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Inodes Explained

While inode is not the most critical factor to look into when choosing a web host, it's one of the “good to know” especially if you are hosting a lot of websites in one hosting account.

What is an Inode?

The term “Inode” has been around since the introduction of the first UNIX file system around the late 1970s.

An inode is created in your server every time a file is created or uploaded. When a file system is created, data structure that contain information about that particular file is created. Each file has an “i-number” and is identified by an inode number in the file system where it resides.

Inodes are used to store server file information – such as file user and group ownership, access mode (read, write, execute permissions), and file types. For most file types, the number of inodes available is fixed when the file system is created.

What is Inode Limit?

Inode Limit is one of the few ways to limit users' consumption in “unlimited hosting plans“. To keep server resources in good balance, hosting providers usually set a limit on inodes per account.

What Happens if You Exceeded Inode Limit?

Different hosting providers react differently when Inode limit is reached.

Take Hostinger for instance, you will no longer be able to create any more additional files once you have reached your Inode limit. Your account maybe suspended until you remove unused web files and go below the limit.

On the other hand, Hostgator users get 100,000 inodes per shared account by default. Users running with more than 100,000 inodes will not be included in Hostgator's weekly backup and their account be suspended if they go above 250,000 inodes.

Most shared hosting plans today allow up to 200,000 inodes per account – which is usually more than enough.

However not all providers are clear with their inode limitation upfront.

For examples – Bluehost mentioned about account suspension/CPU throttle for overused CPU quota (but not inodes). On the other hand, Lunarpages only talk talk about inodes count on their wikipage but no specific numbers were given in their ToS.

Freeing Up Inodes in Your Hosting Account

As with all cluttered storage drives, freeing up inodes on web hosting can often simply be a matter of getting rid of the junk. If you find yourself getting resource usage warnings because of your high inode count, there are a few ways you can quickly free up space with a bit of housekeeping.

1. Clear your Cache

Before you touch anything else, this is one of the first places you should look, especially if you’ve noticed a recent high volume of traffic. Many sites (especially those which are CMS-driven) make use of cache files.

Although often temporary, they can bulk up quickly if you overlook some control settings. If you’re using a CMS plugin, simply purging your cache can quickly free up inodes. For other sites it may be more involved and you may have to hunt for temporary files.

2. Lose Some Bulk

Many of us tend to make the mistake of not having good housekeeping practices. This means that we create files and constantly improve our sites – without getting rid of old junk. This can present problems in a number of ways.

For example, having unused old files lying around is not just a waste of inode count, but also increases your risk signature. If you find yourself short on space, do some housekeeping and get rid of the junk.

3. Email also Contributes to Inode Count

For those who have email included in your hosting accounts, bear in mind that your emails also factor in. One email may be an inode, but each attachment in it counts as one also. If you’re the type who doesn’t remove old email – sooner or later, things happen.

Clear up your email folders regularly and make sure to remove your junk mail as well. If you want to keep them, make a copy offline and don’t clutter up your web server.

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Article by Jerry Low

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