen as the "bad boy" who is causing their problem.

So the web host will likely tell you that you have to pay to move your web site to a "dedicated server" that costs $300 per month or more - or, even worse, some hosts will just automatically shut down your web site if it uses too much bandwidth (even if they advertised "unlimited bandwidth"). They know that most clients will not actually exceed their bandwidth allowance, so they promise "unlimited bandwidth". But some wlll, and their solution is usually to just tell the person to stop using their service!

You could "test" your existing web host or a prospective web host on this. Just contact them as an anonymous "prospective customer" and ask what it will cost to host your site, Then ask what it will cost if you use "more than 10 Gigabytes of bandwidth" per month. If they don't want to host your site, then you know they will also be asking you to leave when your bandwidth gets too high. It would be better to leave before that happens!

If they suddenly shut down your site, you may end up being off-line for a few days until you can set up your site on a new hosting service and get your domain name redirected to send people to the new site. That means you will be "out of business" for a while, and you will likely lose a portion of your regular visitors if they try to visit and find your site has disappeared. And you better have recent back-up copies of your web pages saved somewhere, or you might lose your entire site's content when they remove your pages from their web server!

When you get enough Web site traffic to be delivering lots of pages per day and using over 2 to 10 Gigabytes of bandwidth per month, your ISP or hosting service will likely ask you to move your site somewhere else, or to move it to one of their own "commercial" servers at a much higher cost - or they might simply charge you an extra fee per Megabyte of bandwidth per month. Be sure to ask them what happens when your bandwidth gets higher than the allowable limit for your type of hosting service account - or you might find your site shut down at some time when you least expect it!

I found that in 2003 there was a wide discrepancy in bandwidth fees among various web hosts I checked, and some are simply ridiculous - or should I say "rip off"?

My site now uses about 15 to 18 Gigs per month, and there are over 1000 Megabytes in a Gigabyte. If I used that much bandwidth on my "home page" site at istar.ca, they would be charging me "7 cents per Megabyte" over and above their allowed maximum (typically 2 Gigabytes). Since seven hundred cents is seven dollars, then seven thousand cents would equal seventy dollars per Gigabyte. Outrageous! For just 10 Gigs of extra bandwidth I would have to pay $700 more per month! I phoned to check on this, and they nonchalantly confirmed that this is exactly what they were charging!

Sorry, I won't pay that, and neither should you. Hasta la vista, home page!

Don't let yourself get caught in such a situation, even on a commercial hosting service. You may not realize it until you suddenly see your $20 per month hosting fee jump to over $120 per month - which is exactly what happened to me on the commercial site I had moved to at first, when they unilaterally changed their user agreement and started charging for extra bandwidth. Then I either had to pay that huge fee increase every month, or move to a host with more reasonable rates. So, once more I had to move my site, after getting nicked for $120 for that one month at the new rates.

The commercial web hosting service I moved to then has proven to be very reliable and economical, so I am still with them after several years. Their fees start as low as USD $6 per month, and even though my bandwidth is now over 30 Gigabytes per month and I use about 50 Megabytes of disk space, I only pay about $35 per month. Click on that link if you want to check them out. I trust them to host my web business, and highly recommend them.

Beware of those "bandwidth" fees written in the small print of your hosting service agreement! There will come a month when you suddenly get hit with a high fee you really don't want to pay. But you will have to, because your visitors already used the bandwidth that took you over the "allowed" limit. (It kind of makes you wonder why people always seem to expect you to provide all your site's services or useful information "for free", when you may have to pay a lot of money to provide it for them.)

The "home page" and "free web site" providers probably charge a higher rate per extra Meg of bandwidth than the good commercial hosting services, so quite likely you will have to move off that "home page" eventually. You might as well move now before you go over their bandwidth limit and get hit with some outrageous fee - or perhaps you shouldn't even "go there" in the first place.

Don't run your business on a "home page" or "free" hosting service. It could cost you much more than you expected!

What I still pay per month for the old ISP and its unreliable web hosting for my home page is as much as I now pay for a more reliable and full-featured commercial hosting service with high bandwidth, and I don't even use that ISP's slow dial-up service any more since I had to go to another ISP to get a high-speed DSL connection at my location. (Because I changed all the internal links to point to pages on my other commercial site, the bandwidth for my home page site stays low enough to not incur those outrageous extra fees. I only pay for bandwidth when someone comes into that home page site, for as soon as they click on any link on that page they are taken out of that site and over to my commercial site which has low bandwidth fees of about $4 for each extra 5 Gigabytes per month.)

I keep paying my original ISP only to keep my original web site hosted at the same URL (which is theirs, not mine, because I'd lose the URL and the traffic if I moved my old site to another host). And I do this only because of the many incoming links and good search engine listings. In effect, I am now paying for TWO hosting services when I could have been paying for just one.

To their credit, in 2002 my original ISP upgraded their old servers; but that move caused me some troubles too, and wasted my time when things didn't keep working the way they had before. Suddenly there was a limit on the number of pages you could have on your site. And since I already had "too many" pages, the system would trash any pages I tried to modify - so I couldn't upload any more updates to my site's pages, or the pages would disappear completely!

I ended up having to pay $5 extra per month for the extra disk space before I could change any of the existing pages, and it still took a week before the change took effect and I could update my pages. When some of those pages were "daily" horoscopes that had to be updated every day, this was not good for business!

The True Cost of "Free"

What did it "cost" me to start my web business with a "home-page" account, that bit of web server space that seemed "free" because I had to pay the ISP for my Internet connection and email service anyway?

I have not had any significant "down time" with any of the commercial servers I have used for my sites, but that 2 day down-time on my first "home page" site set me back a whole year - because it took me that long to get back to the same number of visitors per day I had before their servers went offline for 2 days.

Since number of sales is usually proportional to number of visitors, who knows how much income I lost when their unreliable servers lost me about 1000 of my former 3000 visitors per day? It might have been as much as one third of my income! And by then I was "living" on the income from my web site. How does a 33% decrease in your paycheck sound to you? Is that something you would want to avoid?

Web Business 101 for Dummies - And Why You Don't Want to Be One

In 1996 I was a "newbie", and in retrospect I would also have to admit I was a bit of a "dummy" to think that not investing in my web business would help me be successful in my web business.

As it turned out, after much hard work and perseverance, my web business is pretty successful now - but it got more successful a lot faster after 1999 when I learned from my mistake and got smarter. I started to invest my time and money more wisely.

I hope you can learn from my mistakes and be successful in your web business - with less time and effort, and with less of the losses that can avoided with a little extra knowledge and a little extra money.

What if I could have avoided that big loss of web site traffic? What if I didn't drop back to 2000 visitors per day from 3000? What level of traffic and income would I have now, a few years later?

If I had just 1000 more visitors per day now, I would be making about $2 more per day from the CPM advertising alone. Just considering the lost advertising income, not even the lost sales of my own services, that means I may still be making $60 per month less as a result of that "home page" disaster. That's US $720 per year, perhaps for many years. The lost sales would be much more than that.

Mistakes like that can be costly. It would have cost less to pay for an annual domain name registration and a reliable commercial hosting service at the beginning of my business. I could have bought what I needed for about $135 per year back then.

Better to spend $8 to $15 per year for a domain name and $10-$20 per month for a reliable commercial web hosting solution now, than to keep losing even more money later!

Now you can see why I say, Don't try to run your business on a "free" site or on a "personal home page" account with your ISP. It may cost you much more than you bargained for!

- ©2003-2005 by Michael Star,   Publisher of www.AstrologyZine.com and www.IWouldBuy.com

The best way to quickly and easily start and run a successful business on the Web is a unique "everything included" and "already proven to work" system called Site Build-It!. It's not free, but when compared to what I have been paying separately for domain registration and web hosting and the essential tools I need to run my Web business, it looks like the many other useful services and time-saving tools that are included with a Site Build-It! Web site are being offered as a "free" bonus. You can read all about this proven business-building system in my review called Build a Web Site That Sells!

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©2003-2004 Michael Star