While startups and big businesses alike have gotten used to Zoho’s offerings of e-mail, sales, and marketing tools, a lesser known feature that has caught our attention is their Zoho Sites service. Sites gives you completely free access to a drag and drop site builder as well as free hosting for your site.
So, can a company that focuses on IT business solutions provide a smooth site building experience with the added bonus of free hosting? Keep reading our Zoho Sites review to find out!
- Unlimited pages, bandwidth, and storage
- Templates come mobile-responsive
- Multi-factor authentication
- Product listings cost extra per month
- Some concerns regarding page load times outside of the U.S
Zoho Sites Features
We’ve mentioned this with other free site building and hosting services, but there are some pretty obvious drawbacks to using a free service rather than a paid one. Lack of readily available customer service, questionable reliability, and just a general dearth of available options are just some of the reasons why free hosting services cannot replace the value of paid hosting.
That being said, if you are looking to experiment, build a site mostly composed of static content, or expect a low average monthly visitor count (>100), a free hosting service such as Zoho Sites might appeal to you.
Zoho starts things off well by offering unlimited monthly bandwidth and storage space, and you can view how much resources you have used up through an integrated site analytics interface.
Zoho sites has numerous templates (that are also mobile-responsive, unlike Yola) available to get started with, which can all be modified using the simple drag and drop site builder. From start to finish we were able to choose a template, add a Facebook widget, and publish our site in under 10 minutes!
Another reason that Zoho Sites stands out to us from other free hosting providers is the generous amount of applications and widgets that Zoho offers, including: comment boxes, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, maps, as well as the ability to link your site with Creator, Zoho’s dynamic application building service.
If you are pleased with Zoho Sites and want to further enhance your website’s capabilities, Zoho Sites has a “Business Add-on” plan available for $40 a year, which includes an SSL certificate, password protection, PayPal integration, newsletter subscription, and other useful services.
When it comes to e-commerce features for your site, Zoho Sites offers the ability to sell your products through PayPal, although this does incur a nominal monthly fee. 25 individual products can be sold for $1 a month, while the option for unlimited products is $8 a month.
Zoho Sites Video Review
Zoho Sites Performance
When it comes to performance, let us once again stress that free hosting will never live up to numerous benefits of a premium paid hosting service such as Digital Ocean or FastComet, where enterprise level hardware and a high-quality hosting environment gives your site’s visitors the optimized browsing experience they come to expect.
To get a better idea of Zoho Sites performance, we gave our (474 KB sized) site a speed test through Pingdom’s Website Speed Test tool, testing from three different locations (New York, California, and Australia) to get a better idea of how Zoho Sites performs in a global sense. While we weren’t shocked to see our NYC and California tests preforming well within the 1-2 second industry average, it was slightly disappointing to see our Australia speed test fall far short with a 4 second page load time.
Unfortunately, a CDN (content delivery network) is not included in Zoho Sites, and they currently only have a data center in the U.S (which comes as no surprise considering our speed test results. They have, however, recently announced plans to open data centers in Europe and India.
Zoho Sites Interface & Security
Zoho Sites has a main control panel where you can manage details of your site, including general settings, social media, statistics and much more. In addition to this, you can manage your individual sites through the site builder interface, which allows you to go as in-depth as setting custom page banners, managing your files, and conduct an SEO audit of your site.
You also have the ability to add your own custom CSS and edit a template’s existing code through a HTML and CSS editor, although this obviously comes with more restrictions than a paid hosting service.
Zoho Sites security features include multi-factor authentication, encryption of unused sensitive data, as well as data backup in multiple locations.
SSL certificates are provided through Let’s Encrypt free SSL certificate service, although you will have to purchase the Business Add-on package in order to have a HTTPS enabled on your site. You also have the option to install a previously purchased SSL certificate, although this will still require the Business Add-on plan.
Zoho Sites Customer Service
Let’s stress once again one of the major drawbacks of a free hosting service: Customer service. When your site inevitably goes down or you experience any issues that you need instant help with, top-notch customer service that responds quickly and efficiently is crucial. Luckily, Zoho places a greater emphasis on customer service than some of the competition, with a user-friendly ticket system in place for free users (paid users can enjoy 24/7 phone support).
To get a better idea of how Zoho Site’s customer service performs, we submitted a test ticket on a weekday at 7 EST to see what kind of response we could get. We were pleasantly surprised to recieve a prompt reply in just over two hours, which is impressive even for a paid hosting service.
Using a free domain with Zoho Sites means that your site’s URL will come in the format of yoursitename.zohosites.com. Domain registration is available for $10 a year, with a wide range of .com, .org, .net, and other domain name combinations available.
As is the norm with all Zoho services, a 30-day money back guarantee is in place for all paid Zoho services. This means that if you sign up for any of their paid plans you can cancel at any time in your first month to receive a full refund!
Zoho Sites Review Conclusion
- Lots of features included with site builder
- Mobile-responsive templates
- Unlimited pages, bandwidth, and storage
I wasn’t so sure about
- E-commerce features
- Page load times outside of the U.S
After experiencing Zoho Sites for ourselves, we can confidently say that they were the best free hosting service we tried so far, with the ability to create unlimited pages and use unlimited bandwidth and storage just some of the many reasons they stand out when compared to other free services such as Weebly, Wix, or Yola.
Of course, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise, as Zoho is known to be quite the Google competitor and offers high-quality and professional products for a wide range of enterprise-level needs.
Still not entirely convinced by Zoho Sites? No worries! Give them a try today, it’s completely free!