Busting The Myth Behind ‘Unlimited’ Web Hosting

By . Filed in Web 2.0

If you are looking for shared web hosting, chances are, you will not have a hard time finding potential web hosts for your website. In fact, you will, most likely, end up facing a ‘Problem of Plenty’. Yes, there are way too many hosts out there who specialize in shared web hosting. And one common trait in many web hosts is that they offer Unlimited Hosting.

Wait, let me say it with emphasis: Unlimited Disk Space + Unlimited Bandwidth + Unlimited Everything!!

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Yes, it does. But true? Sadly, nope. In this article, we shall attempt to unravel the myth behind ‘Unlimited’ Hosting. Now that I have already called Unlimited Hosting as a ‘myth’, how about we take a look at the key aspects behind this claim, straight away?

Unlimited Anything is Oversold

It is not rocket science to figure out that a server cannot actually be capable of hosting unlimited websites. Even your hard disk has its limits, you know. Naturally, a web host that claims to offer unlimited or limitless bandwidth and disk space, is overselling.

If you do your research, you will notice that each overselling web host claims to offer unlimited hosting, but only as per the terms of its ‘Fair Use Policy’ – which, by the way, is often different from the Terms of Use.

This Fair Use Policy simply states that you are free to host your website only as long as you use a given subset of resources (bandwidth and disk space, etc.) available to you. If your website crosses its bandwidth limits (let’s say, Mark Zuckerberg shares you on Facebook and sends a lot of traffic your way?), you will violate the Fair Use Policy and your website will be penalized. Not so unlimited now, is it?

99 Sites On A Host

And how and why do web hosts oversell their servers this way? The answer is simple: if there are a hundred users on a given shared server, not all of them will use all the resources available to them (Zuckerberg may give you a lucky break, but what are the chances that he will give the same to 99 others?)

So, in all likelihood, 99 out of the 100 users will consume a small fraction of the traffic and space, and this allows the host to oversell servers – claiming that hosting is unlimited and stacking 200 (or even 300 users) on a server that is otherwise, capable of handling only say, 100 websites. This is more like a game of averages.

Unlimited is Severely Limited, Actually

But what happens when you actually use the resources available to you? More importantly, what if 10 out of the abovementioned 100 users manage to really drive traffic their way, one way or another, and start eating up a lot of bandwidth?

This is where the limits of unlimited shared web hosting come into play – the exact outcome varies from one web host to another – but common results include the server becoming super slow to respond, or the ‘defaulting’ websites being taken down (temporarily, most of the time).

If this happens too often, users with popular websites will be asked to migrate to a VPS, even though their websites may be able to survive reasonably well in a not-so-oversold shared environment.

Resource Management

Another technical aspect of this fact is that your website will probably consume more memory and CPU than bandwidth or disk space. Suppose, for a moment, that your site is running 100 processes in a minute, with each process using 0.2 CPU seconds. Wanna know what will happen here? Your website will get suspended, that’s what!

However, if each process took something like 2 minutes, everything will be fine and you will not even notice it. Thus, if your website gets a lot of visitors, it will most likely consume more CPU resources, and hog it up, thereby making all the websites on that server slow to respond).

Most web hosts try to avoid this CPU processes and RAM detail. Instead, they just give you a number of domains you can host in one shared hosting package, and then blame the slow-down on the number of domains you might have hosted.

What Now?

So, is unlimited hosting really that bad? Probably, but that does not mean you should fear it. My point behind this article is to explain to you that while deciding a web host, you should not really fall for marketing gimmicks that rely on over-using the word ‘Unlimited’. Instead, your focus should be on web hosts who offer good support, uptime stats, and other features.

Keeping all other features constant, a web host who promises you 1 GB of disk space with 10 GB of bandwidth in $5 per month is often better than a host who gives you Unlimited Bandwidth with Unlimited Disk Space for $3 per month.

However, if you are running a website with less traffic, you can still opt for unlimited hosting. There will not be too many risks, because owing to less traffic, your website will obviously adhere to the Fair Use Policy.

More

Here are a few more articles about web hosting that you might be interested in:

What do you think of Unlimited Web Hosting and oversold servers? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Author:

Sufyan is a writer/editor, graphic artist, programmer and photographer based in India. He is also the founder and chief editor of an e-journal named Brave New World.

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