Who is eligible for hosting a free website with Google or AWS? Can anyone host their website with either of them for free? What’s the catch? If this is possible, is there a process or tutorial that explains this procedure?
The answer to this question is a big ‘Yes’. Anyone can in fact host with Google or AWS as part of the free trial for an year. This is as long as you stick with the hosting features that are eligible for the free trial and do not exceed those limits. You must also be a new AWS or Google Cloud customer and not already be hosting with either of them. There are some features that are even available perpetually for free.
WHY HOST WITH GOOGLE CLOUD/ AWS
When it comes to hosting, what you need is a powerful and scalable server setup that is fast and which can make it simple to setup a blogging site. If this is a brand new WordPress install for you, then there is nothing to be done for migration, But if you already have a WordPress website that you are transferring to either Google Cloud or AWS, then here are some ways to migrate the WordPress data and settings to your new Cloud hosting server.Both Google Cloud and AWS are solid and high-performance server setups that are reliable.
Cost of Free Trial
When you’re just starting out, it’s always best to keep your costs as low as possible and there’s nothing cheaper then free. By the way, this also allows you the chance to try out Google Cloud or AWS.
Many people avoid AWS or Google Cloud as they automatically assume it is too complex. I’ve also felt the same way but all of this changed when I found the simple tutorials from OnePageZen.
So if you’re not completely freaked out by technology or you have a family member or close friend or you yourself are somewhat comfortable with software technology, then the OnePageZen tutorials have all the step-by-step tutorials to get you started with Google Cloud or AWS.
CREATING THE ACCOUNT
Go to the https://cloud.google.com/free and login to your gmail or google account. If you don’t have a gmail account, you can simply register for a new google account.
For AWS, go to https://aws.amazon.com/free/ and create a new AWS account.
Once you’ve filled out your details, you will be asked to specify your credit card details. Though you’re signing up for the free trial, a card is used to verify your identity and to have the payment details just in case you exceed the free limits. But don’t worry, with the OnePageZen tutorials, you will be well within the free trial limits.
WordPress is by far the easiest website software and has unlimited extensions (or plugins) for customizing any website. So let’s start by setting up WordPress for your niche website.
What I really like about the OnePageZen tutorials is that he provides a very simple video that explains every little step in the process. This is followed by a step-by-step written description of the same process. Note that these tutorials use the Bitnami stack which contains the complete setup of operating system, MySQL (database), PHP and WordPress. This is what is required to have a fully-functional WordPress setup.
Here is the tutorial for setting up WordPress on your new Google Cloud account. To test your WordPress install, just go to the hamburger navigation menu in the left-hand-top of your Google Cloud account, then choose Compute Engine and then VM instances. This will display your micro server instance. Just note the IP address that is shown under “External IP” and enter it in a browser to view your website page. To go to the admin screen, type http://n.n.n.n/wp-admin, where n.n.n.n refers to your “External IP”.
Here’s the tutorial for setting up WordPress on AWS. To get the external IP to access your WordPress instance, login to the AWS console, then choose EC2 under the AWS Services – All Services – Compute. This will show that you have 1 Running Instance in the Resources tab. Click on the 1 running instance, the get the IP address listed under the ‘IPV4 Public IP’.
The wordpress website can be accessed in the browser by entering http://<n.n.n.n> and the wordpress admin is available at http://<n.n.n.n>/wp-admin.
REMOVING BITNAMI BANNER
Once you have WordPress installed, when you go to the website home page, there will be a small hexagon (6 sides-based) banner in the right-hand-bottom of the screen. Here is the OnePageZen tutorial for removing this banner.
To remove the banner, you will need SSH access to your site’s server instance, so most of the steps revolve around this SSH access and commands on your Google Cloud or AWS instance.
ATTACHING THE DOMAIN
Now you need a registered domain name for your website. If you already have one, then that’s fine. Or else simply register a new domain name with your favorite registrar. I generally use NameCheap as my domain registrar and point my name servers to the hosting provider. In this case, the hosting provider for you will be Google Cloud or AWS depending on the one you choose for your free web hosting.
Once you have your domain, for Google Cloud, follow these instructions for setting your name server records to point to Google hosts. Basically you will get the Custom DNS settings in Namecheap (or your domain registrar) to point to the Google host servers. To get Google Cloud to assign you DNS servers, you have to set the CNAME and A records after which 4 DNS server records will be generated. Next, these need to be added to you Custom DNS field with your domain registrar such a NameCheap. The above OnePageZen tutorial has all the detailed steps anyway.
Similarly for AWS, here are the instructions for pointing your domain name to the AWS Name servers with your registrar.
You might also have to fix your domain name configuration in WordPress after this to make sure WordPress works perfectly with your new domain name configuration.
SETTING UP SSL
Let’s Encrypt can be used to generate free SSL certificates for your domain. To setup SSL, here are the instructions for Google Cloud and another one for AWS.
A similar process can be used to setup SSL certificates for your domain on AWS. All you need for this is SSH access to your AWS server, here are the steps for SSH access in AWS.
MIGRATING A PREVIOUS SITE
If this is a brand new WordPress install for you, then there is nothing to be done for migration, But if you already have a WordPress website that you are transferring to either Google Cloud or AWS, then here are some ways to migrate the WordPress data and settings to your new Cloud hosting server.
There are a number of wordpress plugins that can help with migrating your WordPress setup from a prior host.
Here are some of the ones I’ve tried:
1) All-in-One WP Migration
2) WPvivid Backup plugin
With the All-in-One plugin, I got an error that the upload file size is above the limit. To fix this, you can try this tutorial. If that works, simply backup your old WordPress site and then restore the backup to your new Google Cloud WordPress setup.
In case that fails, WPvivid is another great plugin which worked great for me. To avoid this upload size problem, it’s best to do an auto-restore from the old to the new WordPress setup without saving and uploading any intermediate backup file.
First you will have to install the WPvivid plugin in both the old and the new WordPress installs. Then go to WPvivid – Backup & Restore in the new setup and go to the Key tab and click Generate to generate a key. Then copy the key and save in a text file.
After this go over to the old WordPress setup and to WPvivid – Backup & Restore and then to the Auto-Migration tab and then paste the key from the text file into the text field and save. Next, click the button Clone Then Transfer. This will show a progress bar and fully restore all the files and database changes into the new WordPress setup on Google Cloud.
SETTING UP EMAIL
As for the email, I found two great free trial options, one is Zoho which is forever free and the other Migadu for a 1 year trial subscription. There is a third option of creating a gmail account for the domain and forwarding your domain emails to your gmail account. So when your Migadu free email subscription expires, by having a gmail account, you can still have your professional domain-specific emails forwarded to your free gmail account.
So I would simply use Zoho for free email hosting for a single domain, or Migadu for any additional domains. Then once the Migadu one expires in 1 year, just use gmail and ImprovMX to forward the emails to gmail. Both Zoho and Migadu support a single domain with unlimited email accounts for the single domain. They are quite simple to setup and they are both great services to try out affordable email hosting.