These days, if you are using a static site generation framework, such as Jekyll or Octopress, there are several very good web hosts that are willing to host your website for free. The most well known among them are: GitHub Pages, Firebase Hosting, and Netlify. Using one of them is in your best interests. But, which one? Well, this article tries to answer that for you.
First, let’s list some of the pros and cons of each of them.
- Very familiar interface if you are already using GitHub for your projects.
- Easy to setup. Just push your static website to the
gh-pages branch and your website is ready.
- Supports Jekyll out of the box.
- Supports custom domains. Just add a file called
CNAME to the root of your site, add an
A record in the site’s DNS configuration, and you are done.
- The code of your website will be public, unless you pay for a private repository.
- Currently, there is no support for HTTPS for custom domains. It’s probably coming soon though.
- Although Jekyll is supported, plug-in support is rather spotty.
The following pros and cons are for the Spark plan, which is currently free.
- Hosted by Google. Enough said.
- Authentication, Cloud Messaging, and a whole lot of other handy services will be available to you.
- A real-time database will be available to you, which can store 1 GB of data.
- You’ll also have access to a blob store, which can store another 1 GB of data.
- Support for HTTPS. A free certificate will be provisioned for your custom domain within 24 hours.
- Only 10 GB of data transfer is allowed per month. But this is not really a big problem, if you use a CDN or AMP.
- Command-line interface only.
- No in-built support for any static site generator.
- Creating a new website is as easy as pressing a single button.
- Extremely easy and intuitive user interface. Both web-based and command-line interfaces are available. You can upload your website to Netlify by simply dragging and dropping the folder containing all its files. If you prefer using the terminal, the
netlify deploy command is all you need.
- Supports custom domains, and can automatically manage the DNS configuration for you.
- Supports HTTPS. Adding HTTPs is again as easy as pressing one button. It automatically generates and assigns a Let’s Encrypt certificate for you.
- Support for almost all the popular static site generators.
- Can pull updates from GitHub and GitLab automatically.
- None I can think of. It is relatively less well known, but I wouldn’t hold that against it.
In my opinion, Netlify is the best option available today. It has pretty much everything you’ll ever need from a static website host. Unlike Firebase Hosting, it has very generous bandwidth quotas. Unlike GitHub Pages, it supports HTTPS for custom domains.
By the way, using HTTPS is becoming very important these days. If your website doesn’t use HTTPS, it will be ranked poorly by Google. Browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome will also show a scary Not Secure label while displaying it. That means, for now, using GitHub Pages is simply not an option.
There is another host you could use. It’s called GitLab Pages. It has all the features that GitHub Pages has, but none of the short comings. In other words, it supports HTTPS for custom domains and offers free private repositories. Currently, however, you are expected to create and manage your SSL certificates yourself. That’s not a big problem because Let’s Encrypt certificates are quite easy to work with.
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