Web Hosting

Free Hosts: 4 to Grow On

You're running a successful business and you're thinking about taking it online.

Maybe you want to test the waters before shelling out large sums of money to set up a Web site.

Or you're looking to save as much money as possible.

Whatever your reason, at some point you've probably considered using a free Web host.

A huge selection of free hosts exists, and you probably don't have time to research them all.

Here are four of the better-known free hosts offering services that set them apart from the crowd.

Take a Choice
Each offers virtual domain hosting, e-mail services and approximately 20 to 40 megabytes of storage space.

Each also provides online form processing abilities via FrontPage extensions or CGI.

Most require you to accept banner advertising on your site, although they offer upgrades to banner-free hosting for a fee.

These are the commonalties. How about the differences? What sets these hosts apart from each other, and why would you choose one over another?

The answer depends on your priorities.

If you're seeking beefy technical support and the opportunity to join a marketplace, your first choice should be HyperMart.

HyperMart is a good all-around host. It offers a full range of features, including CGI and FrontPage support, and many resources to help you build your online business. HyperMart offers free technical support and several site tools, such as statistical reports and e-mail services.

Set up Shop
If your priority is to set up an online shopping cart and merchant account, look closely at FreeMerchant.com, which specializes in providing shopping carts for small business merchants.

FreeMerchant.com allows users to attach free shopping cart functionality to existing Web sites. It does not require your site to host banner ads a big plus. However, its reliance on templates severely limits your ability to customize site design.

If you hold a non-U.S. domain name, Netfirms should be your first call. Netfirms can host any country-specific domain name.

The hosts mentioned above are UNIX-based. If you prefer a Windows NT environment, consider AtFreeWeb.com. Notable features include support of Active Server Pages (ASP) and FrontPage extensions.

Free Web hosts are a great introduction to hosting and a low-cost way to become accustomed to Web publishing. Once comfortable, you'll be poised to upgrade to a paid host.

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