16 Ways to Optimize Your Used Hosting Diskspace

You bought a web hosting package that you thought would suffice to the needs of your website. Perhaps you knew that unlimited web hosting is more of a chimera and you went for a few GB plan with some decent bandwidth. Sounds good. But where did problems come up, then? After a few months of meticulous management, for some unknown reason, your webdisk quota appears hideously small, while that usage percentage bar dangerously approaches the 100%.

Disk Space Optimization

You are a few steps from buying an upgrade, aren’t you?

Before you even think about a purchase, stop for a moment and analyze the situation. What may have gone wrong?

  • Your installed software – Are script upgrades getting heavier?
  • Your databases – Are they getting bigger in size as your content and user feedback grows?
  • Your webmail accounts – Did you check that they’re not reaching their assigned quota?
  • Your Websites – Have you been adding more subsites to your account (in subfolders, subdomains or addon domains)?

Some, all or more of the above may be the causes of your sudden package inadequacy. The 16 tips below will guide you to the resolution of this problem, suggesting what and how to optimize within your web hosting account. Leave upgrades as a last resort in case none of the tips work (wanna bet? :)).

1. Clean up your WordPress (or other script) installation

Unused theme files, plugins, hacks: if you’re not going to use them in the future, get rid of them. Lighten your database by deleting all spam comments, spam users, broken links, old drafts and WordPress post revisions.

2. Delete old emails from your webmail accounts

They eat up web disk and don’t contribute to your website health. Download your old emails that you want to keep and trash the remainder.

3. Get rid of your test files

You’re not using them anymore, so why keep them? Always remove your test files and installations once you’re done with the testing.

4. Disable Awstats, Webalizer and other traffic scripts

And remove the current files and their folders. These traffic analysis tools are excellent in performance, but they do need several megabytes and you can’t be too generous if your disk quota is restricted. You can replace these tools with online services such like Google Analytics, Mixpanel and Open Web Analytics. If you can’t disable the scripts, your host might have denied you of the permissions, so contact them and ask for assistance.

5. Consider a script replacement rather than an upgrade

That is, if the upgrade is too heavy for your servers. I’ve had to switch to FanUpdate and Chyrp on small hosting accounts that could not stand a 20+ MB WordPress upgraded package. If you can’t make the switch, minimize your installation (see tip #1 in this list).

6. Consider moving your subsites elsewhere

A second hosting account, a Blogger or WordPress.com blog, a free package from another provider. Setup your priorities: your personal blog can certainly make use of a less expensive or free package than your business website.

7. Consider moving email accounts elsewhere

Your computer email client (POP or IMAP), for example, or the email apps offered by Google. And what about email forwarders? They’re all excellent ways to reduce the load on your hosting account.

8. Host all media on external services

Videos, images, music files and downloadable packages can be uploaded on YouTube, Photobucket or MediaFire. Please note that these files are a major factor when it comes to reaching your webdisk quota.

9. Remove log files

Log files are useful because they let you monitor your hosting account activity while you’re away, but there’s no reason for them to remain on server. Once you downloaded and reviewed log files, you can safely remove them and free up megabytes of webdisk.

10. Remove old/unused installations

There’s no point in keeping these files on server. Old script versions and ‘ghost’ files from deleted installations only eat up disk quota and don’t serve to your website needs, so get rid of them.

11. Remove installation backups

Scripts like WordPress and phpBB leave on-server backups at every upgrade. These files, usually in .zip or .tar.gz compressed format, are only useful if you need to re-install anything that got lost with the upgrade, or if you wish to restore the old version. If you don’t, they’re candidate to removal.

12. Remove installation doc files

When you install a script, either manually or via your host’s preconfigured installer (e.g. Fantastico, Softaculous), the procedure will copy a ‘doc’ (or other name) folder containing a user guide. While this guide can be useful reference material, it’s unnecessary to the well-being of the script, so you can safely remove it and free up some Kb-to-MB of webspace. You should keep your README.txt and license.txt files, though, in the case the author requires them for a legitimate use of the script.

13. Don’t allow user uploads

If tip #8 suggests to refrain from hosting your own media on server, the advice is even more valid for user uploads. Don’t allow your blog readers or forum users to upload photos and videos. Your diskspace and bandwidth are limited and precious.

14. Use cloud services for common scripts (ex. jQuery)

There are a number of providers you can use — Google is an example — that host the most common JavaScript libraries on their own servers. Since you’re no longer hosting the libraries yourself, you’ll earn extra Kb (or MB) and, thanks to the services’ caching functions, optimize the script loading time for an improved user experience.

15. Minimize your CSS and make it external

You can effectively increase your website efficiency by using external stylesheets, because your pages will load significantly faster and you’ll have saved several kilobytes of diskspace. To make CSS files even lighter, minimize the code by removing indentations and non-essential spaces. One-line stylesheets may not be easy to manage, but if you keep a human readable version on your computer and leave a minimized version on server, you’ll win in extra space and loading speed.

16. Lighten your HTML pages by removing Flash

Don’t use Flash to include videos in your webpages: it’s heavy for the server and for your webdisk, too. A valid alternative is the HTML5 video tag, which is lightweight and efficient.