Free or inexpensive file transfer apps and web-hosting providers

Ryan Boudreaux adds more free or inexpensive tools to his list for web developers on tight budgets. This time, he concentrates on file transfer applications and web-hosting providers.

Last week I highlighted some low- or no-cost web design tools, particularly image editors. Continuing in this series that covers free or very low-cost tools for web developers, this week I'm adding several file transfer protocol applications and web hosting providers.

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File transfer protocol tools

Once you have your web authoring done with the pages, documents, coding, text files, configuration files, administrator files, and the images formatted for the web, it is now time to transfer all of your files. You may be transferring files to the web server over your own network or to production servers of remote web hosting providers. Having a good file transfer protocol (FTP) tool is just a click and a free download away, and listed here are several that I recommend for getting all your important files in the right place. Some offer options for both FTP and Secure FTP (SFTP) and these will be indicated.


(FTP/SFTP) Core FTP LE is free Windows software that includes the client FTP features such as SFTP (SSH), SSL, TLS, IDN, browser integration, site to site transfers, FTP transfer resume, drag and drop support, file viewing and editing, firewall support, custom commands, FTP URL parsing, command line transfers, filters, and more. Version 2.2 was last updated on April 6, 2011, and can be downloaded for free.


(FTP/SFTP) DataFreeway is an innovative network, plug-in based freeware GUI client supporting multiple transfer protocols. Its user interface provides a simple, protocol-independent way to transfer data. Standard techniques like drag-and-drop and copy-and-paste let users transfer files between servers running different transfer protocols, as well as enabling users to download/upload files to/from a local machine. Created by LuckaSoft Software, this is a freeware download.


(FTP/SFTP) FileZilla is a free FTP solution and a must for any serious web master or web administrator. Provided by the FileZilla Project, it is the go-to FTP tool for both client and server implementations. FileZilla is open source software distributed free of charge under the terms of the GNU General Public License. The server download is only available for Windows OS, but the client download is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X, and in addition, the source code and checksums are also provided.

Web hosting providers

If you are starting out with creating a website on your own and do not have a dedicated web server or servers with static IP addresses assigned to each, all behind a secure network with hardware and software firewalls and possibly a DMZ to protect your secure data from the public, then you probably will be looking at a third-party web hosting provider. There are many to choose from, and it can be a daunting and confusing task as to which one to select.

A web hosting provider supplies individuals, organizations, and companies with the prospect of collecting information, data, files, images, documents, etc., regarding the contents of their websites, which are stored on the hosting provider's web servers. Most web hosting providers will often charge a fee for this service but there are several that are available for free.

Before you decide to invest your hard earned pay and profit on a web hosting provider, it is worth the effort to research the variety of available services. Not all web hosting providers are the same, and they typically offer many different packages at varying levels of service and duration, and with many options for add-ons such as secure connections, private registration, security scans, and more. If you are looking at having several different sub-domains or a quick ramp up to going live with the site, it is definitely worth the effort to compare the various offerings and service levels. Free web hosting services are not for everyone, and as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. This list will help point you in the right direction with free or low-cost web hosting providers.

Google Sites

Google Sites is the free, web-based site-building tool and is a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) application available for creating and sharing web pages. It allows you to make your own pages, collect your own content, and control who can edit and view your site. Access Google Sites from and you can be well on your way to starting out with your own site in just minutes.

While Google Sites does have limitations with respect to adding custom pages and incorporating scripts such as JavaScript, HTML, and CSS due to security reasons, it is a great place for the beginner or non-profit organization looking for a really low cost option for getting a quick website up and running. If you already have a Gmail account, it is easy to start your Google site with your current Google account login; there will be no need to register again.

Google Sites provides 100MB of storage space for the basic configuration; however, if you have a Google Apps account, the storage is increased to 10GB for every Google Apps domain, and for domains using Google Apps Premier and Education Editions, these also receive an additional 500MB of storage space per user. A basic Google Apps account is free; therefore, it might make sense for organizations such as a non-profits. The limit is 50 user accounts.


TopCities is another web-based WYSIWYG editor. This tool has been around since 1998 and features a built-in library of flash, banners, icons, bullets, and buttons, along with a blog capability. TopCities also has FTP access for adding your own files, including images, and offers a photo album option. The free 30-day plan offers 500MB monthly bandwidth allowance, 300MB disk storage, runs on the Linux OS, uses the web-based control panel, and support for PHP 5, MySQL 5 Server, rich media content, and datacenter support. The only associated cost with the basic package is an $11.00 domain name registration.

The TopCities Premium Plan, for $7.00 per month increases the monthly bandwidth to unlimited, and the disk storage to 50,000MB (48.8GB), along with one free domain registration, everything from the basic plan and more, including unlimited email addresses and aliases. Review the TopCities package options at, and see a screenshot of the template selector portion of the TopCities editor tool below.


For the low cost of $4.95 per month, or $59.40 for the annual fee, BlueHost offers unlimited disk storage, unlimited domain name hosting, one year of domain name registration, unlimited POP3 and IMAP secure email accounts with email forwarding, FTP access, web file manager, and secure shell (SSH) access. The CGI and database features include MySQL 5 Server, PostgreSQL, CGI-BIN, CGI Library PHP 5 and custom PHP.ini files, Perl 5, Python, Ruby and Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, DHTML, Flash, and Shockwave. BlueHost also provides several website scripts for message forums, social networking, mailing lists, Drupal, Joomla, and project management features. Other features include e-commerce, multimedia, and search engine submissions. A screenshot of the control panel can be viewed below.


Very similar in offerings with that of BlueHost, the web hosting provider HostMonster features unlimited disk space and unlimited bandwidth, hosting for unlimited domains, unlimited email accounts, domain name included, site builder, control panels, WordPress, and image gallery features. It's $4.50 per month for the starter package, or you can upgrade to the Pro Package for $19.95 per month. Other options and add-ons can increase your monthly cost, but for a starter hosting provider at the basic level of $54.00 for the annual fee, this is a bargain deal. A screenshot of the HostMonster control panel is displayed below.

These are just a few of the free or low-cost alternatives for web developers. Do you have any others that you utilize and that I did not mention in this series? Please recommend them in the discussion area.


Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal g...

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