Web Hosting Secrets: Inodes

I bet most web hosting shoppers have not heard about inodes. It is, after all, almost an abandon topic in web hosting industry as the technical term reveals the secrets behind unlimited hosting offers.

What’s an inode, actually?

Detail definition quoted from Wikipedia:

In computing, an inode is a data structure on a traditional Unix-style file system such as UFS. An inode stores basic information about a regular file, directory, or other file system object.

When a file system is created, data structures that contain information about files are created. Each file has an inode and is identified by an inode number (often referred to as an “i-number” or “inode”) in the file system where it resides.

Inodes store information on files such as user and group ownership, access mode (read, write, execute permissions) and type of file. On many file system types the number of inodes available is fixed when the filesystem is created, giving a maximum number of files the file system can hold. Typically when a file system is created about 1% of it is devoted to inodes.

The term inode usually refers to inodes on block devices that manage regular files, directories, and possibly symbolic links. The concept is particularly important to the recovery of damaged file systems.

In layman’s term:

Every time a file is created or uploaded on a server, an inode is created. Simply say, inode is the count of the files on your web hosting account.

Inodes and web hosting offer

You might see unlimited hosting services offered everywhere but what you didn’t notice is that all these offers comes with protective clauses that stand against the hosting users.

Limitation on inodes for instance is a good example of these clauses.

In order to control server usage, inodes are often limited by web hosting providers. Generally a good web host will offer up to hundreds of thousand inodes limits (which is more than enough) but there are terrible hosting companies that suspend their customer account at 40,000 inodes. These lousy web host must be avoided at all cost as their ‘unlimited offer’ is nothing more than marketing lies to trap shoppers.

Inodes limitation at reputable web host

As said, inodes limitation is an abandon topic that you can hardly get hosting company talked about it. Hostgator is so far the only web host I knew that revealed their inodes limitation.

Bluehost mentioned about account suspension/CPU throttle for overused CPU quota (but not inodes); Lunarpages talked about inodes count on their wikipage but nothing specific are mentioned; while for others, I can’t really find anything mentioned.

How many inodes you can get with Hostgator hosting?

For Hostgator Baby Croc hosting plan, I get 250,000 inodes. The hosting company also reveals further that if inodes in your account exceed 50,000, then only your databases will be backed up on our weekly backup schedule. Static files will not get backed up.

In case you wonder, the inodes limitation is stated at the front page of your Hostgator cPanel. Scroll down a little and you’ll see a bar (as shown the small image above). Clicking on the ‘View Inode Distribution’ shows further on your account inodes usage (categorized based on directory, refer image below).

Inodes distribution at Hostgator hosting account

What does this means to web hosting shoppers?

Basically 250,000 inodes is a pretty more than enough to normal usage. FYI my Hostgator account (which I host 5 sites on it) consumes 15,476 inodes at this time of writing and the rest of 90%+ capacity remained unused for years.

To be frank, unless you plan to run a buggy scripts or a spammy programs you shouldn’t worry too much about inodes at Hostgator. The notification about inodes, in fact, is a good sign showing that Hostgator is the very few who’re willing do hosting business in honest way. With such transparency, I’m convinced that the company will honor their commitments and will ensure their customer gets exactly what they paid for.