2007 has seen the explosion of free hosting accounts available. No cost hosting has in the past, been extremely limited. It was suited only for personal web pages or posting club notices. That has changed. Some of these free accounts offer massive storage, support for scripts and more than enough bandwidth. A commerce website can indeed, operate on a free service.

The question is, what type of website should consider free hosting?

Commerce websites that run a checkout process require a shopping cart script to be installed. Any no cost account using cPanel with Fantastico or even Vistapanel, have the ability to install this script in only a few clicks. Most free hosting requires a banner ad either at the top, the bottom or both, of every page they host for you. A slight majority of these hosting providers only allow a sub-domain of theirs, however there are now many that allow the use of one's own domain.

Any website thats sells a product should have it's own domain name and should have no other competing advertisements on the page. Free accounts without any forced banners are available for this type of site. One should exercise caution when using this type, however.

Setting up servers to host websites has become very affordable. Hard drives cost pennies per megabyte, and the machines cost mere thousands instead of tens of thousands. The primary ongoing costs of running such a service are connection fees and customer support staff.

Hosting free websites alongside paid hosting accounts does not cost the hosting company any significant additional costs. That is, if they don't provide tech support for the free hosting, which is the case for most of the no cost hosting available.

But why offer it at all?

There are basically three main types of free hosting offered; Free account with upgrades to paid hosting offered, standalone free account supported by banner advertisement, and standalone free account with no apparent monetization.

Paid hosting companies commonly offer small or feature limited free accounts in the hopes that as the website owners business or popularity grows, that it will make sense to upgrade to paid hosting without having to re-upload the whole site. New features and storage are activated and now the hosting company can turn a profit.

Free hosting with banner ads, simply make money from advertising revenue generated by the forced ads. Some of these services do not allow the use of an external domain, instead forcing the website to advertise the hosting service in their URL. Top banners are considered very unprofessional and even information websites avoid these, thus forcing most ad supported providers to convert to bottom banner only. These types of no cost hosting accounts have proven to have a viable business model and can usually be trusted to stay in business long enough for the website to establish itself then go elsewhere.

The newest of the free hosting services, is the no ads, feature rich plans. These hosting plans are very popular, with most of the benefits of paid hosting, without having to pay anything. This sounds great, but no company stays in business without income. These plans may have you agree to accept email offers, or sell your information. With the best marketing operations on the Internet achieving only 1% conversion on average using email, it is unlikely these accounts will be able to generate enough sales from customers needing no cost hosting, to offset their expenses.

There is no doubt in this authors mind, that next year will see the collapse or hundreds of these no fee hosting companies. The ones that survive, will be those that are now offering enough to be popular, and have their business model properly monetized to be cash flow positive without relying on hope.

If money is tight, free hosting is a good way to get started with your online presence, until you build up your popularity. It is best to avoid built in site builders. Instead download and learn one of the free page builders like Mozilla Composer or NVU. This way, you will always have an offline copy of your website, ready to upload somewhere else, should your free host disappear one day.