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Byethost Free Webhosting review

Unlimited hosting, for free? Really?

Byethost

Our Verdict

Byethost scores in some areas – primarily with its Softaculous auto-installer, and email support – but unprofessional elements like the broken site builder make it difficult to recommend.

For

  • Softaculous auto-installs WordPress and 400+ other apps
  • Get up to 5 email accounts with your site
  • Relatively speedy email support
  • No fixed disk space or bandwidth limits

Against

  • Self-signed SSL certificates only
  • Broken site builder
  • Poorly maintained website

Opting for free web hosting often means accepting a lengthy list of restrictions, but the Byethost website makes the service sound better than some commercial products.

The company boasts about its unlimited disk space, data transfer and MySQL databases, for instance. The excellent Softaculous platform gives you automatic installation of WordPress and 330+ other popular web applications, and there's a free website builder (with platforms) if you need it.

Amazing! But, unfortunately, this isn't as good as it seems at first glance. Although the 'free hosting' web page claims it offers unlimited space, for instance, other pages seem to suggest otherwise. When we asked Support, they told us there was an 'acceptable usage limit of 5GB.'

Unlimited bandwidth? Although there's no fixed amount, look closely on the website and Byethost's control panel and you'll find your website is limited to 50,000 hits a day. A 'hit' is a single file, so if your web pages refer to ten files on average (images, CSS or scripts), that translates to a maximum 5,000 page views a day. That's a lot for a small site, but it's not 'unlimited.'

And that website builder? Don't get your hopes up (more on that later).

There are other limits elsewhere, although they're less of a surprise: you're restricted to one FTP account and five email addresses, and you can't upload files larger than 10MB.

The service does give you free SSL certificates, but they're self-signed, which means visitors will see security warnings until they explicitly trust your site. That might work for a site you'll use with friends and family, but it won't impress anyone else.

Byethost does at least give you access to the key hosting technologies and tools you'd expect: PHP 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 7.0, and phpMyAdmin; DNS management for CNAME, SFP and MX records; FTP access; email accounts, custom forwarders, web mail, cron jobs, redirects, custom error pages, and more.

By default, your site will be a subdomain of byethost32.com (mysite.byethost32.com), but there are plenty of other domains to choose from: iblogger.org, is-best.net, my-board.org, mydiscussion.net, synergize.co and more.

Paid hosting plans lift the restrictions of the free products, and are available from $4.99 a month.

Byethost

(Image credit: Byethost)

Setup

Creating your free Byethost website starts at the official signup page. A few oddities caught our eye – why does this have a 'News' URL (https://byet.host/free-hosting/news), why does it recommend you complete it with Firefox? – but it's otherwise straightforward. Choose your subdomain, password and site type (personal, business), hand over your email address, complete a Captcha and submit the form.

We created a test account, and the site redirected our browser to a URL on an entirely different domain, ifastnet.com, Byethost's parent company. That looks a little odd, especially as the page is plain text, with absolutely no reference to Byethost. The poor impression was confirmed by the outdated instructions on how to whitelist email addresses, as they covered Yahoo, Hotmail, MSN, and AOL 7.0 and 8.0, released way back in October 2002.

Whatever our concerns with how the signup process looks, it appeared to work well, presenting us with a 'confirm your email address' link. After clicking, a Welcome email arrived with our control panel, FTP account and MySQL credentials and URLs. But although we successfully used these details to log into our account, we noticed problems elsewhere.

The email gives you a plain HTTP link to the control panel, for instance. Follow that and you'll be giving away your login details in plain text. Your browser should warn you about that, but we would expect a hosting provider to avoid this kind of mistake.

The email pointed us to a working knowledgebase to handle any questions, and also mentioned a tutorials page. But this is another plain text web page, again on an iFastNet domain, which claims to have 'tutorials from SecureSignup.net' (which hasn't existed in years). It also has an HTTP URL, this time because it apparently doesn't have an SSL certificate (hardly encouraging for a web host).

Worst of all, when we clicked the various tutorial links, we found they led to 'this site cannot be reached' errors, as they all pointed at a SecureSignup.net domain which no longer exists.

So to sum up here: poor configuration, broken functionality, and an apparent lack of maintenance going back years. Not the best of starts.

Byethost

(Image credit: Byethost)

Creating a website

Byethost users manage their hosting through VistaPanel, which the company says is a 'specially designed control panel.' Sounds good, but the reality is a bit disappointing, and it is little more than regular cPanel with a custom skin and a slightly different selection of tools (it uses Monsta as the file manager, for instance).

If you're familiar with cPanel (and maybe if you're not), uploading a static site to your web space is easy enough. We opened the file manager, followed the prompts to choose our root folder and dragged and dropped our files. They were uploaded within seconds, and the site was instantly active.

Byethost's site also offers a website builder, but this was much less successful. The problems started with an insecure HTTP-only page, and continued with a poorly displayed set of templates. These appear in blocks of six, with no option to filter by site type (personal, business, blog and so on), forcing you to keep clicking 'Load more themes' to work through the list.

Byethost

(Image credit: Byethost)

Each template has a 'Live Demo' button, but clicking this displays an error message 'Oops! Demo configuration is not setup.' Well, thanks.

Clicking Continue prompts for your domain name and FTP credentials, in order to upload the site. That makes sense, but it's insecure, as your login is being sent over an HTTP connection.

We tried to continue, anyway, but an error message told us 'Oops! We can't install a website to this server.'

Fortunately, Softaculous is on hand, allowing you to set up WordPress, PrestaShop, Joomla and more, with the absolute minimum of hassle. At least, that's what normally happens. This time, we found Softaculous successfully installed WordPress, but for some reason its theme didn't display properly on our test site (there were no images or colors, just plain text).

Dotcom-Monitor

(Image credit: Dotcom-Monitor)

Performance

Good support is a vital element in web hosting, especially when your service is as flaky as Byethost. But, in our experience, it's not something you'll generally get from a free service.

We raised a support ticket anyway (there's no live chat), reporting our website builder problems and asking for advice.

The good news is that we had a response in under an hour, beating the service you'll see from some commercial providers.

But the reply was a little disappointing, as it ignored the issues we'd raised, and instead advised us to 'Please use Softaculous in your cPanel to build a site that is much better than site builder.' That may be decent advice, but it also suggests to us that the Support team knows the website builder is broken, and even though it's advertised on the Byethost site, there's no way it'll be fixed any time soon.

Free web hosting is never going to offer the best speeds, but it can deliver better performance than you might expect, and we run our test sites past multiple monitoring and benchmarking tools to see how good they really are.

Uptime.com automatically checked our Byethost server over time. Typical response times were good at around 200ms, although these occasionally reached 500ms, presumably due to temporary network issues, or, perhaps, an overloaded server.

Dotcom-tools website speed test simulated loading our site from 16 locations across the US and Europe. Load times were a little slower than usual, peaking at around 1.3 to 1.4 seconds. That's 50% slower than many competitors.

There was better news with our final test, when Bitcatcha's website speed checker tested our website speed from 10 global locations and rated it A+ for 'exceptionally quick.'

Our own subjective experience wasn't as positive, and we would rank Byethost as a mid-range performer at best. It's good enough for simple tasks, though, and if you're interested in Byethost, it's well worth creating a simple site and trying it out for yourself.

Final verdict

Byethost has an impressive sounding feature list, but there are lots of catches (the bandwidth and disk space aren't as 'unlimited' as the website claims), and the broken site builder is a concern. This web host might be worth a try if you need its specific features, but beginners should look elsewhere.