For many of us, the word "unlimited" seems full of possibility. We love unlimited cell phone data, unlimited free refills, and unlimited WiFi. But the word unlimited rarely means what we think. In the case of web hosting, unlimited web hosting may not truly be what it seems.
The Basics of Managed Web Hosting
To put it simply, managed web hosting is using a third party service to take care of all the highly technical aspects of website building and maintenance. This means your managed hosting server will take care of such details as:
- Setting up and configuring hardware
- Setting up and installing software
- Providing technical support
- Performing routine system maintenance
- Performing regular updates and monitoring as needed
Unlimited Web Hosting?
Such websites as GoDaddy, BlueHost, and Hostgator offer managed hosting services to those who want to create a website without the constant hassle of performing tricky technical maintenance.
Many of these sites offer "unlimited" web hosting to appeal to new website creators. But what they don't tell you is that the word unlimited is more or less a marketing tactic. Nobody can offer you truly unlimited web hosting.
Like our regular personal computers, the web servers used to host various websites have limited space and storage. Although they are sophisticated enough to handle more traffic and information than our computers, they are not truly unlimited.
Web servers are dependent on hard drives just like our PCs. All hard drives have a limit to the amount of space they can hold before they reach full capacity.
Major web hosting companies are capable of providing an exceptional amount of storage space, but even so, they have limits.
In order to offer "unlimited" web hosting, these companies must use a series of tactics to maintain the illusion that they have unlimited storage capacities.
How do Companies Provide "Unlimited" Web Hosting?
In order to offer what they refer to as unlimited web hosting for an affordable price, major web hosting providers must jump through a series of hoops to ensure that their customers have what appears to be unlimited storage capacities.
Some of these tactics include:
Using Outdated Server Hardware
Because unlimited software takes away a company's ability to profit from storage upgrades, companies offering unlimited storage must cut costs elsewhere to remain profitable.
One way for them to achieve this is to use low grade servers instead of paying for the correct up-to-date technology. These servers rely on physical hard drives instead of the more effective solid-state drives (SSDs).
Using an SSD can allow your site to run 4 times faster than a traditional hard drive, but because they are more expensive, these companies stick with the cheaper and less efficient option.
Cutting Server Maintenance Costs
Routine server maintenance is costly. Companies who offer unlimited web hosting often look to cut costs by decreasing the amount of server maintenance they perform, leaving their hosted sites vulnerable to hacking and attacks.
Many web hosting companies use shared servers for website hosting. While shared servers aren't inherently bad, they are not conducive to "unlimited" hosting. On a shared server, your website as well as hundreds or even thousands of others are being hosted on the same server. Since each server has a certain capacity, it is impossible to achieve unlimited storage when one server is being shared by so many websites.
Hiring Entry-Level Support Staff
Knowledgeable technical support experts demand higher salaries than their inexperienced entry-level counterparts. In order to afford their unlimited web hosting, companies hire support staff with little to no experience in the field.
These inexperienced support members are often unable to provide correct solutions in a timely manner, resulting in less efficient technical support company-wide.
Terms & Conditions
Understandably, most service contracts come with some sort of terms and conditions. However, the terms and conditions associated with most unlimited web hosting servers is extremely limiting.
Almost always, these terms will explicitly state that you may not "impose an unreasonable or disproportionately large load on [the company's] infrastructure." Basically, they are stating that there is a cap on the amount of content you may host on your site.
Most hosting companies will cap your account once you pass a few gigabytes of storage. Often, they will also specify that you may not use their web hosting as storage or backup for multimedia material.
In order to prevent one website from becoming too large and negatively impacting other sites on the same shared server, these companies will place limits on the amount of storage you can host.
For example, Bluehost's terms explicitly state: "Bluehost may request that the number of files/inodes, database tables, or total database usage be reduced to ensure proper performance or may terminate the Subscriber's account, with or without notice," and "Bluehost does place automated safeguards to protect against any one site growing too quickly."
Breaching the terms and conditions is grounds for temporary or indefinite suspension.
In order to maximize profits, many of these web hosting companies will overload their servers to the point of sites crashing or load failures.
This has two benefits for the company.
- First, it prevents them from having to invest in more server space as they cram as much information as possible into the space they have.
- Secondly, it encourages frustrated consumers to purchase their higher level plans, which promise more bandwidth and faster load times.
In order to run a site with fast load times, up-to-date technology, and exceptional technical support, opt for a company that does not claim to offer "unlimited" web hosting. Here are a few other things to look for:
- Make sure the company does not use mechanical hard drives or SSD caching. Look for a company that provides pure SSD-based web hosting.
- Research user reviews to learn about load times and customer support.
- Ideally, look for a company that uses DDR4 RAM, which offers improved latency and requires less power, resulting in more system stability over time.