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I almost hate to say that web hosts lie. I understand why they say it. Everyone loves a good deal, right? Unlimited hosting looks like a great deal. Pay one price and use it to your hearts content. Except there’s that fine print stuff. The small paragraphs deep within your terms of service that give your strict guidelines on how you can use your “unlimited hosting”.

Need to store some files? That’s not OK. Doesn’t matter that you have unlimited hosting.

Know you’re going to have 100GB of bandwidth in one hour? That’s probably not going to happen.

Need to move 100GB of existing websites? You’ll probably have to wait. You might be waiting weeks.

Web hosts sell unlimited hosting banking on the fact that you’re not actually going to use much. You feel like you’re getting a great deal, and if you don’t run into any of the small print problems you would likely never find out that your unlimited hosting is really quite limited.

Why do they lie?

Simple. We live in a world of “unlimited”, an idea that is impossible. Unfortunately, servers have not transcended the finite world we actually live in and even the mega-corporation web hosts have to buy and maintain servers and the lines that pipe the internet to them.

Web hosting is only partially tangible. You can see a finished product, you know it’s there, but you never see the behind-the-scenes of how it all works. You likely know that somewhere out there a server is holding your files (much like any desktop or laptop), but you never see it. It makes it easy to believe that your website is sitting all alone on a super computer in an undisclosed location.

Argonne National Laboratory/Flickr Yeah, wouldn't that be nice?

Argonne National Laboratory/Flickr
Yeah, wouldn’t that be nice?


When in all honesty…

It’s more like being in a clown car.

It’s called overselling. They sell more than they can provide, because they know the likelihood their users will actually use the capacity is low. It’s easier for the web host to let a problem arise and then fix it instead of ensuring that all their clients have “unlimited”, because really… there is no unlimited.

If you’re on shared hosting, which is the primary target for “unlimited hosting”, you’re crowded on to servers with a number of other people. Typically the more you’re paying the more you get up front, but it could be completely the same as someone paying half what you are. You don’t really know do you?

In the event that other users are abusing or using more storage/bandwidth than the web host expects, you and everyone on your shared server will feel the pain. From slow page loads all the way to your website being completely unavailable. The web hosts will often either suspend an abusive account (remember abusive doesn’t mean they’re doing anything bad… they could simply be going against the fine print usage rules) or if the problem-causing user is following the rules it’s possible they’ll move that user to a different, less crowded server. Everyone wins, right?

Except you can’t magically get back time lost, frustration, and potential loss of sales.


So is Unlimited Hosting really that bad?

A big, resounding YES!

Some would argue that if a website that is so sensitive that the problems I’ve talked about would be devastating that someone should be paying for a dedicated server (with a set storage and bandwidth) to guarantee these problems don’t happen, but what happens to the small start-ups? What happens to the mom and pop shops that want an online presence? What happens to all these people that can not afford these often costly dedicated options?

The largest problem that happens with unlimited hosting is that it is unpredictable. Sure bad things can happen no matter what, but when you KNOW how much storage you have available to you, there won’t be a chance of waiting two weeks to have more space allocated to you during a time sensitive project (I have had this happen!) and you know if your website is in danger of running out of monthly bandwidth at any given time. With unlimited hosting why would you even consider this as being a possible problem?

The bottom line is that web hosts should not lie to make a sale. It’s laughing in the face of their customers and expecting them to not know any better. They may be a really great web host, that works very hard to please their customers, but the very first thing they told that customer was a lie and they’re really hoping that you will never find out.

Be sure to read the fine print when you buy unlimited hosting. Make sure you understand what you’re really getting.