For many folks just entering the online adult entertainment business, using a free Web hosting service makes a lot of sense: Not only can you get your feet wet without incurring any real expense, you can (hopefully) start to make money with little risk.
Even more seasoned players can benefit from the advantages of free hosts, by using them to try out or leverage new bulk traffic sources like TGPs and the more popular link lists without worrying about the incredibly high cost or site-stalling effects that a sudden and massive bandwidth spike can cause.
A Brief Introduction
Free hosts are able to offer hosting for "free" because they are (hopefully) experts at dealing with low quality traffic, such as "404" and "blind link" traffic from TGPs. The smart free hosts realize that the majority of their users are novices with little or no idea of what they're doing, and the ones who do know what they're doing are hammering the free host with high-bandwidth applications, and they tailor their services to make a profit in this environment.
Placing banners at the top and bottom of all your Web pages is the most visible way in which free hosts profit, with the aforementioned 404 redirects often accounting for a nice chunk as well. Sadly, some of the less honest free hosts will redirect more than just your 404 traffic, and do other abusive things that quickly get them banned from some of the better TGPs. You can in fact look for banned free host lists on TGPs to see who doesn't make the grade, and use that information to help guide your choice of service.
You can also learn a lot by studying established free hosts: they often employ a staff of people who do nothing but tweak the headers and footers that the free host places on your pages for minimum bandwidth consumption and maximum effectiveness. Learning from them without directly copying them can pay off.
Free Hosts Today
While it's my own personal impression that free hosts are not as popular today as they once were, some of the older names are still around, while some newer players have emerged. As a quick side note, much of the activity in the free host arena you may encounter these days comes from sponsors who offer hosting to their affiliates.
These sponsor specific free hosts will usually limit you to promoting only their program on their servers (a reasonable stipulation), but will also usually not include headers, footers, or other redirects that bleed your traffic – although you will still likely be kissing your 404's goodbye – making them a good bet for hosting pages dedicated to promoting that particular sponsor.
One of the new generation free hosts that has caught my attention is Porn Host. While I have set up an account with them and been quite pleased with their "paid host" level of offerings, I have yet to give them a real workout – a situation that I hope to change once I get my new copy of Chameleon Submitter revved up!
In exchange for unlimited, premium-bandwidth free hosting that is TGP compliant with zero traffic redirects, Porn Host offers free domain hosting, unlimited disk space, FTP or File Manager uploads – and for proven players, mySQL, PHP, CGI, scripts and e-mail – all for the "cost" of a text link at each top and bottom corner of your Web pages. This seems like a more than generous deal worth pursuing!
While free hosting isn't for everyone, or every application, it can be the perfect learning tool, as well as a valuable enhancement to your current paid hosting account. As I begin to work more with TGPs using both Porn Host's free hosting as well as my regular hosting, I'll revisit this topic again. In the meantime, if you're just starting out, or simply starting something new, give free hosting a try – you've little to lose, and much to gain! ~ Stephen