You like free WordPress, right?
Well, if you want a website, at the bare minimum you need two things: a domain name, and a website host. Kind of like if you want a house, you need an address and a home at that location.
Fortunately, domain names are often a small investment. According to HostGator, the average is about 10 to 12 bucks for a domain name. Sometimes there are expensive premium domain names too but actually needing one is rare.
Hosting is often where things get pricey. Considering this is the online server that is “hosting” your website for you, this can be expected overhead. Typically this is a monthly (or annual) cost that can add up quickly. For smaller organizations, hosting costs can be a serious deterrent from establishing a web presence. Which is a shame considering how prolific and omnipresent the internet is these days.
Without any kind of basic web presence, it can be challenging for people to take a business seriously. We are committed to successful events that inspire genuine human connection. And everyone knows that any good event needs a website.
Why A Free WordPress Site?
When Be Pro started, we needed a WordPress-based website. Our team has been using the platform for years, and its one of the most popular website technologies out there. This would allow us to move fast and get help easily if we got stuck.
Problem was, like with most growing businesses, there was not a lot of cash lying around every month to pay for a website host. If we wanted a website we were going to have to partner up with a hosting company and take on the overhead OR find another way.
So, while we can’t do anything about helping you register a domain name for free, we CAN show you how we’ve built our own WordPress-based website using free hosting.
Host A Free WordPress Site On AWS
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the largest cloud computing operations on the planet. There is a literal menu of online services available ranging from email, to virtual servers, to artificial intelligence. Everybody uses them in some capacity too. NetFlix, the BBC, Facebook, Twitch and other large brands have AWS somewhere under their hoods.
In our research, we discovered that Amazon offers a free virtual server through AWS. This virtual server could act as an online host for our site. In other words, free website hosting. If that weren’t enough to get excited about, not only can get a free virtual server, but you can also choose to get one with WordPress pre-installed!
This is a big deal because a server by itself doesn’t do much. For WordPress to be installed, you need to have two technologies (PHP and MySQL) running on your server. Learning how to setup and admin those from scratch requires a serious education in computer science.
The pre-installed WordPress virtual server comes with everything you need to get started. You’ll even get the server keys in case a professional needs to do some troubleshooting in the future. This allows you to go from nothing to a WordPress site you can log into and start configuring in a jiffy!
There are a few additional advantages of using AWS:
- Amazon’s stability and uptime are world-class. Your website should never “go down” in a literal sense.
- The AWS ecosystem allows for easy growth and scaling. If you were to drive a million viewers a day to your website , you might blow up the free virtual server and the site might “go down”. Fortunately, as you grow, you can evolve to larger paid servers and scaling services.
- The AWS community is rich with professional service providers. If something ever were to break, getting help would be easy.
Step-by-Step Case Study:
Launching The Be Pro Website
In this case study, we recorded ourselves going through the entire setup process so you can follow along. All you need is a domain registered somewhere and admin access to that. By the end of these three short videos, you’ll be able to type in your domain to any web browser and see your website 🙂
Here are the general steps you’ll be going through:
- Secure Amazon AWS account.
- Create Virtual Server.
- Install WordPress & Get Login Credentials.
- Remove Install Package Watermark.
- Route Domain Name To Virtual Server.
The first video goes through getting WordPress installed. After that, we did some work on our homepage. No need to record that. Once the homepage was ready, we made a separate video for the watermark removal. Lastly, we produced the final video connecting our domain to the server.
Case Study Video #1 – Securing AWS & Installing WordPress
Video #2 – Removing The Bitnami Watermark
Case Study #3 – Connecting Domain To Server
There you have it! In a few hours, you can spin up and connect a new WordPress site to your domain for free. The only cost is your time 🙂
Six Ways To “Be Pro” With Your Website
Our name truly represents how we believe things should be run. You have to be as professional as possible about your operation. By following along with these videos, you will have a bare-boned basic website. Which may be all you need for now.
To make this a truly professional website, and a valuable business asset, you will need to do some additional work:
- You will need to secure your website with an SSL certificate; we followed this tutorial. This ensures your site is safe and trustyworthy AND helps with search rankings.
- You will need to setup the email functionality for new user notifications, password resets, etc.; we first configured our SMTP, then connected it to Amazon SES. This ensures emails are going out properly.
- You will want to install some kind of security plugin; we use WordFence and Login NoCaptcha. This beefs up protection and reduces the risk of your site getting hacked.
- You will want to install some kind of automated backup plugin; we use UpDraft Plus pushing into an Amazon S3 bucket. In case you DO get hacked, you can restore the site from an external backup.
- You will want to install your digital tracking like Google Analytics, your Facebook pixel, etc. We wrote an ebook and video guide on exactly how to do this.
- You probably want to install some kind of speed/optimization plugin; we use Hummingbird. The faster your site, the better all around, for everyone!
What do you think? Were you able to follow along? Did we miss something? Comment and Let Us Know!
***IMPORTANT UPDATE*** Turns out that even with a micro server on AWS, it is only free for a year. After that year, you’ll start to incur costs. Fortunately, its looking like you’ll only be paying about $10 each month which is still vastly cheaper than any other host. If you still don’t want to pay for hosting after a year, spin up a new account and then use a WordPress migration tool to move the site over and update your DNS to the new server IP. In the past, we have used the All-in-One WP Migration plugin which allows you to export your whole site and then easily import into another instance of WordPress.