Unlimited Hosting – How Web Hosts Flat Out Lie (Part 3)

Last week we examined the truth behind uptime guarantees in hosting. A 100% uptime guarantee is not really what most people expect.

Today I’ll try to (briefly) rant discuss one of my pet peeves when it comes to hosting – The promise of unlimited hosting.

There is always a limit

Until they create the infinite hard drive or the never ending fiber optic connection, there is no such thing as unlimited when it comes to hosting.

But it sure sounds great as a slogan on a website (ones I’ve seen):

Unlimited disk space, unlimited bandwidth!

Never run out of space

Host as many domains as you want!

What’s the harm?

There are actually a number of drawbacks to unlimited hosting. Check out our blog post 15 Reasons to Avoid Unlimited Hosting for an in-depth look at the perils of this type of host.

The lie that is unlimited hosting

Here is what really bothers me about this marketing technique – IT’S A LIE!

That’s right, web hosts are falsely representing themselves and misleading their clients in an attempt to win their business. I’m amazed more lawsuits haven’t popped up. The unlimited claim has a whole slew of limits and restrictions. Here are a few I’ve seen:

  • Inode limit
    The account is limited to 50,000 files. If you have an ecommerce store with a few thousand products, you’ll exceed this limit in no time
  • Bandwidth restrictions
    Although they state it’s unlimited, the fine print includes statements that “bandwidth has a monthly allowance”.
  • CPU restrictions
    The amount of CPU resources is severely restricted (percentage, cycles, impact, etc…). Any modest amount of traffic to your blog or online store could result in your site being down or limited to the point of it being unusable.
  • File type restrictions
    Rules about what type of files you can have, how they can be used, etc… all designed to limit disk space
  • Unlimited disk space, very low bandwidth limits
    This is the new trend for remotely hosted e-commerce applications. They say unlimited space, but then only provide 5 GB of monthly bandwidth. You can exceed this just uploading your images. And the overages can be $10 or more per GB per month!

Limits are a good thing

When clearly defined disk space and bandwidth limits are known, it’s easy to know what you can and cannot do with your account. It gives you boundaries for how to setup and use your site, and be able to have it run fast and always be available if you remain within those boundaries.

A good host that sets realistic limits will always allow any client to make full use of their space and bandwidth without fear of being suspended, or their usage interrupted. In our 14+ years of hosting, we have never had to suspend a client that was within their account limits (unless they had a script that was in a loop, or a poorly coded script that was monopolizing the server for long periods of time).

I hope my ranting wasn’t too much. What do you think of unlimited hosting?

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  1. Rick says:

    No such thing as unlimited web hosting.

    If I had a server with a 500 GB hard disk, and (assuming) each person being hosted off of my web server was using about 2.5 GB of disk space, I could only host approximately 200 people.

    Now if I advertised “Unlimited Disk Space”, what would happen if I only had 15 GB left of disk space and someone needed to use 24 GB? I would then have to tell that person that I really do not have unlimited disk space, then that person would not be very happy.

    It is always best to come up with realistic disk space choices for customers, instead of just saying “Unlimited”.

  2. Keith Hinton says:

    Hi, Rob:
    Firstly, it bothers me probably just as much as it does you, that unlimited hosting is advertised all over the place, and the sickening truth? All the web hosts know this, but choose to do nothing!
    Large hosts, like Host Gator, and loads of others claim to offer (and falsely) at that, this so-called unlimited marketing scam.
    I don’t understand why that is, it’s dishonest, it’s not polite, and loads of other bad things to do to any person-but especially a potential customer!
    Guess what I’m thinking of that would fit nicely with your article?
    While it’s not web hosting related, I’m thinking of how my local Internet Service Provider Cable One, let me get higher Internet speeds, but first ordered me to commit my business with a one year contract, or no higher speed upgrade.
    That’s right, all the so-called agreement was intended to do was to insure or should I say to “force” my continued business.
    As an end-result, and due to some other corporate decisions CableOne made recently (like to charge customers on top of the monthly Internet bill if a technician has to be called out when the customer is having a problem that isn’t on CableOne’s end of things for example just to make more money), I’m going to be switching ISPs as early as the beginning of 2013 if I can.
    I know of at least one honest ISP, CommSpeed, who clearly from a long-term customer business relationship standpoint, makes it overwelming clear ont he website as a local Prescott AZ business that they don’t believe in forcing business through any contracts.
    Can you just imagine for a second the following happening with web hosting?
    Think of web hosting in that way:
    You Rob, decide just because you can, that you’re going to make your customers pay you monthly up front for an entire year, just to get say, a small boost in disk space for an e-commerce website, maybe a small increase in bandwidth, (heck) an entire plan upgrade, just to force them to stay with you!
    That’s not good business practice, and while I’m not an expert in business to any degree, I’m smart enough to know what’s honest, what isn’t, and I most surely do agree with the other articles you have on your site.
    Hosting is a service, for sure. People have forgot this, or at least it would seem that way.
    I’d say that some, even forget that things still cost, as lots of folks I know think that everything they use is free as in Beer, or free as in Open Source.
    But heck, we all know that even those open-source projects (thousands of them) aren’t free of cost.
    Bandwidth and other server-related bills don’t pay themselves, for sure.
    Perhaps you could talk about the so-called unlimited bandwidth joke while your at it, and explain how hosts get you with that too.
    Maybe explain how bandwidth works for those who might not be as technical as you or I, that would be awesome to see in a future post.
    Keep up the great work, Rob, educational appreciated articles for sure, especially in PCI compliance.
    Makes me glad I use PayPal to do any card processing, as I most surely don’t have what it takes to process cards in real-time for anybody.
    Given the nature of the PCI compliance beast, I’m not so sure I’d want to do that, ever, even if I would be better served by doing real-time processing.
    Is that even necesary these days?
    Especially if PayPal payments standard works just fine for what I do?
    What do you think honestly given your years in the PCI world?
    Some folks tel me that paying through any third party is bad for any business, and my response to people is that I really don’t care if it is bad for me or not and that I’ll use whatever works, not what the majority dictate I do.
    Not sure if that’s the best argument to put out, but I’ve always stuck up for myself, one way or the other.
    Have a great day!

    • Keith,

      Thanks for the feedback and information.

      Per PCI, the only “issue” with using PayPal Standard is your handing off the customer to another website to complete the purchase. For those people who love using PayPal, it’s not an issue. But there are many customers who prefer to just enter a credit card on the website where they are checking out.

      Having the website change to PayPal could cause a few lost sales. That’s my thought for why many online stores tackle PCI – to provide a seamless buying process.

  3. Gary says:

    Its false advertising and illegal. One day someone will sue them to have that removed. Its the most atrocious thing in hosting and to anyone who uses these hosts is a fool cause you are being lied to before even purchasing, have some integrity and tell these hosts NO…

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