Keep it classy: Free WordPress Hosting from RedHat’s OpenShift (5 pages/second, unlimited bandwidth)
Note: As of October 2017, OpenShift has retired the free plan described here. The new OpenShift V3 platform has a free plan but there is a limitation in which the web app should be inactive for 18 hours in a 72 hours period, effectively making it impossible to run a normal website on the free plan.
Most people start blogging with a free Blogger or a WordPress blog. Blogger is a great place for beginners to start blogging, but the problem is you have less control over the whole website.
WordPress.com has annoying advertisements with free blogs, not only that they charge a premium of $30 for the privilege of linking a custom domain (like yourname.com). This is something Blogger throws in for free.
If you are serious about blogging, make sure get a top level domain, preferably a dotcom or dotnet. WordPress is one of the most popular CMSs in the world. It is an open source project. Beginners to blogging probably associate the name WordPress to its commercial offering (wordpress.com) than to the open source project (wordpress.org).
To run a self-hosted WordPress installation we need to have a server for the installation (WordPress installation files are available at wordpress.org for free). Most of the self-hosted WordPress bloggers will be using shared web hosting services because they are very much cheaper than VPS or dedicated hosting services. You could host a website at a shared host with less than $5 per month.
The problem with shared hosting is, you website will be hosted next to thousands of websites hosted on the same server. If some of those websites get huge traffic beyond the limits of the server, all websites hosted in that server are in trouble.
Even $5 per month, a shared host could get expensive, especially for a beginner, who has no traffic at all. A better idea would be to host your blog for free in the beginning using one of the free hosts. But there is a catch. (Also read: Free web hosting services: What’s the catch? )
RedHat’s Platform As A Service (PAAS), OpenShift offers 3 free gears for free for beginners. A gear is fixed amount of resources like RAM and processing power. If you get more traffic OpenShift automatically uses another gear, this continues until all available gears are used up. 3 free gears can handle upto 15 pages/second, approximately 50k visitors per month. A beginner can’t ask for more; that too absolutely free.
Why WordPress doesn’t scale by default on OpenShift?
Unfortunately the default WordPress installation doesn’t support scaling, i.e. you could only use one small gear instead of three small gears freely available. This is because each gears have separate memory, and memory between these gears are not shared. Problem occurs when you try to upload something to the file system. This could be images or one of the plugins WordPress is famous for.
Each small gear comes with 1GB space. That is 3GB available for free per user. If WordPress is set to scale using all three gears, all uploaded files will be stored in the space allocated for first gear. After that, when we try to access those uploaded file, we cannot be sure from which gear application is served. Statistically we fail to fetch the uploaded file one in three times.
So we are stuck with one gear, but still it is a good deal for a beginner; 5pages/second and approximately16k visitors per month. This is more than enough for most beginners, since it will take much time for a blog to reach that level, unless you have a great online presence already or you are going to spend money on buying traffic.
What happens when five pages per second limit is exceeded?
Well, according to one of the contributors of OpenShift forum, the application will not break but speed will be affected. In other words it will take eternity to load a page if more requests are coming.
There is good news though; WordPress could be set to scale with some changes. But it will take some effort to get it running. The default way of pushing an OpenShift app is through Git. What we can do is to locally install WordPress with all plugins we need and push the app through Git. The image files can be hosted on a third party cloud service like Amazon Web Services, or Flickr. OpenShift has an excellent article explaining how to scale WordPress.
For an absolute beginner, it is not worth the trouble to scale a blog that doesn’t have enough visitor. It would be good idea to scale after you get running your blog without scale first, then tweak the installation with plugins you will need. Once you are happy with all the functionality and looks of the blog, you can push the application to scale using 3 gears.
When your blog become highly successful and free gears can’t handle more gears can be bought. With their Silver plan ($20/mo), users will get 16 gears, including the free gears. Or you could use a paid shared hosting service if this is too expensive; thanks to portability of WordPress, though you should expect doing some configuration changes when changing hosts.
There are another PAAS services also offer free tiers and can be used to host WordPress websites including Google App Engine, Amazon Web Services, Padoga Box, Hekaru, AppFog. In this list AppFog doesn’t support using custom domain on their free plan. It goes without saying that none of these PAAS providers need you to put any sort of advertisement on your blog (This is something other shared free hosting providers put as their highlight)
Also read: How to run WordPress on OpenShift
How to scale WordPress on OpenShift.
Note: This blog is currently hosted by OpenShift.
Update: Feb 26, 2014: Hosting moved to Heliohost.org
Update: Dec 3, 2014: Hosting moved back to OpenShift