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More than any other decision you make about your web site, choosing a web host is going to be THE biggest one you will have to make. What we are going to do is take a quick look at some of the things you will want to check out for choosing a free web host. There are definitely other categories – like commercial sites and paid hosting sites, but the free web site hosts are popular for just starting out smaller businesses (or personal web sites). Budget of course is the main consideration.

With free web hosting you are likely going to face the obstacle of having advertising imposed on you. In other words, they have it, and you have to have it on your site. The major reason the hosting IS free in the first place is because of those ads. So, like it or lump it, you will have ads on your site. You might even be told you have to carry a banner on your pages, or even put up with those annoying, irritating pop-ups every time your site loads. Talk about a traffic killer. In addition, you may also come across those free sites that have advertising frames to one side of the site. These really mess up search engines by the way. However, all said and done, these sites are free. If that is what you want to do, make sure you choose the lesser of the evils that suits you.

If you think you might grow you site down the road, then better make sure the free host has enough space to accommodate you in the future. Most average sites use less than 5 MB of space. Now this does not cover a lot of pictures, sound clips or videos. So make sure you check that out. You do not want to be moving your site or redoing it later because you did not check what was available.

Great, you have chosen a host, and you want to get your site up there. Well whoops, guess what, you have to use their online site builder. Guess you needed to find out about that before you did your site. Two choices here, use their online site builder or go looking for a different host. Say you opt to redo your site online at the host site. Fine, it is not as stylish as you would maybe like, but it is functional. But you aren't always going to be a newbie web designer. You will want to make site changes and will need FTP access. FTP meaning file transfer protocol – the ability to upload files to a site. FTP is in the category of MUST HAVE.

Watch out for restrictions on file sizes of the types of files you can use. Nothing puts a crimp in your design plans like not being able to use more than 200 KB of space.

Next check out the free host's reliability. Are they down a lot? If so, this is not what you want for a host provider. If your site is down, you lose business – period. And you can bet the host provider isn't going to pay you lost revenue for down time. Also look speed of access. If your upload time sucks and your download times suck, this is not the place for your site.

Last but not least, see if there is CGI-BIN access/PHP. You might not even need to use it since there are so many other places on the Net you can get things like counters, forms and poll scripts in PHP – for free. But it's always nice to be prepared for the future.

Lots of questions right? It is well worth taking the time to check these things out, especially if you want a good working experience with your free web host provider.

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