Best “Free” Static Web Hosting
Static web hosting specialists feature a command line interface or terminal to execute commands and integrate with code repositories and online projects. The nuts-and-bolts approach allows for continuous integration and deployments, along with high levels of automation.
We’ve long been critics of many free web hosting services, but the stripped-down nature of static hosting bodes well for budget-minded site owners. By working so seamlessly with the git command and other open-source technologies, tons of reputable free services abound for developers and communities to host simple sites that build a following of users and contributors. Here’s our list of the most popular options:
6. GitHub Pages
As the development platform of choice for more than 40 million developers, GitHub is a trusted resource for hosting and reviewing code, managing projects, and building software for both individuals and Fortune 500 organizations. The company’s static hosting service, GitHub Pages, takes code straight from a GitHub repository, optionally runs the files through a build process, and publishes a website. Configuration is simple, and updates are a simple edit and push away.
- Number of sites: One site per GitHub account, plus unlimited project websites
- Storage and bandwidth: 1GB storage and 100GB bandwidth per month (soft limits)
- Domains: Custom domain name or a github.io subdomain
- Key features: HTTPS support, built-in integration with static site generator Jekyll
- Number of sites: One website with 300 build minutes per month
- Storage and bandwidth: 100GB storage and 100GB bandwidth per month (soft limits)
- Domains: Custom domain name or a netlify.com subdomain
- Key features: Global CDN deployment, HTML forms, and instant cache invalidation
With the powerful backing and oversight of Google, Firebase gives mobile and web application developers tons of tools to move quickly online. Users can run static or dynamic sites on Google’s SSD-powered infrastructure, with built-in analytics, performance monitoring, and crash reporting tools to help site owners optimize and perfect their site. Google further expanded its static hosting footprint in 2015 by snatching up DivShot, another popular brand in the free hosting space.
- Number of sites: Multiple websites within a single Firebase project
- Storage and bandwidth: 1GB storage and 10GB bandwidth per month
- Domains: Custom domain name or subdomains on web.app and firebaseapp.com domains
- Key features: Zero-configuration SSL certificates, global CDN, A/B testing, and analytics
9. Amazon S3
Not surprisingly, another powerful name on our list is Amazon Web Services on our list. Amazon S3, the company’s object storage service offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. As with seemingly all things AWS, setup is a little complicated for first-time users, but the company includes a helpful setup guide to using Route 53 for DNS and CloudFront for content distribution. Amazon’s free tier for all these services gives users 12 months to experience enterprise-grade static hosting.
- Number of sites: One
- Storage and bandwidth: 5GB storage and up to 1GB per month of bandwidth
- Domains: Custom domain name or AWS Region-specific website endpoint
- Key features: Integrations with 175 AWS services, 99.99% uptime, unlimited scalability
Behind a mission to make cloud computing accessible to everyone, Zeit promises zero-configuration static hosting that integrates with a variety of web frameworks. By installing the command line interface, users can publish and deploy in just a few keystrokes. The platform’s automatic SSL security and smart CDN don’t require any setup, providing an all-in-one solution for static and JAMstack deployments. Premium plans add unlimited deployments and greater collaboration tools.
- Number of sites: Unlimited websites
- Storage and bandwidth: Up to 10,000 files and 20GB of bandwidth per month
- Domains: Custom domains supported or now.sh subdomain
- Key features: HTTPS support, smart CDN, continuous deployment with GitHub and GitLab
Billed as the fastest, simplest, and most affordable way to host and deploy static websites, Forge takes publishing beyond GitHub or the command line interface by including built-in Dropbox compatibility. The user-friendly platform includes a drag-and-drop interface for file syncing, as well as TurboJS and content delivery network integration to optimize page load speeds. Bandwidth restrictions make the free plan tough to stay in for the long haul, but we love that Forge comes with 24/7 support.
- Number of sites: Unlimited publishing on one project
- Storage and bandwidth: 5GB of storage and 1GB bandwidth per month
- Domains: Custom domains supported
- Key features: Hosted forms, .htaccess rewrites and redirects, plus live site previews
What is Static Web Hosting?
When the World Wide Web emerged in the early 1990s, HTML consisted of just 18 tags, or elements. Every page was static and unstyled, with web browsers simply fetching HTML files from servers and enabling users to navigate through links. As design principles and programming languages evolved, databases emerged as a way to separate a website’s content (blog posts, photo galleries, products, and the like) from the underlying designs and layouts.
Desktop applications like Adobe Dreamweaver were great for static HTML and CSS sites, but the original static website generators struggled to reasonably connect to the SQL-based relational databases in a visual, user-friendly manner. As a result, content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla gained popularity and led the tectonic online shift into interactive web design and dynamic, tailored visitor experiences.
What is the Difference Between a Static and Dynamic Website?
With static websites, each HTML file represents a complete page of a site; the web browser simply retrieves and displays the file. Dynamic websites, however, use server-side technologies (like databases and PHP) to essentially build a web page as a user’s browser accesses the various files. Basically, the browser will find several different pieces of information and then stitch them all together into one cohesive, dynamic web page.
Static sites are good for smaller websites that don’t need to update their content frequently, while large sites with hundreds or thousands of pages are much easier to maintain dynamically. For example, if you wanted to add or remove a link on your website’s footer, you would have to make the change in every HTML file that contains the footer. To update the footer on a dynamic website, you’d likely only edit one file.
Static websites are created manually, likely via coding by hand or by using a static website generator that relies on a command line interface and a text editor that formats content in Markdown. Although dynamic websites can be coded from scratch, you’re more likely to use a web-based interface that handles the programming languages and database connections for you. Drag-and-drop website builders, WordPress, and other content management and publishing systems are prime examples of dynamic site creators.
What Are The Advantages of Static Websites?
Given the user-focused design of dynamic websites and content management systems, it can be difficult to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of static vs. dynamic websites. Generally speaking, static websites are typically faster, more secure, and more affordable than dynamic alternatives. Here’s a more comprehensive list of pros:
- Faster performance
- Lower cost
- Higher reliability and scalability
- More secure
- Less time to create
- Easier for search engines to index
With all of these perks, static websites draw their strength from their sheer simplicity. The absence of databases and third-party applications removes potential security vulnerabilities, points of failure, performance hangups, expensive add-ons, and infrastructural inefficiencies.
Simplify Your Hosting Experience Even More With Static Site Generators
When it comes to getting a static website off the ground, many traditionalists and old-school programmers will simply open their favorite text editor and start coding. For many others, however, a static website generator will do the trick. Much like the best website builders that offer visual ways to design dynamic websites, static site generators work to pair your content with a design template and produce static HTML code as a result. Check out the list of top generators and frameworks, according to the experts at StaticGen:
Again, selecting a static website generator is similar to the steps taken when weighing how to choose a web host. Have a clear and detailed picture of your project’s needs and goals to inform your decision-making process. From there, you’ve essentially got two paths to choose from: do you seek out the highest number of built-in features or the stripped-down and efficient platform with a vibrant plugin marketplace?
Fortunately, many of the best static site generators are based around open-source projects and technologies. After choosing a cheap or free static web hosting plan from the list above, you’ll have numerous options to demo, try, and experiment with. Take your time to learn which types of site creation processes you value the most, whether it’s pure usability or efficient build times. Enjoy exploring the freedoms and possibilities that static site generators give you!