Tightwad Marketing

Reviews of free and cheap domain name registration and website hosts

John Kuraoka, a project of www.kuraoka.com


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My reviews are independent and unaffiliated. I make no money off these links. In most cases, I have used the services of the companies reviewed, or I have first-hand reports from people I trust. When you click on each link, a new window will open. You can close the new window to get back here.

Quick finder:
Cheap domain name registration
“Free” website hosts
Free and cheap website hosts

Cheap domain name registration (by price)
GKG.net: This company, based in College Station, Texas, offers .com, .net, and .org domain name registrations for $9-$12/year depending on how long a term you pre-pay. Domain name transfers are $8 and include a one-year registration renewal. The online management system includes DNS. Support is exceptionally good. Website hosting starts at $3.39/month (see hosting section below).
Go Daddy Software: This company, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, offers .com domain name registrations for $12.99/year. Other top-level domains (including .net, .org, .biz, .us, and .co) are available at various discounted prices. Domain name transfers are $7.99 and include a one-year registration renewal/extension. With your domain name you get a free single-page site, DNS, and domain name forwarding. Support is available via email and phone. Website hosting starts at $3.49/mo if you pre-pay for a year; it includes a free one-year domain name registration and email (see hosting section below).
eNameCo/Dotster: This Houston, Texas-based company offers .com, .net, .org, .biz, and .info domain name registrations for $14.99/year, a discount from the $17.49 renewal rate. Transfers are $8.29/year. Registration includes free URL forwarding.
DotEasy: This company, based in Burnaby, British Columbia (Canada), offers .com, .net, and .org domain name registrations for $15/year in US Dollars, with no apparent discounts for longer terms. What’s cool, is that registration includes a comprehensive DNS controls, free URL forwarding, domain lock, and privacy. Website hosting starts at $1.95/mo (see hosting section below).
DollarHost: This company, also based in Burnaby, British Columbia (Canada), seems to be a sister company to DotEasy. It offers .com, .net, and .org domain name registrations for $25/year in US Dollars. Longer terms are cheaper; if you register for ten years the cost drops to $20/year ($200 for ten years). URL forwarding is $10 to set up, with no monthly fee. Website hosting starts at $6.95/month.
Network Solutions: This registrar, one of the first, became VeriSign and then went back to being Network Solutions. Yes, it’s a full-price domain name registrar with fewer bells and whistles than most, but this Mountain View, California-based company is rock solid. They also finally made their pricing page more-obvious. The base price is $34.99/year for domain registration with discounts for longer terms. Currently Network Solutions offers a teaster rate of $9.99 for the first year. Support is generally superb.
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“Free” website hosts
There are a few important caveats to going with a “free” website host for your business websites. First, having ads for other companies popping up on your website is less-than-professional and may even provide an advertising channel for local competitors. Second, “free” website hosts are placing ever-tighter restrictions on free use, particularly on business and commercial users. The changes, catches, and caveats are often not worth the trade-off. Third, these hosts seem to come and go, which could leave your business suddenly and unexpectedly without a website. Fourth, most require you to use a proprietary site-building system, which both ties you to the host and limits what you can do.

All that said, “free” hosts offer some important benefits too. Most offer easy-to-use site-building features and one-click uploading to the web. They often have an extensive library of templates, scripts, and plug-ins. They are ideal for trial balloons, adjunct websites, internal sites, and businesses seeking maximum convenience in their web host. Be aware that website design templates and “free” images are all copyrighted works; if you use them, you won’t be able to move your site intact if you change hosts.

My recommendations for small business: Of the countless “free” web hosts that have come and gone, there are a few worthwhile survivors.
Google Sites: You can get up to 100 MB of ad-free webspace for free with your Google registration, along with a traffic allowance of 1 GB/mo. Your URL will be sites.google.com/sites/whatever (you don’t have to use your Gmail name, and you can create multiple sites with a single Google account). Users can upload templates for use, so the designs are variable in quality. A moderate level of customization is possible, but, like the others, you’re bound to a proprietary web-based design and uploading system. The big plus to using Google Sites, is that your site is connected to Google, which means it’s almost instantly indexed by Google. Privacy and page access controls are unusually good, but that also means you need to make sure your site is “Public on the web,” otherwise it could stay private. Google Sites has been stable, but it should be noted that before Google Sites there was Google Pages, which grew to host over three million websites before being shut down and transitioned to the current Google Sites service. Google Sites is based in Mountain View, California.
WordPress: The biggest player in “free” hosting is WordPress, which started as a blogging platform but now many businesses use it to host their websites because it’s easy to use, popular, and relatively stable. It claims to “Power 23% of the Internet.” (Yeah, unfortunately most of it is dreck.) You get 3 GB of webspace, along with unlimited bandwidth, but you also get ads embedded into your website. There are extensive site-building tools and customization options, and a cottage industry has sprung up in the field of custom-designed WordPress themes (all of which feel vaguely similar because of the blog-based WordPress format). Your WordPress account can be easily linked to your social media accounts, helping you leverage your entire web presence. Your URL will be yoursitename.wordpress.com. $99/year buys you your own domain name, 13 GB of space, the ability to upload videos, and, notably, no ads. WordPress is a service of Automattic, a web development company based in San Francisco, California.
Tripod: This age-old “free” web host offers 20 MB of webspace for free, along with a traffic allowance of 1 GB/mo, but you’re limited to one five-page website. You also get site-building tools and templates. Years and years ago, I used Tripod’s free service to host the website for a club I belong to, until the pop-up ads got a little too specific for comfort. Free sites have a “Hosted by Tripod.com” frame with a banner ad at the top of the page, plus one pop-up ad that can be closed. As your site popularity increases, the ads become increasingly targeted and eventually may feature competitors. You can use Tripod’s templates and stock images for free; paid members can design pages in HTML and upload via FTP. Your URL will be membername.tripod.com. Unlike its sister hosting service Angelfire, Tripod has a long history of stability in partnership with Lycos. You can eliminate the ads and five-page limit, and get 1 GB of webspace plus 100 GB/mo traffic allowance and full FTP access for up to five websites by stepping up to Tripod Personal for $5.95/mo. Tripod is based in Waltham, Massachusetts.
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Free and cheap website hosts (sorted roughly by first-year cost)
These website hosts are supported directly - that is, one way or another you pay them yourself. For most businesses, this is the section for you. Not only are the hosts here cheaper than the ad-supported hosts once you pay to get rid of the ads, but in most cases they are also less restrictive of business use. In most cases, these website hosts are more commercial in nature, with fewer bells and whistles. In most cases, you are your own dot-whatever. An important note: there are lots of free and cheap business website offers from hosting companies based in places like Malaysia. Although I’m sure most of them are stable and safe, I’ve yet to find an offshore web host with clearly posted Terms of Service. That’s why I’ve never used them, and why I don’t recommend that you do so either.

Your own ISP: Your Internet Service Provider, phone company, or digital television provider may offer web space for free (or, more-accurately, as part of what you’re paying for every month), and this should be the first place you look. Be prepared to do some digging, though - after all, why would they want you actually using all the service you’re allotted? Also, it’s a benefit that could disappear; in 2011, for instance, one of the nation’s largest triple-play interconnects, Cox Communications, eliminated its “Personal Webspace” benefit. When you uncover them, most offer between 5 MB and 25 MB of webspace, which is enough for several pages of text, graphics, and photos. (This entire website is less than 1 MB, and there are 1,024 KB in 1 MB. A photograph that shows up decently on a computer screen will require 200 KB or more.) Many embed a linked logo bug for the host company, and a few place ads on your site. Some prohibit commercial sites unless you’re paying for a commercial account (a fact that is buried in the fine print). In most cases, your URL will be something like “www.isp.com/members/yourname.” Here’s a sub-$20/year dot-com solution: use one of the above registrars to buy your domain name. Use URL forwarding to re-direct people to your interconnect-provided webspace.
DotEasy: This company, based in Burnaby, British Columbia (Canada), seems to be a cheaper sister company to DollarHost. DotEasy offers a Basic Hosting Plan for just $1.95/month when pre-paid annually. It includes 100 MB of disk space, a relatively low 1 GB/month data transfer allowance (traffic), 10 email addresses, CPanel hosting control panel, and a passel of website-building tools and pre-made scripts. There are no set-up fees. While 100 MB may seem small, this entire website is less than 1 MB in size, so it’s really quite appropriate for many small busineses. DotEasy also offers an Unlimited Plan that offers unlimited domains, webspace, and traffic for a first-year teaser rate of $3.98/month, which renews at $9.95/month when paid annually. Pay for a three-year term, and the monthly rate drops to $7.95. I have used DotEasy to host dozens of websites over the years. DotEasy offers .com, .net, and .org domain registration for $15/year in US Dollars. Note: if you pay with the American Express card, your bill will fluctuate slightly with the value of the Canadian Dollar. Support is via web-based library, email, and, at certain times, live chat. I have used DotEasy’s support, and found most of my issues were resolved within 12 hours, which is outstanding for email support.
GKG.net: This company, based in College Station, Texas, offers website hosting starting at $3.39/mo for the cheapest “Personal” package, which includes 5 GB of webspace and 500 email accounts, with 250 GB monthly transfer limit. URL registration is $9-$12/year depending on TLD and term length. Reliability is predicted to be good. Support is exceptionally good, with real people at the other end of a toll-free number.
Go Daddy Software: This company, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, offers an “Economy” hosting package with 100 GB disk space and unlimited bandwidth for $3.45/month when paid annually and it includes the first year domain registration. The next step is $4.49 (paid annually) for unlimited websites, storage, and bandwidth, with 500 email addresses and the first year domain registration. Reports I have on Go Daddy from business associates with professional experience developing websites are generally positive.
HostGator: This company, based in Houston, Texas, offers a “Hatchling” hosting package with unlimited disk space and bandwidth for $5.56/month when paid annually; pay for three years and the price drops to $3.96/month. I use HostGator to host a very large personal website; the service has been first-rate. They even moved all the files from the old host and set everything up! If you have more than a single domain, it might pay to look at the “Baby” plan at $7.96/month for a year ($5.36/month for three years). It allows hosting for an unlimited humber of domains. Note that the domain name registration is not included. Domain registration through HostGator runs $12.95/year with no multi-year discounts. Included with the registration is domain locking, which helps prevent the hijacking of your URL. Support is via toll-free number, email, extensive FAQs, and, at limited times, live chat.
InfoQuest: Not cheap, but this is my own business web host. I’ve used them for over 15 years. InfoQuest has a few smaller plans, starting at $4.95/month for 1 GB of web space and 200 GB of transfers per month. It costs about $10/month for 2 GB of webspace and a traffic allowance of 300 GB/month. Note that this web hosting package does not include domain name registration in the package; if you register through Networks Solutions most TLDs run $15.95/year. It’s one of the pricier options, but the site has almost never been down, and 24-hour support via a toll-free number is courteous and exceptionally competent. It’s that last bit of reliability and personal service that costs you the money, but if you need it this website host is top-notch. InfoQuest is based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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