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03-20-2016 until 04-20-2025
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Why might you choose an “Unlimited” web hosting package

“Unlimited” hosting is a controversial topic amongst hosts and hosting forums - with good reason. There are many drawbacks that you should consider before choosing this type of hosting package.

If you are unaware of how much space or bandwidth that you need for your project, or feel that an unlimited package will definitely meet your needs, the following explains some of the things to consider.

Understanding “Unlimited” packages

There is no such thing as an unlimited capacity hard-drive, so a host will not be able to provide you with an unlimited amount of disk space for any amount of money. Hosts do use arrays of multiple disks that can increase capacity, performance and resilience, but these are still limited in size and are relatively expensive.

You need to think of the term “unlimited” as “within reason”. There is no restriction on the disk space you may use “within reason”. The same goes for bandwidth/transit, as there is no such thing as an unlimited capacity Internet pipe, or unlimited speed NIC card.

If you were wondering whether you could create and run the next Dropbox, Netflix or Facebook on an unlimited plan, the answer is NO.

Things to consider

Remember, if you have an “unlimited” account, you will also be sharing that server with an unknown number of other customers who also have “unlimited” accounts. Overselling by hosts is frowned upon, yet “unlimited” accounts are by their very nature overselling.

Often hosts who offer unlimited space will have swapped their 600GB 15K SAS high performance disks for 3TB SATA drives in order to be able to offer large amounts of space, so they have already compromised their performance and reliability for capacity.

Your host's profitability is very important

If you enter into a relationship with a host thinking solely about what you are getting from them, and not considering what they are getting from you, you will likely have a hard time in the long run. All hosts need to be profitable, otherwise they will disappear along with your data.

Profit = (Prices Charged) – (Cost to provide service)

Profitability of “unlimited” accounts is difficult for a host to manage. The costs to provide an "unlimited" service are unknown, and since a price has been fixed, the profit is also unknown. “Unlimited” hosts have a lot more difficulty planning the future growth of their customers when each can grow in an “unlimited” way, so expect a few mistakes (downtime) along the way.
  • The server may need to be taken down more often to accommodate upgrades and expansion.
  • You may need to move your data more often, as the host will not be able to expand their server indefinitely.
All of these issues are made worse if you are paying very little for your service.

Read the TOS (Terms of Service)

To remain profitable when they are offering “unlimited” accounts, it’s more than likely any real limits will be found in their TOS. To be fair, standard hosting accounts provided “with limits” can also, and often do, have further limitations in their TOS, but when looking at an “unlimited” account these are often more restrictive in terms of what you can do. Ensure you read them before making your decision.

Periodic checkups. Do your own housekeeping

Periodically compare the resources that your website is consuming, and then compare that to the resource restrictions on your provider's Terms of Service. If what you are currently using is close to exceeding those on your plan, fully expect warnings by your host and possible termination of your account, resulting in complete data loss.

Hosting is a business with low margins. Unlimited or not, your host will be looking at doing 1 of 3 things when you start costing more than they are earning.
  • Charge you more for the service, returning their service to profitability.
  • Changing your service, returning their service to profitability.
  • Terminating your service. (No money is better than a loss).
Doing your homework periodically will, at minimum, give you some knowledge as to when you could expect trouble. There is no such thing as a "set and forget" hosting account, and whilst "unlimited" seems to promise that, nothing is further from the truth.

Here are some of the things you may find could happen.
  • Hosts who don't use block backups, but file backups may stop backing up your account when it exceeds a number of inodes or a specific size. (So just as your site gets big enough to be worth backing up, they stop backing your site up.)
  • They may insist on more money for the same account, or insist that you upgrade to a more expensive account or VPS.
  • They may reduce some of your real-time limits.
    - Maximum CPU Speed
    - Maximum Network Speed
    - Maximum Disk I/O
This is inevitable. If your site grows, eventually it will need an upgrade. You cannot use the “but it's unlimited” get-out excuse.

Before giving up on your host, see what solutions they offer you. If you move your account to another "unlimited" host you are at best buying a small amount of time. At least now you will now know what resources you need.

CPU - the most precious resource

CPU is the most constrained of all resources on shared servers, but especially on “unlimited” accounts that offer an unlimited number of domains.

Therefore, using too much CPU (look for the “CPU” related clause in your provider’s Terms of Service) will cause issues long before using a little too much disk space. CPU abuse is often the sign of a compromised account. This is the main reason why accounts that use too much CPU don't escape the host's attention for long. Hosts know that leaving a single site functioning when compromised could lead to further compromises, outgoing spam and all kinds of trouble.

Disk I/O is more precious than disk space

If your application thrashes the disk, then be prepared for your host to throttle your accounts disk i/o, or suspend your account all together.

Stay out of trouble
  • Use a caching plugin where practical.
    - Keeps your CPU and database activities to a minimum.
  • Use indexes on databases where you perform table joins.
    - Poor database queries are a shared hosts' worst nightmare, stealing untold CPU and I/O cycles. A few indexes will go a long way.
  • Optimise your graphics.
    - Not only will doing this reduce disk-space, it will also reduce your bandwidth usage, making your sites faster to load. Not only will your host be delighted, but your visitors will be too.
  • If your "caching algorithm" uses more CPU or disk I/O than it saves, then don't use it.
  • Make your own backups regularly, if you abuse/annoy your host they could be the only ones you have.

  • You get what you pay for.
  • Know your limits (check out the TOS).
  • Don't overuse CPU, disk I/O or memory if you can help it. (Be considerate of other users on the server, as you would expect them to be to you).
  • Make regular backups.

GUIDE CREDIT: ughosting, HD Community Advisor