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.
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 file system 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 Services
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 usually more than enough. However, 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.
How many inodes you can get with Hostgator hosting?
For Hostgator Baby Croc hosting plan, users 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).
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 hosted more than 10 sites) consumes about 50,000 inodes. The rest of my inode capacity remained unused for years.
Unless you plan to run a buggy scripts or a spammy programs you shouldn't worry too much about inodes.
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