Magento is a resource-intensive platform. It is primarily used to support the operations of an ecommerce business, making it a workhorse rather than a show pony whose only purpose is its looks. If you wanted to host a small blog with some static content, you might be able to get away with a free hosting plan. But when it comes to running an ecommerce store, free hosting won’t cut it. Just as a quality product requires quality components, running a high-performance website will need high-performance hosting. The idea of using a free hosting plan might be tempting, but if you are planning to run a website to generate sales and profits, you’re already moving in the wrong direction.
There are some hosts who offer Magento hosting plans for free. However, opting for such plans might leave you frustrated with a store that’s incapable of supporting live traffic. As the famous adage goes, “There is no such thing as a free lunch,” the same is true for free Magento hosting. Magento is a platform designed for performance and scalability; however, a Magento store hosted for free will never scratch the surface of its true potential.
Magento system requirements
Not that it’s necessary to spend your money on servers with insane specs, but a quick look at Magento’s system requirements will help you understand the basic infrastructure necessary to host it. Magento itself requires a minimum of 2GB of RAM to operate and upgrade. Add another couple of gigabytes of memory for additional resources like Nginx, PHP, MySQL, and Composer. That’s a minimum of 4GB worth of memory alone. If you choose to add other services like Elasticsearch, Varnish for full-page cache, and Redis for session cache, you’re looking at another 2–4GB worth of additional RAM required. And it doesn’t end there.
Moving beyond its memory requirements, you will need to account for things like storage, bandwidth for data transfer, and a CPU as well. While you might think that storage comes cheap, supporting web applications with high demands like a Magento store will require an SSD (solid-state drive). The traditional HDD (hard disk drive) doesn’t have the high-speed performance capabilities needed to read and write data the way an SSD does.
A quick Google search for costs of individual components like memory, storage, CPU, etc., will help you realize how much a dedicated setup would cost on average. Even if you were to purchase them in bulk, on a larger scale, split the system requirements across multiple stores, and try to justify it applying economies of scale, the number still wouldn’t come close to being free. That begs the question, how are businesses still offering free Magento hosting?
Free and paid hosting plans
In many cases, websites offering free hosting are owned and operated by larger companies that provide paid Magento hosting. They use these free hosting plans to help those new to the industry to get started using their free option. However, most free plans offer the least amount of resources required to run a store. After all, their goal is to help new users get a glimpse of the platform. With little memory and processing power, a store would be operational, but incapable of supporting live traffic or ranking high on Google.
Opting for free hosting plans is the first step an individual usually takes towards purchasing paid hosting. If someone wishing to build a Magento store can build one on a free plan, they’re more likely to buy a paid plan after that to keep the store operational and potentially make sales. Trying to capitalize on this, many hosting companies offer such gateway plans to entice newbies unfamiliar with the platform. It is not advisable or even sustainable to run a proper Magento store on a free plan. Doing so is more likely to hurt a business than help it. As with anything that comes for free, it’s well open to exploitation.
Many spammers use free servers to build fake stores or to create mail servers to send out spam emails before abandoning them and moving on to more free servers to rinse and repeat. If you build a store on a blacklisted server, there’s a good chance any emails or newsletters sent from your store will end up in your customer’s spam folder. As for ranking high on SERPs, you can say goodbye to that as well. The worst-case scenario would be ending up blacklisted by Google and not showing up in search results ultimately. Using a shared server through a budget-friendly paid plan is still preferable when you’re cash strapped. A good Magento hosting plan will never come free.