If you’re getting started with an online business, chances are high you’re not sitting on a pile of cash. Especially in the early months or years you’ll have to make every penny count, which is why many starters get the cheapest hosting they can find, often with the idea of migrating their website to a more premium host later on.
The community is split on whether or not that’s a good idea, some experts recommend to immediately get started on one of the better hosts because you’ll end up considering it too much of a hassle to migrate your website later on.
We should note, though, that many of those “better hosts” have an affiliate program with nice commissions, which might influence the experts a tad bit.
What if there was a way to get the best of both worlds? To start on a certain host and just scale up the website with the same provider, avoiding website migrations alltogether?
That option exists if you choose to build a static website. Long story short, static websites can do anything a dynamic website can, and they even have to added convenience on being able to be hosted anywhere, even on cloud storage.
We’re not going to get into details about how to build static sites, we’re not a technical website but we did cover the available options in our dynamic vs static websites article where we also cleared some common misconceptions.
We will look into where to host our static site and, as the title of this article alluded to, there’s some good free options out there.
Yeah, you heard us right. Free, gratis, zero charge. All you’ll need to purchase is a domain name. Let’s look into some hosting providers. Reminder, this only applies to static websites.
Netlify is a well known player in the Jamstack space and the place where many developers choose to host their static website. According to Netlify, 2,500,000+ developers & business choose to use their services.
They support GIT repos to have your static site be automatically generated by them whenever you push a new commit. They also allow some handy add-ons to implement into your static website like forms, identity, security & analytics.
Netlify has a free starter tier which allows you to host unlimited websites, deploy them to their servers around the globe up to 100GB monthly bandwidth. There’s also some limitations on their additional add-ons, for example forms are limited to 100 form submissions but generally it provides you a good opportunity to get started.
You can also easily use your external domain name (sold separately) by creating one CNAME record or you can just purchase one on Netlify.
Backblaze is a traditional cloud storage provider mostly used for backups but their cloud storage can be just as easily used for hosting your static website. This company is not just a start-up, but a publicly listed company (ticker BLZE on Nasdaq), so you’re signing up for a company that will likely stay around.
While they’re not the most generous with their limitations on the free tier, their free 10GB storage and 1GB monthly download limit should be enough to get you trough the first couple of months and generate some income before having to switch to paid services. If you like the type of add-ons companies like Netlify offer you might also end up disappointed but if you don’t intend to use any of these they’d probably end up a distraction anyway.
Backblaze cloud storage is S3 compatible which means the data is hosted in buckets which can be made private (for backups etc) or public (for websites etc). Hosting a static website in a public bucket will open it up for the world to visit and allow you to link an external domain name to it.
GitHub, the largest source code host, can also host your static site on their additional service called GitHub Pages. The biggest advantage of this service is the perfect integration with GitHub repos, so if you use a SSG like Jekyll or Hugo and host your source files on GitHub, the site can easily and automatically be published on GitHub Pages.
There’s on big caveat, though, according to GitHub Pages’ TOS, commercial sites are not allowed which rules them out for running your online business site but they can be a great additional option for any of your hobby projects.
GH Pages can provide you a free github.io subdomain or you can use your own purchased domain.
Sites are limited in size to 1GB and there’s also a soft bandwidth limit of 100 GB. Apart from that, there’s virtually no limitations on the service.
Bonus option (almost free): BunnyCDN
While BunnyCDN isn’t free, it’s extremely cheap and allows for some great options for anyone getting started out, which is why we chose to add it to the list as a bonus option.
And when we say cheap, we mean ridiculously cheap, like prices starting from $0.01 per GB bandwidth. There’s a monthly minimum of $1, though, so every usage below that will get rounded up to a buck, which is just a fraction of most classic webhost, even the cheap unreliable ones.
And for your buck you’ll be getting a lot of bang, BunnyCDN has over 98 locations accross the globe and allows for both fixed storage (called Storage Zones) and fast cache (called Pull Zones). So you’ll want to host your static site on one or multiple Storage Zones while enabling the Pull Zones to deliver everything quickly (and we mean QUICK) to your visitors.
Bunny also has a dedicated service for streaming video with virtually no buffering and a cool global traffic map where you can watch the dots on the map whenever someone visits your website (we don’t recommend it when you’re just getting started, though)
If you have a dynamic website like a WordPress you can still use BunnyCDN to cache all your files in one of their 98+ data centers to speed up your website and reduce stress on your host.
The cool thing about Bunny is that it’s both a CDN and a storage provider so you can use the same service for hosting and back-ups providing a mix of the best of Netlify & Backblaze (except the free tier).
We certainly recommend checking BunnyCDN out. What do you have to lose? Literally a buck!
So, to summarize, there’s plenty of (almost) free options to pick from when you’re getting started if you go the static route. We certainly think it’s worth considering but don’t just do it for the free hosting, there’s a lot of other benefits of static hosting we covered in our dynamic vs static hosting article. Free hosting is just the cherry on top of the static pie!