The Hidden Price of Free VPS Hosting

You can't beat free. But when it comes to Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting, you might end up paying a lot more than you expected for free hosting. A free VPS sounds sounds great! You get your own little server off in the cloud somewhere for absolutely free. However, with many free things in life, there is a catch.

A low end VPS is a great thing to have. You can use it for practicing linux system administration, backup storage, hosting a little website, etc. There's a ton of stuff you can do with a simple VPS and most quality plans start at around $1.25 per month. That's less than a cup of coffee or a bus ride in most places. And in many ways it is cheaper than getting free VPS hosting.

The Catch

Free sounds great, but there is usually a catch. Why would a company pay for electricity, colocation, harddrive space, etc. and then give away free VPSs? They must be doing it because in the end they make a profit. How can a company make a profit off of free? It cannot.

That's the trick. A free VPS is going to be of such low quality that even if you do not need consistent uptime or high quality service, a free VPS will still offer such poor performance that you end up paying for service. The free VPS is a marketing lead tool. For almost all intents and purposes, the free hosting will not meet even your most basic needs. BUT, since you already have a free VPS from company X, they will often be the first ones you look to for a paid VPS service. Not only that, but since you signed up and use them for their free service, they know you are someone who might be willing to pay a bit for a cheap VPS down the line. They have your information and they can market to you. You are a sales lead.

It is a conflict of interest to offer a usable free product when the company actually wants you to buy the same product.

A low cost (think $1/month) VPS plan will have such a higher quality of offerings than your free VPS, that by comparison you will often end up upgrading to a paid VPS. And while a cheap but paid VPS is indeed going to be much better than a free VPS in terms of performance, if you went with a paid VPS in the beginning you would probably be with a higher quality company that does not use deceitful marketing methods, such as offering almost useless free VPS hosting. If you want a cheap but quality VPS, take a look at these six VPS hosts.

The Risk

A free VPS can crash, loose all your data or become inaccessible at any time, and you have no guarantee that anything will be done about it. All of your information and passwords can be hacked or stolen. Basically, you can lose the VPS and all the time you invested in setting it up at any time, without any warning. Often, your only recourse will be to switch to a paid hosting plan.

Not only is there an obvious conflict of interest by the companies who provide free VPS hosting, there is also a large risk from using these services. A free VPS is sought after by hackers around the world. Think about how attractive a free VPS is to illegal hackers.

They can use it for all kinds of malicious activities, they can get the IP address of the VPS blacklisted or they might launch or be the target of a DDOS attack which would hog the server bandwidth. So not only is the VPS host not interested in offering quality service, but the other VPS users are the worst kinds of people. They will gladly burn through all the resources they can and move on to the next free service, while you are left with the repercussions.

Another more devious risk is the free VPS provider themselves. Many of those who offer free VPS services are unknown and unheard of. There is nothing stopping them from reading and stealing all of your data. When you pay for a service, you know that you are dealing with a company who wants to provide you with quality service because they can probably make more selling you the VPS service than they can with stealing your data. That plus they are more traceable when there is a money trail.

If you think this is a crazy idea, check out the following Defcon talk. It describes how someone setup a free anonymous proxy server, and used it to spy on those who chose to use this free service:


As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. If you are looking for a free VPS host, I highly recommend you fork over the $1.25/month and get a reliable and trustworthy host. It will lead to less headaches, less problems, less security issues, and will probably pay off in terms of time saved dealing with all the problems a free VPS comes with. Check out this list of awesome VPS plans for hosts providing the best bang for your buck.