The Truth About Unlimited Hosting

Article by Jerry Low . .
Updated: Aug 29, 2019

 

What is Unlimited Web Hosting?

“Unlimited Hosting” refers to web hosting offers that come with unlimited disk storage, data transfer and in some cases, unlimited addon domain.

What this means is that these unlimited hosting providers are offering you the freedom to host as many websites as you want to at an affordable price (usually below $10/mo).

Unlimited disk storage and bandwidth: Too good to be true?

Take BlueHost as example – the company BlueHost offers full range hosting services – from shared hosting to VPS and dedicated hosting.

If you opt for BlueHost Shared Hosting Plus Plan, you get to host *unlimited* websites at the price of $5.45/mo. On the other hand, you will have to pay at least $79.99/mo on BlueHost Standard Dedicated Plan, which comes with *limited* 500 GB storage, 4 GB RAM, and 5 TB bandwidth.

The math doesn't work right, isn't?

Why would someone pay $79.99 a month for a hosting plan with limited bandwidth when the same provider is offering an unlimited plan at just $5.45/mo?

Example: BlueHost Dedicated Hosting Plans – Limited resources but cost higher.
Example: BlueHost Unlimited Hosting Plans – Unlimited resources but cost cheaper.

Truth is, hosting companies are in a world of their own, especially in terminology. To the average layman, ‘unlimited’ means exactly that – without limitations. However, that’s not quite so true when it comes to unlimited hosting plans.

Truth is … there's always a limit

Wake up and smell the roses, people. We live in a finite world.

  • It is impossible to occupy unlimited physical space to host unlimited servers.
  • It is impossible to have unlimited number of cables to transmit unlimited amount of data around the globe
  • It is also impossible to hire unlimited manpower resources to maintain servers and networks.

Unlimited is nothing but an imaginary industrial term, liberally sprinkled with caveats (also known as exceptions).

Where unlimited servers are built
This is where servers are built at Interserver – I took this photo when I visited their data center in 2016 (more photos in my InterServer review). Manpower, network cables, computer hardware – everything is limited. Why is Interserver able to offer “unlimited” hosting services?

Why are hosting companies “cheating”?

Web hosting is a very competitive business. Web hosting companies are doing all they can, including giving out free migration services and free Google Adwords credits, to win new customers. Because “more if often better” in consumers' beliefs, “unlimited hosting plans” became a popular marketing tactics in mid 2000's (and, if I recall this correctly, BlueHost was the very first that started this).

How Unlimited Hosting Works?

So now you have the “why” – it's time to tackle the “how”.

If you’ve gone through the ToS of a site that’s promising you the moon and the stars for the rock bottom price of $2/mo and think you might finally be putting one over the web hosting provider, think again.

Let’s consider the phenomena known as overselling.

What is overselling?

Overselling happens when a hosting company sells more than they have the actual capacity to provide. Large hosting companies normally own incomprehensible amounts of hosting capacity (bandwidth pipes, computer servers, manpower… etc) that would never be exceeded by a single website.

At the same time, most websites need only very few resources to run daily, such as the average corporate website. Seeing that most resources in their servers remain unused, the hosting companies (that offer unlimited hosting) therefore have the ability to just re-sell those unused hosting capacities (aka overselling).

Unlimited hosting works… until you are using too much

Now, jumping back to our topic – how unlimited web hosting works.Unlimited Hosting vs All-you-Can-Eat buffet

Consider reading an ad for a new all-you-can-eat buffet place and heading over there to try it. Once you get there, there is a note saying you have to weigh less than 70kg (154lbs) before you can enter.

That’s the catch.

The same applies to many unlimited hosting plans – you are welcomed to host unlimited websites and take up unlimited hosting storage and bandwidth as long X or Y conditions are met.

The problem is that these conditions are rarely stated in the marketing area of the web hosting site. That part of the site keeps telling you that you’re getting an unlimited plan.

In small print, usually under the Terms of Service (ToS), there will likely be a million and one limitations and house rules.

Restrictions on unlimited hosting services

For instance:

iPage unlimited hosting ToS
iPage unlimited hosting is subject to processor time and memory limit to prevent “negative impacts on other users” (source).
Hostinger unlimited hosting ToS
Hostinger unlimited hosting is subject to a limit of 250,000 inodes and 1,000 tables or 1GB of storage per database (source).
BlueHost unlimited hosting ToS
BlueHost unlimited hosting space is subject to a limit of 200,000 inodes and a number of database rules (source).

You can get more details of these limitations in my BlueHost, Hostinger, and iPage review.

Every single unlimited hosting provider out there will have its own house rules and server limitations to control their users. These limitations could be in terms of CPU queries, RAM, inodes, number of MySQL databases, number of MySQL database connections, or even FTP uploads – the list goes on.

As soon as your websites hit the red zone; the hosting company will pull the plug on your account, or impose additional charges on you (and boy will they CHARGE!).

That is how “unlimited hosting” works.

Is Unlimited Web Hosting Evil?

You can argue that overselling and unlimited hosting plans are somewhat unethical. However, it does not indicate that the said hosting company is outright evil.

For one, the practice of overselling is the main reason why we can have super cheap hosting services in the market these days.

Also, going “unlimited” is never an easy business decision for hosting providers.

Take Hostgator back in 2000's for example, the company spent more than a year to prepare (including hiring new employee and investing in supporting hardware) for the launching of unlimited hosting. Although they are now offering unlimited hosting service, their servers remained reliable and efficient; and the customer support is never lacking in quality.

Brent Oxley, Hostgator founder, said this when Hostgator started offering unlimited hosting:

I wanted to call the plans unlimited last time around. However, due to staffing constraints, we wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the expected growth. A year later, we are finally OVERSTAFFED and ready to change the plan. Up until now, I’ve been slowing sales down on purpose in order for our support to catch up. If history repeats itself, renaming the plan from essentially unlimited to actually “unlimited” will increase our sales by at least 30%.”

In the last year, we have been spending more money on recruiting employees than we have on advertising! It has taken us years of hiring and training to get us to the point where we are now. We’ve gone from begging employees to work overtime to asking who wants to go home. HostGator will always have the occasional scheduling gap, but for now, we’re sending over a dozen employees home a day.

– Brent Oxley, Ex-Hostgator Founder & CEO

Unlimited Web Hosts – Compare and Choose

Hosting companies – even the very best ones, are in the business to make money. BUT there are some may do it with more honesty than others.

In case you were looking for an “unlimited” web host to host multiple low-traffic websites at a very cheap price, here are some “unlimited” hosting providers (list in alphabetical order) worth trying. I have been tracking the uptime and speed of these providers for years – please click in and read my reviews for more details.

1- A2 Hosting

A2 unlimited hosting > click to order.

With A2 Hosting you get a choice of either hosting one or multiple websites in three unlimited hosting plans – Lite, Swift, and Turbo. A2's Turbo plans step up the game a little bit and open access to their Turbo option which lays claim to perform up to 20x faster.

All A2 Hosting plans include a bunch of freebies ranging from easy site migration and free SSL setup to some other free applications that are quite useful such as A2 Optimized plugin for WordPress and PrestaShop.

Learn more in this A2 Hosting review.

 

2- GreenGeeks

GreenGeeks unlimited hosting > click to order.

GreenGeeks offers more than just unlimited storage and bandwidth, but also Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) certified green hosting. They are very affordable  – Lite plan signup at just $2.95/mo and performed well in our server speed test.

Learn more in Timothy's Greengeeks review.

 

3- InMotion Hosting

Different hosting ranges at Inmotion Hosting > click to order.

If I were not to have the utmost faith in InMotion hosting, I would not be forking out hundreds of dollars each year in hosting fees. I believe that two key elements make them one of the top hosts I’ve encountered to date; Exceptional server performance and fantastic customer service.

InMotion unlimited hosting comes in three flavors – Launch, Power, and Pro with all three plans give “unlimited” storage and data transfer capacity. InMotion Launch allows up to 2 domains per account, while Power and Pro allow 6 and unlimited domains per account.

Learn more in my InMotion Hosting review.

 

4- SiteGround

Siteground hosting service
Siteground unlimited hosting plans > click to order.

SiteGround is one of the few companies that strives for providing reliable hosting service with innovative features. One such feature is the Super Cacher, which is a built-in caching tool that can make websites load faster. Another feature is the ability to install Let’s Encrypt SSL with just a few clicks, making it extremely convenient for users to secure their website.

They allow their users to host unlimited websites and run on “unlimited” MySQL databases in their shared hosting; but limit account storage to 10 / 20 / 30 GB in their StartUp, GrowBig, and GoGeek plans.

Learn more in my SiteGround Hosting review.

 

5- TMD Hosting

TMD Hosting - Second Top pick for Malaysian and Singaporean websites.
TMD Hosting homepage > click to order.

TMDHosting is not perfect but I do recommend their unlimited hosting for bloggers or business in need of a reliable web hosting solution. Not only do they offer stable server performances and tons of useful features, but they also have some of the best customer support team in the industry.

The cheapest TMD's unlimited hosting plan comes with Weebly Sitebuilder and starts at $2.95/mo.

Learn more about TMD Hosting.

 

Should You Host Important Websites at Unlimited Hosting?

The truth is, the quality of a hosting deal relies on a number of factors.

Nowadays, the last things we need to compare are basic features like data transfer and disk storage. Technology has evolved so much that much of these factors are now dirt cheap and almost every shared hosting company is giving this same unlimited shit to users these days.

How do we compare between Hostinger and SiteGround unlimited hosting plans? They look all the same from outside: unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, unlimited databases, unlimited addon domain, price below $10/mo, and so on.

Hosting performance, such as uptime and speed; as well as special-built features are the answers.

InMotion Hosting unlimited hosting plans
Real life example – InMotion Hosting: A good hosting deal is more than just big bandwidth and storage capacity. Server performance, length of trial period, renewal price, data backup, choice of server locations, built-in security functions, and so on are some other important factors.

To get an unlimited web host you can trust on, try:

  1. Testing the host yourself – signup and track your hosting performance closely. If you don’t like what you see, cancel before trial period ends and ask for a refund.
  2. Reading real hosting reviews that based on hard data and actual usage experience.

Examples of uptime and speed test data

Before we publish a host review, we signup to a web host and use uptime and speed tracking tools to gauge their service quality.

Server Uptime

Here are some uptime data (tracked using Uptime Robot) we published in the past:

siteground uptime - dec-jan
SiteGround uptime record (Jan 2014).
Hosting uptime record for InMotion Hosting
InMotion Hosting uptime record (Feb/Mar 2017).

Here's another hosting uptime data (tracked using Fresh Ping) we put up on our sister site BuildThis.io

SiteGround hosting uptime in July 2019 – you can also check out our site real time status here.

Speed Test Results

And here are some speed test results (using Bitcatcha) we published in our reviews.

SiteGround speed test results.

 

Overcoming the Limitations of Unlimited Hosts

Unlimited hosting providers usually apply limitations on usage of their server resources – such as CPU run time, concurrent database connections, and inodes.

There are several things you can do to overcome these limitations and protect yourself, including:

  1. Use a free content delivery network (such as Cloudflare) to reduce server request loads,
  2. Optimize your database regularly to speed up database queries,
  3. Use third party applications (such as Facebook Comments Plugin and Google Forms) to lower server loads, and
  4. Cache your site aggressively to reduce memory loads.

TL; DR

So, are we clear on the topic unlimited hosting? A quick recap on what you have just read:

  • Unlimited hosting is impossible; everything is limited in our world.
  • Unlimited is just a marketing term used by hosting companies to win customers.
  • Overselling is how they can afford to offer such plans at rock bottom prices.
  • The unlimited hosting features, such as disk storage and bandwidth, often do not determine the really critical qualities of a hosting deal.
  • Make sure you look into details such as site uptime, server response speed, after sales service, software support, and so on.

 


 

Other Relevant guide

In case you need help, I have written quite a number of comprehensive web host guides (see below) – I believe they are very helpful for first timers.