If you're looking to get your feet wet in the world of virtual machines, then a free virtual private server (VPS) hosting provider may sound like a good choice for you. Ideally, a free VPS would work the same as a paid VPS—a single physical server runs multiple virtual servers, one of which is yours.
Customers have complete control over the VPS from the operating system up and can install almost any software that run on that OS. While VPSs running on the same physical server are isolated from one another, it is possible for the workload on one to affect the performance on the other.
The bottom line, however, is that while free is an attractive price, the free levels of many services are more suited towards proof of concept (or simply playing around) than they are for hosting business-critical applications.
There's no such thing as a free launch
Therefore, for this story, we've focused on VPS that are free during a trial period, or that offer a money back guarantee of some sort, because you're not likely to find a truly free VPS host that provides the same speeds, feeds, support, and configuration options that a paid VPS host can supply. In almost every case, free VPS hosts have some sort of catch; for example, the service is free because after you pay for it the company provide you with tutorials that offset the full price.
Or, if you get 100 of your friends to sign up, the company may refund your setup fee. In most cases, truly free VPS offers little to no performance isolation. If the free VPS host loads up a physical server with too many virtual servers then everyone's performance goes down.
A VPS may also be free because you'll be shown ads in the web-based management console. Approach the free VPS market with heavy skepticism. We prefer to think of it as the free-trial VPS market, with a few exceptions.
One major factor that sets VPS providers apart is the competency of their technical support staff and the ways in which you can reach that staff. Search the Web to find out what other customers say about the staff at any free host before you sign up.
Make sure that the company offers multiple methods of communication, such as live chat, email, and telephone. Be aware that many free hosts offer nothing more than a simple online knowledgebase for technical support.
1&1 &1 believes you shouldn't have to pick and choose features, so it bundles many services into one comprehensive package. The cost of your domain name is included in setting up your account, and there's no limit to selecting additional domains. The company offers a 30-day no-questions-asked money back guarantee. It has seven data centers worldwide to meet the security, reliability, speed, and safety demands of your website.
Bluehost Bluehost was founded in 2003 with the goal of making a better hosting company. Built on open-source technology, it has grown to become one of the world's largest providers of cloud-based online solutions. Operating beneath the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, it has over 700 employees work to deliver the promise of the Internet.
Dreamhost DreamHost goes beyond simple hosting to provide quality customer service in a socially conscious environment. It hosts hundreds of 501(c)(3) non-profit site for free and has an aggressive charitable contribution program. Dreamhost is carbon neutral, relies on clean, renewable energy, and purchases offsets to guarantee its impact on the environment is effectively reversed (and it has the third-party certifications to prove it).
GoDaddy Claiming to be nearly as old as the Internet itself, GoDaddy "helps you kick ass in your venture." It has more than 12 million customers worldwide and more than 4,000 employees. It's the world's largest domain-name registrar and Web-hosting provider, with more than 57 million domains under management and nine data centers, including Arizona, Iowa, California, Colorado, Washington D.C., Massachusetts, and India.
HostGator HostGator is a Houston-based provider of shared, reseller, VPS, and dedicated Web hosting. Founded in 2002 in a dorm room at Florida Atlantic University, HostGator has grown from three to 12,000 servers and boasts more than 400,000 customers in more than 200 countries. Industry-leading customer service and support is at the forefront of what HostGator aims to deliver on a day-to-day basis.
InMotion Hosting InMotion Hosting is committed to offering fast, reliable and affordable open source hosting solutions with award winning support and a 90-Day money back guarantee. It offers fully redundant (N+1) climate controlled, wind-powered data centers on both coasts and uses four Tier 1 ISPs to guarantee your servers are running and accessible.
iPage iPage has been hosting business, personal, social and non-profit websites for more than 10 years, and it offers a great combination of flexibility and simplicity. As with inMotion Hosting, iPage's data centers are 100 percent wind powered. iPage pays particular attention to security and has built an extremely secure hosting environment through its pooled server structure, firewalls, database lockdowns, encryption practices, and "overzealous" sysadmin teams to prevent malware, spam, phishing, and website attacks.
IX Webhosting This global Web and VPS hosting provider started in 1999 on a server in a living room and has since grown to occupy a Tier 3 n+1 redundant datacenter. IX offers a true free trial—do anything you want for a week and pay nothing if you cancel. Stay for more than a week, and a 30 day money back guarantee is applicable.
JustHost.com JustHost prides itself on its commitment to providing cheap, reliable hosting with top-notch customer support. Free domain name registration and the ability to manage unlimited domains are complemented by free unlimited phone, chat, and email support. JustHost offers an anytime money-back guarantee—if you cancel your hosting account, it will provide you with a refund for the remainder of the term (excluding setup fees).
MyHosting.com Founded in 1997, Myhosting.com is a worldwide provider with over 50,000 Web hosting customers located in more than 170 countries. It is headquartered in Toronto and relies on Equinix and Earthlink data centers in New York City and Ontario. MyHosting.com backs its servers with a 100 percent uptime guarantee.