TL; DR: Businesses need to look no further than AwardSpace for a shining example of freemium pricing done the right way. Founded in 2003, the company provides free hosting solutions that remove barriers to entry into online markets as well as affordable premium services to help growing businesses scale. Whether focusing on compliance with the latest industry regulations or optimizing services in step with emerging trends, AwardSpace keeps customer satisfaction top of mind.
Like most parents attempting to raise a child in the digital age, I’ve set strict controls on my daughter’s tablet to limit her from downloading apps. Still, it’s not uncommon for her to approach me, wide-eyed and hopeful, with a request to install the latest unicorn-themed mobile adventure on her device.
The problem is, these apps run off a type of freemium pricing model in which they’re free to download but crazy expensive to enjoy — unfortunately, almost every feature comes with a “request for purchase” notification.
These games give the freemium model a bad reputation, to say the least. But freemium can be done right: Whereas scammy apps are the problem child, AwardSpace is the role model. The host has provided free plans since 2003 with guaranteed 99.9% uptime, a user-friendly control panel, and around-the-clock support. Businesses that outgrow these services can upgrade at any time, but the free services often do the trick.
“Our mission is to provide free hosting for everyone who needs to put their ideas, startups, and projects online,” said Nestor Yurukov, COO of Zettahost and AttractSoft (AwardSpace’s parent companies). “We don’t have advertisements in our control panel or on users’ websites, and we will not push them to upgrade if they are not ready.”
In fact, customers can hang onto their free accounts as long as they wish. “We have clients who have been with us for 13 years — from the time we started the business — and some of them are still running their websites on their free accounts,” Nestor said.
It’s a far different approach than many freemium providers take, and Nestor told us it’s one of the core values of the company. He believes it will pay dividends in the long run. “We focus on how to help people and believe that our fame and fortune will come later,” he said. “We might become even bigger than some hosting providers who are looking to sell clients whatever they can, no matter if the client needs it.”
Free Plans That Remove Barriers to Entry into Online Markets
With 77% of entrepreneurs relying on personal finances to get their businesses up and running, it’s easy to see why price is such an important factor when selecting a host. AwardSpace makes it easy for companies to build and enhance online presence by eliminating cost considerations and simplifying onboarding.
“Everything is simplified and automated,” Nestor said. “To get a free hosting plan, all you need to do is enter your name, email, and password, click ‘Register Now!’ and you’re ready to build or import your website.”
AwardSpace has been committed to encouraging entrepreneurial spirit since its founding in 2003, but in 2015 the company took that mission a step further by increasing disk space on free accounts by 400% and extending the allowable file size by 700%. The move eliminated any obstacles to creating a fully functioning website for free.
Users on free accounts also have access to a customizable dashboard, free firewall protection to prevent unauthorized access, ClamAV anti-virus software, and access to a high-speed network hosted on servers in Bulgaria and Germany.
Unlike many free hosting solutions, AwareSpace provides technical support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year through an integrated ticketing system with a guaranteed 13-minute response time. Users also have access to a comprehensive knowledge base packed with tips on how to make the most out of free accounts.
Keeping Up With Industry Trends — From GDPR to Containerization
AwardSpace has remained competitive over the years by embracing industry change. This year, Google Chrome announced it would begin marking unencrypted websites as “not secure” to keep users safe as they browse the web. To prepare for the change, AwardSpace put other projects on hold and prioritized encryption, which has become especially critical for businesses that operate online stores, support account logins, or transmit private data over the internet.
The company now offers a number of SSL certificates issued by authorities like RapidSSL and GeoTrust. Free SSL certificates are also available through Let’s Encrypt. In addition to standard certificates, AwardSpace also provides Wildcard SSL certificates, which can be applied to a domain and an unlimited number of subdomains.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), took effect May 28, 2018, also impacted the hosting industry this year, requiring compliance from all companies that store and maintain personal data of European residents.
“We are GDPR-ready,” Nestor said. “With our cooperative based in Germany, we had to be, no question about it — and that was really good because those restrictions and rules pushed us to implement new security measures, which is what we actually do on a regular basis.”
Nestor told us the third-most significant trend he’s witnessed this year is the move toward application containerization, which he said will benefit businesses looking to scale.
“Docker containers will enable our users to reach the next level of efficiency,” he said. “We are primarily a free hosting provider, but when our users need something more, we believe a good opportunity will be found in the container platform. This is something we are going to launch early next year.”
Fast, WordPress-Optimized Hosting with Weekly Backups
WordPress, the world’s most popular open-source CMS for building, customizing, and maintaining online presence, now powers more than 30% of the web. AwardSpace’s goal is to help WordPress users gain a competitive advantage through higher performance.
“Many of the online businesses we serve compete on Google for organic traffic, and one of the primary requirements for websites to rank higher on search engine result pages is that they have to load really fast,” Nestor said. “That’s why we are always working to make our WordPress hosting even better than the previous version.”
The company offers three WordPress hosting plans, all of which include a one-click WordPress installer, free SSL certificates, 24/7 support, weekly backups, automatic WordPress updates, and virus protection.
The WordPress Basic plan — suitable for sites receiving approximately 15,000 monthly visits — includes two WordPress sites. Businesses with sites that receive around 50,000 monthly visits will do well with the WordPress Web Pro plan, which provides for 10 WordPress sites and one free domain. The WordPress Max Pack, which comes with two free domains, is suitable for larger sites that receive around 150,000 visitors per month.
Customers who wish to migrate their site from another plan can do so seamlessly with a simple transfer process. “Our support team migrates many free users and premium shared hosting users to WordPress because it is flexible and easy to use, which is a great differentiator for businesses and their clients.”
To make building sites with the popular CMS even easier, AwardSpace offers regularly updated tutorials on how to install WordPress, master formatting, provide customization through themes, and prevent spam, among other best practices.
Customer-Oriented Services and Fairly Priced Upgrade Options
Nestor said AwardSpace’s client retention rate hovers around 90%, an achievement he attributes to the company’s support team. “In today’s hosting world, great support makes the difference,” he said. “Our technical support is done over a ticketing system, and we are proud that we can guarantee a response time of around three to five minutes.”
The company’s free hosting plans are also a big draw, as are the affordable price points on premium services. “Users come to us because we are free and they think that’s a big advantage, but then when they go to our paid hosting platform, they see that it’s affordable and that we have good customer support,” Nestor said.
AwardSpace works to ensure the upgrade process is as pain-free as possible. “Our mission is to primarily provide free services, but if you outgrow these free accounts and you need something more powerful, we want the process to be convenient,” Nestor said. “Otherwise, it’s a real show-stopper and waste of time.”
To that end, the company aims to offer web hosting services starting from free hosting all the way up to enterprise-grade solutions with automated and seamless upgrades — ensuring a satisfactory customer journey.
It’s in that same spirit of efficiency that AwardSpace has created freemium pricing that actually works in the user’s favor while serving as a sustainable business model for the company.