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What does Unlimited Mean to a Web Host?

Lets face it web hosting can be very confusing. Words and terms are bantered about with very little definition of what they really mean.

Lets take for example unlimited web hosting. More and more web hosts seem to be going with an unlimited web hosting price model. There is very little definition of what that means to the average consumer, or what it means to their website. It does sound cool. But what does and doesn’t it really mean?

As a web host, we know that approximately 80% of all normal website site files are comprised of less than 100 megabytes. And when looking at a website of less than 100 pages, you are always going to be under 100 megs unless you have video that is attached to the site and stored on the server.

What we also know is that 10% of the people have spaces over 1 gig. There is a multitude of reasons for that, but most often it is because they don’t rotate their log files, or they are using their web space for off premises storage or backups for their computers. The unlimited hosting space was not designed as an off-site storage plan.

Can I use my unlimited hosting for offsite storage?

This is where web site hosting stops. Using a web hosting account for off-site file storage is prohibited by most hosting company’s terms of service, including ACTWD’s. Web servers are not designed to house and sync files outside of a website. We are happy for customers to use their web space as long as the files uploaded area associated with the functionality of the website and how it renders. Even though most hosts prohibit this.

It can be confusing to a client as to what file is acceptable and what is not. The best rule of thumb to follow is to only keep files that are part of your web site in your webhosting space. This way it avoids being in violation of the terms of service and it doesn’t cause you to have downtime or the web site deleted from the server because of illegal files.

Most web hosts won’t tell you this information and instead charge what they consider the top 20 percent of users of each server. Additionally, many companies also cap the space, not allowing a true unlimited account. Understandably there is the potential for issues there as well. Cloud storage like Dropbox or Google Drive are extremely different on the technical side, but to the end user there may be many similarities, which is why clients don’t understand.

Email and unlimited web hosting

 Email is included in the amount of space a client is taking up on the server. Most webhosts offer both POP and IMAP services. However, IMAP is far more strenuous on the web hosting environment, although it has gained in its popularity and is used almost universally now.

One thing we see a lot of here at ACTWD is clients leaving years of email on the server. In fact, some of our oldest clients also have the most amount of email on the server. This puts added pressure on the servers to preform optimally. What happens when an email is read/touched is it moves the file on the server to a different directory, and then the directory has to be renumbered. So imagine having 20,000 emails. Each time you add an email to that structure it renumbers and reorders the email, consuming a lot of hard drive energy or I/O time.

With the advent of smart phones, they are storing messages on the servers as well. Be warned though, this too can take up a lot of space and put you into that top 10 percent. But don’t rely on the web host to back up your email where as it is nearly impossible to do on a basic web hosting account because of the ever changing files that make up a mailbox. Basic web hosting plans rarely come with a system that effectively backs up email.

One of the best ways to summarize unlimited web space is there really is no such animal in practically. If your website is big enough to ring a bell, it probably is too big to be in a shared hosting environment. And if it is small and it rings the 10 percent bell, it probably means the site is in violation of the terms of service and risks being suspended or blocked.

The best thing we can advocate for consumers is to educate themselves on the subject and ask your potential host what their policy is. You may have to push to get a true answer, which almost always is that the files must be in use on your website.

 

 

 

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