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A Reality Check on Unlimited Web Hosting


Web hosting service providers are a dime a dozen on the internet. When you are looking for shared web hosting, chances are that finding service providers would not be difficult at all. On the contrary, you are more likely to be spoilt for choice and have a hard time deciding which company to work with. A staggering number of companies provide shared web hosting services of different kinds. Most of these companies use a concept to market their services and lure customers in, and they call it “Unlimited Hosting.” They frequently adorn their service offer by including phrases like “Unlimited Disk Space” and “Unlimited Bandwidth”.

If you think this is too good to be true, rest assured- it is. In this article, we will try to solve the mystery of unlimited hosting, and get a much needed reality check on whether it is anything close to unlimited. Let us start by taking a closer look at the nuances of the concept of unlimited hosting.


The Basic Facts

Any server in the world is not technically capable of hosting an infinite number of websites. Servers have hardware limitations and networks have bandwidth limitations, so the number has to be a finite and measurable one. Therefore, it is very clear that when web hosts promote their services as an unlimited hosting offering, it is a clear case of overselling the concept.

In reality, this is a classic case of omission of truth. Web hosting service providers who oversell the concept of unlimited hosting always have something in their terms and conditions, which you can find upon careful scrutiny. This is usually termed “fair use policy”, which states that you can use your so called “unlimited” hosting in any way you want, provided you use only a fraction of the resources allocated to you. The fair use policy outlines the limits you have on disk space and bandwidth on your account and states that exceeding those limits might lead to penalties. This completely defeats the notion of “unlimited” when it comes to web hosting and is the tough reality that website owners have to face sooner or later.

The Games of Averages

The principal reality that allows web hosts to oversell their service capacity, comes from the fact that most users do not consume their allocated resources to the fullest. In a hypothetical scenario, if a particular server services a hundred users, most of them are likely to use only a fraction of the bandwidth and space allotted to them, leaving more resources free for overselling server capabilities. Web hosts take advantage of this situation by glamorizing the capabilities of a server, and hyping up its capacity of maybe two or three hundred users, while it is only meant to be used by a hundred for optimal performance. This game of averages is what fuels the fire with the notion of unlimited hosting.

The Many Limits of Unlimited Hosting

The above scenario presents no problem until more users start exploiting their “unlimited” space and bandwidth. This has the potential to create serious shortage of disk space and bandwidth bottlenecks that can result in slow operations and even downtime for all websites hosted on that particular server. This is where the limits of unlimited hosting start showing and the reason why web hosts include a fair use policy in their terms. Website owners have two ways to tackle this problem- ration their space and bandwidth usage to ensure it stays within suggested limits, or take their website elsewhere, like a VPS.

Managing Resources

The faster your website processes requests, accesses data and handles queries, the more CPU time and effort it takes. Your server only has limited and severely overstated capabilities of handling these operations. Web hosts tactfully avoid mentioning this element when glorifying their unlimited hosting services, preferring to focus instead on the unlimited number of domains you can host with one account. If you receive a lot of visitors on your website and the back-end has some serious processing to accomplish, the server usually stalls and becomes slow and unresponsive. Your web host is likely to put the blame on the number of domains you host and the resources you consume and penalize your site for violating its fair use policy, in such situations.

The Way Forward

Getting a reality check on ‘unlimited web hosting’ options really presents a different picture from all the promotions and marketing gimmick. There are numerous restrictions on the amount of resources at your disposal, and nothing really is “unlimited”. What do you do after gaining this knowledge? Should you steer clear of such hosting services entirely?

Fortunately, you do not have to do so. Just because these web hosts oversell their capabilities does not mean you have to fear the consequences. A shift in priorities is all that you need to be able to optimally use these hosting services to good effect.

The trick is not to fall for the marketing gimmick which upholds and glorifies the notion of “unlimited”. You are certain to have realized by this point that nothing is unlimited, and you should focus your attention on other, more important features like good uptime stats and competent support. Sometimes, opting for a “limited” web hosting plan makes much more sense. However, if you just plan to run a small website that is not likely to use much disk space or bandwidth, you should be able to safely use an unlimited hosting plan.

You will not be risking much, under those circumstances, as the low amount of traffic will keep your website under the stipulated limits of fair use policy.

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