An unlimited hosting plan often promises unlimited traffic and unlimited hosting space. What makes these offers even more attractive is often the attractive price. But are we really sure that all that glitters is gold?
In this article, Unlimited hosting, is it real?, we’re going to see what are the hidden restrictions that often hide behind unlimited hosting offers and we'll see everything you should know not to risk having bad surprises.
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Unlimited hosting and unmetered traffic
Among the different offers, it may occur to find providers that offer unlimited traffic. More often, however, a different term is used and refers to unmetered traffic.
You have to pay attention at this point because the guarantee that the traffic is not measured does not necessarily mean that you have unlimited traffic. On the contrary, the opposite is true in any case, since data cannot be transmitted in an unlimited way because they must be subject to precise physical limits dictated by the infrastructure.
Digging into the fine print of those who promise unlimited hosting (at rock-bottom prices) you soon discover the trick.
"Traffic is unlimited, but we can't guarantee that there won't be problems when the bandwidth used becomes excessive."
Phrases like these are just another way of saying that in reality, the limit does exist.
Unlike those who set clear and transparent limits, making customers aware of the resources they will actually have access to, often those who offer unlimited hosting are actually just hiding the limits.
How do you do this?
First and foremost, and in many cases by hedging with clauses that you hardly know about when you sign up for the service. Clauses in small print or that can only be found by going to carefully read very long terms of service.
In the second instance, by resorting to other tricks, such as limiting other resources and effectively preventing you from generating substantial traffic. This is the case with services, which, while not imposing a real bandwidth limit, do impose restrictions on CPU usage time.
The CPU limit is one example among many when it comes to limited hosting resources. Each provider imposes different rules, necessary limitations that you may not have considered by virtue of the fact that what you're paying for is unlimited hosting (at least in theory). Other restrictions can be in terms of space allocated to the database, the number of database connections or inodes, as we will see later when talking about space.
Unlimited hosting, is it real?… up to a certain extent
The reason why you can find numerous unlimited hosting offers is that in reality, users don't always notice the existence of unstated limits.
The strength of those who offer an unlimited service is that in most cases the amount of resources used by websites falls within narrow ranges that are easy to keep under control.
In one case in a hundred, where a user's need for resources grows, the limits come to the surface. And when that happens, it's too late to rush to remedies and often all that's left is to change hosting.
What happens when you exceed this invisible limit?
Even if it's not explicitly stated, you can be sure that a bandwidth limit actually exists. In this case, however, not being able to know what is the quota within which you should stay, what happens?
In terms of the use of the services of those who offer unlimited hosting, it is very likely that you will find clauses that warn you. The provider might warn you that in most cases they will be able to handle your site's traffic.
But what if your case doesn't fall into this majority?
In that case, the provider must reserve the right to impose limits, including but not limited to bandwidth, to prevent a single user from overloading the bandwidth to the detriment of all others.
In fact, this is exactly the reason why self-respecting companies impose limits on their customers. Using limits serves to ensure that all users get the best and most stable service possible.
That's why at the end of the day, even those who advertise their service as unlimited hosting have to follow the same policy if they don't want to harm several users in order to satisfy one of them.
Regarding the traffic limitation, specifically, once you exceed a certain threshold (that only the provider knows) your resources could be reduced suddenly and consequently the speed of the site would be affected.
The site is slowed down or suspended even when the CPU limits are exceeded. In the most desirable case, the suspension is removed as soon as you are within the limits again. In the worst case, however, the suspension continues indefinitely until you contact support.
There is no need to point out that having your site down has negative consequences and, in addition to causing image damage, it can make your sales go away.
So why does unlimited hosting continue to work and attract customers?
As I said before for most of the users who choose cheap unlimited hosting there are no major problems and it is this tendency that fuels the phenomenon of overselling.
With overselling you do nothing but exploit the unused resources, the surplus of plans already sold. This is possible due to the fact that most users (and sites) actually use a negligible amount of resources.
This is the very trick that allows some providers to sell unlimited plans at bargain prices, even though they know they can't guarantee what they promise.
We've already looked at the hidden limits when it comes to unlimited traffic, now let's see what's hidden behind offers that promise unlimited hosting space.
Unlimited hosting and disk space
The second big myth is that of having unlimited space available with your hosting plan.
Again, storage space is a physical resource and as such is limiting precisely because of the maximum capacity of the server disks.
So how does a provider offer you unlimited disk space? Again, you'll find your answers in the terms of service and policies that define acceptable use of the service.
Even in unlimited hosting, in reality, the space available to you can be used with precise restrictions.
In most cases, the space is for site files only and extends to active email accounts.
It goes without saying that all other files, media not used on the site, email or file backups are excluded.
In other cases, the much boasted unlimited hosting space hides another pitfall: the limit of inodes. Limiting the maximum inodes, in fact, imposes a limit on the total number of files (including emails) that can be maintained on the server.
In the best case, some providers are less categorical and allow a small percentage of space to be occupied by other files not necessarily related to the site. These conditions always depend specifically on the provider, and even in this case, you should always inquire in advance.
If files not used on the site are found on your disk and this violates the terms of service, you will be forced to delete the files and store them elsewhere. So don't be fooled by the promise of hosting with unlimited space.
Unlimited hosting and email accounts
Unlimited offers often include some providers not only promising traffic and storage space but also include the ability to create email accounts without any limitations.
Also in this case it is good to pay attention to what you are offered. In the most likely scenario you might be able to create an infinite number of email accounts, but subject to other restrictions.
For example, you may have to submit to a space limit for each email account. Or you may have a total space limit that you cannot exceed (the sum of the space allowed for each account). Understand that, for the umpteenth time, talking about unlimited is misleading.
Unlimited hosting: a mirror for the illusion
Providers (and other services as well) often use the words "unlimited" and "unlimited" as a marketing strategy. When you investigate the situation you quickly realize that these adjectives cannot be matched in reality.
The size of hard drives, the bandwidth of the server, we are talking about resources that have well-defined limits. Pretending that these limits do not exist is not enough to make them disappear.
But it is true that by focusing the attention of potential customers on unlimited resources, you end up underestimating other really important parameters.
The uptime of the site, the speed, the rapidity and the efficiency of the support. These are all factors beyond resources that you need to take into consideration when you are going to choose a hosting.
Before you give in to the temptation to sign up for unlimited hosting, knowing that you will have to deal with the hidden pitfalls that it may hold, think carefully. As you’ve gained some insight through this article, Unlimited hosting, is it real?, steer clear of this kind of offer and consider directing your choice towards a more realistic plan.
Ascertained that resource limits are a necessary evil, by choosing a plan with defined thresholds you know exactly what to expect and will never have any nasty surprises.
How about you, have you ever signed up for an unlimited plan? Share your experience in the comments below.