The Dirty Truth About Unlimited Hosting

The Dirty Truth About Unlimited Hosting

Unlimited Space + Unlimited Transfer = Limited Truth In Web Hosting Advertising

There's a dirty little secret out there amongst hosting companies, and that is what they call "Unlimited" hosting, usually something like "Unlimited Diskspace/Storage" and "Unlimited Transfer/Bandwidth." Obviously, if this were completely true, companies like Ebay, Amazon, Wikipedia, and Craigslist would simply sign up for them too. The reality is, you will have to upgrade if you have a moderately busy site, but it's too complicated to explain to the average customer.

With web hosting companies offering unlimited bandwidth, storage, and support, how can the leading brands on the web be offering their hosting services for only a few dollars a month? And if they really can offer these services for so little, how come purchasing VPS hosting and dedicated hosting can cost so much more - to the tune of hundreds of dollars per month? With such large price variations, the average web host consumer needs a little help in figuring out the best way to determine their needs. Well, fear not - this article is going to help you decide whether "unlimited" hosting services or a dedicated/VPS server is best for your needs.

FACT #1: Hosting Companies are Overselling & You Probably Won't Use That Much in the Beginning

The reason most modern shared hosts can offer "unlimited" bandwidth and storage is that Hosting Companies are mostly banking on the fact that you really won't use that much, especially considering the ever decreasing costs of storage and transfer. They are overselling their hosting services. There are a few companies that do not oversell, and in return, they tend to be much more reliable in our experience.

Most small, new websites will use a tiny fraction of the diskspace offered. In most cases, less than 1/1000th of the limits they are offering you. This is even true for Hosting Companies that offer a couple gigabytes of storage space for your site. We have rarely seen a site that has exceeded limits here. Traffic on most small, new sites alse tends to be low relatively speaking. Of course, there are lots of exceptions to this rule. Hosting Companies are playing a game of averages here, knowing that on average, most people will use very little resources.

Like your home computer, hard drives are used at Hosting Companies to store your website. Hard drives are very large now, and probably much like your home computer, you really won't use that much space for your website (unless you are a power user). Websites haven't gotten that much bigger over the years, but hard drives have, driving down the cost for Hosting Companies. The same is true for bandwidth (a.k.a. transfer). It has gotten cheaper, and most websites really don't need that much. It's cheap for the hosting company.

Actually, as of late, many people have started using their hosting company to backup their home computers, which has put a strain on these companies that oversell, forcing them to spell out various rules against using them as a backup service.

So, what is the bottleneck you ask, and what are they actually selling?

FACT #2: You WILL Run Out of CPU and Memory Long Before You Run Out of Diskspace or Transfer (if you are using it properly)

This is a bit technical, but don't worry if you don't understand some of the details. Realize that your website is hosted on a server, which is just very much like your home computer (but usually in a different shape, and more specialized for hosting purposes). There are usually dozens, or hundreds of websites hosting on each server.

A big host that offers unlmited hosting defines their server limits as a number of CPU seconds used which are equated to real-time seconds; if a website has 200 processes in a minute and each uses .4 CPU seconds, your website would be suspended. If those processes took two minutes, then the website would remain running. Most web hosts try to avoid explaining the technical side of this, and instead try to sell to customers based on how many domains can be hosted with one account, and how much space a website is allocated.

In short, if your site starts to get a lot of traffic at once and slow down your website, it's going to hog up that servers processor (CPU); which in turn will make everyone elses website on that server go slow too.

The same is true for memory (RAM) usage. Some hosts even give you a short history of your site's CPU and memory usage.

FACT #3: Most Hosts Have More Than Enough for the StartUp Website, so Shop on Customer Service Quality, Uptime, and Other Features

With the thousands of sites we have worked with over the years, almost never has a site exceeded the bandwidth, or storage limits of their hosting account. In fact, probably the biggest cost in hosting is becoming the cost of support. One server can support hundreds of websites, but it might take thousands of man hours per year to support those customers.

With this in mind, the factors that really make a difference to your website will be how the host can support your customer service needs, the quality of that customer service, and the actual uptime the host experiences. How quickly does your host respond to your needs? How often are its servers (and therefore your websites) off-line? Are they pleasant about solving your problems effectively?

Dynamic, database-driven sites, such as ones that have PHP, ASP, Perl, Python, and other coding languages, will definitely take up more server resources (e.g. CPU and memory) than a static site--one written in HTML. This is even more so when your site has poorly coded scripts, and fails to use caching, which can be accomplished numerous ways.

FACT #4: Why Use Cloud Hosting?

If you plan to have a highly-trafficked site (e.g. 1,000's of visitors per day), or plan to run a business on it, in which you are generating a substantial income, then consider cloud hosting as a wise investment.

The price of a Cloud Hosting is higher because with a Cloud Hosting Plan, you are getting more power, resources, RAM, and more control. In the end, the same system of measuring usage is at work. You might simply think of it as shared hosting, but with a lot fewer websites on the server. But you might find substantially lower limits on diskspace and transfer limits because chances are, you are going to use them heavily.