Mailbag: Free Web hosting
Q: Of the places you mention in your book Webcomics Handbook, which is the best place to be hosted and would it be bad to post a comic on all 5 places?
(WordPress.com, Comicfury.com, Smackjeeves.com, Comicgenesis.com, Drunkduck.com)
I apologize if this is a stupid question, but I’m really lost and am spinning my wheels on the issue of Free Hosting and where it should be or should I strike out on my own someplace somehow. Although I’m not good with computers so Free Hosting is pretty much my only choice.
A. OK, first off, you should definitely not put the comic on several different severs. That would cause more problems than the extra exposure would create. It would be extremely difficult to keep up with the maintenence of several different sites, and you’d be diluting your fan base so much that it would be very tough to direct them all to a central location when you finally do decide to take your comic to the next level.
So… one site on one host.
Like the Webcomics Handbook explains, you have three choices: Free, shared and dedicated hosting.
Free hosting is exactly that: You receive hosting and a content-management system (CMS) in exchange for letting the host run ads on your site. In some cases you can get a portion of the ad revenue your work generates, and in some cases you cannot.
Shared hosting is when a company offers you a portion of their server along with other Web sites. You don’t have the full service of a dedicated server, but then again, if you’re not generating monster traffic, that’s not an issue. The costs are lower because the server expenses are “shared” among several users. You don’t have a pre-installed CMS, but installing one (like WordPress) is typically a one-click install.
Dedicated hosting means your site gets an entire server all to itself. If your work is generating a ton of traffic, you’re going to require a dedicated host. It costs more, but it’s scalable and you don’t have to worry about site outages. You don’t have a pre-loaded CMS, but at this level, you wouldn’t accept one if it were offered. Monetizing a serious site like this is going to require a higher level of control over your site.
Personally, I’m not a fan of free-hosting services
I gotta tell you, I can’t encourage you strongly enough to avoid free hosting. I’d rather see you secure your own URL (easy-peasey) and pay for shared hosting. Here’s why:
- It’s cheap. I use DreamHost for some of my secondary sites, and it’s about $10/month.
- Good URLs are getting harder and harder to secure. It’s better to cross that bridge now rather than find out later that there’s just no good URL for your comic anymore.
- Your host says something about you. I know it’s unfair, but when someone gives me a Drunk Duck URL, I instantly categorize the comic as amateur. Same with the other free hosts.
- Now is the perfect time to spent the time learning about a WordPress CMS. The stakes are low. If you screw up, you’re not really losing a lot in terms of traffic and audience traction. This is experience talking. I worked on proprietary systems for over ten years before switching to a WordPress CMS. It’s been a baptism in fire, and my mistakes cost way more than they would have ten years ago.
If you had to go with free hosting…
I can’t believe this is coming out of my keyboard, but you know what… if I had to find a free hosting solution, it would be Tumblr. But I’d go in with my eyes open. On one hand, its social-media promotion functionality is pretty amazing. However, on the other hand, it’s a fantastic way to share content without attribute — and that isn’t always the greatest with us content-creators.
But you can point your domain to your Tumblr page and you can run ads on it. That means that you can keep any traffic that develops towards your main page (although I would imagine your links to archive pages would be borked if you moved to a different CMS). And that also means you can begin to generate ad revenue.
But, honestly… long before I’d go down that road, I’d skip a couple coffees a month and put that money into shared hosting.