Is “Unlimited” Web Hosting Really Unlimited?

The word ‘unlimited’ is great. In its raw form it suggests that whenever someone is offering unlimited amounts of whatever it is that I want, then I am about to embark on a pretty sweet ride.

is unlimited hosting really unlimitedOr so I thought at one time. Bundled out of unlimited servings eateries, hauled before the boss for abusing unlimited sick leave regulations, and banned to the bench for interchanging myself on the soccer field an unlimited number of times, it was feeling more and more like whenever I engaged in something that postured unlimited offerings, I always managed to get done over. Then later, when I stepped into the online world of creating websites, I noticed that many of the hosting companies were offering “unlimited” this, that and something else. My previous experiences immediately raised some red flags with this…well, maybe not immediately, I did still get excited! Luckily today however, I’m much savvier about the use of that word and in particular, what some hosting companies can ‘really’ provide after they lure you in with their unlimited solutions.

If you are fairly new to the concept of website hosting, yet you know that you need to have hosting in order to have your site live online, then you may still be in the stages of trying to decide just which hosting company has the best plan for you. In your hosting travels, there’s a very good chance that you’ve come across the sites that offer unlimited bandwidth and unlimited disk space. So that we’re on the same page here, let’s quickly recap what those two facilities are, which will help us to gain a better perspective as an end user as to what the hosting companies are trying to sell us. Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred from your site to the browser of searchers who visit your site. The more graphics and videos on your site, the more bandwidth your site will need to function correctly. Disk space, on the other hand, is the space that you have allocated to storing your site on the hosting company’s server.

Right now you might be thinking ‘so what’ to bandwidth and disk space, because the ‘host with the most’ is advertising unlimited capacity for these facilities anyway. Good point! However, think about this. If your site is being hosted on a shared server with thousands of other sites, at some point in time the capacity of that server to keep adding more and more bandwidth and disk space to it has to be impacted. A server is a physical unit, its size cannot be finite. There has to be a hard limit to the resource somewhere. This applies not only to the storage server limitation either. When you also see unlimited offerings on domains, subdomains, email accounts and anything else that the hosting company throw into the enticement bundle, there are going to be costs to the provider that will need to trickle down to its customers somewhere along the line.

How then, can hosting companies legally advertise that they will give you ‘unlimited’ anything? Well, they can because when you signed on with them, you told them that they could by (perhaps blindly) agreeing to their terms of service without checking to see what the meaning is behind the conditions of your hosting. The fine print will indicate somewhere that reference to the offer of ‘unlimited’ is really an offer that they won’t put a cap on the level of your site’s activity. That is, unless your site becomes so big from your add-ons to it, or so popular, that it places a strain on the server’s resources. If this happens, your site can be taken offline. Have you ever searched for a site only to find in its place a white page with bold black print that screams “Bandwidth Limit Exceeded”?

Now, at this point, you might be thinking that this sounds completely unfair to website owners who look like being at the mercy of these big bully tyrant hosting conglomerates. This is rarely the case. Provided you have a good understanding of what you intend to make of your site, and how large you anticipate it becoming, chances are that you will never even have to think about any potential issues with your hosting provider. In reality, your account will most likely not even go close to using up its allocated bandwidth. Nor will the account of other users with whom you share the server. This means that bandwidth and other quotas applied to accounts on the server are able to be kept to a reasonable amount for a very fair and appealing price. In most cases, it proves to be a win-win for both parties.

Unlimited hosting plans provide a very good option in terms of cost and service, provided you are comfortable that you won’t be adding excesses to your site to tip your usage limits over the edge. If you are uncertain, do a search online for hosting comparison tools which allow you to enter your expected usage details and find the host that can best match your needs. Also read through a host’s TOS before signing on, and if any doubts, speak to your potential providers to get confirmation about any concerns regarding your ‘unlimited’ benefits that are being offered by them.

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4 comments on “Is “Unlimited” Web Hosting Really Unlimited?”

  1. Josh

    Great post guys.

    I agree, there is a lot of companies out there offering “unlimited hosting”, but as you mentioned in your last few paragraphs, read the TOS (terms of service) and any other relevant documents, unlimited normally is not really “unlimited”. Either that our they are grossly “over subscribed” and your service could be terrible.

    Josh

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  3. Amos K.

    I have had a personal experience with one of the big ones. I bought their unlimited hosting package and hosted 10 websites. When i started marketing them, i got the message from the hosting company that i have exceeded the allocated inodes and am straining the resources. They told me to reduce my activity.
    There is no unlimited hosting. These days, i go with a web host that is more transparent and indicates the limit. With this, i don’t have false hopes.

    Reply

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