In this article, we will look into unlimited hosting from two perspectives – the users’ and the hosting providers’ point of view. What is unlimited hosting? How “unlimited” bandwidth and storage works? Secrets hosting providers don’t want you to know. And, should you go with unlimited hosting plans?
Table of Content
Topics covered include (click to jump to each section):
- How unlimited hosting works
- Companies offering unlimited hosting
- The truth: Unlimited hosting is always limited
- The bright side of unlimited web hosting
- Should you go with unlimited hosting services?
- Quick recap and relevant guide
What is unlimited web hosting?
“Unlimited Hosting” refers to web hosting offers that come with unlimited disk storage, data transfer (bandwidth), as well as possibly addon domain name capacity.
In essence, what this means is that these unlimited hosting providers are actually offering you the freedom to host as many websites as you want to at an affordable price (normally below $10/mo).
Is unlimited disk storage and bandwidth possible?
“WOW! Seriously?!” Many of you might scream if this is the first time you heard about unlimited hosting.
Well, this does sound awesome at first, but is it really worth it to scrap your old, reliable hosting service and jump right on board with unlimited hosting?
Let’s dig a little deeper into this.
As a smart consumer, you should recognize that 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.
If I had a dollar for each email I get from readers asking if they can really store their 1TB or 2TB collection of movies on an unlimited hosting plan, I’d probably be a millionaire.
Wake up and smell the roses, people.
In this world, almost everything is finite and that’s especially true when it comes to hardware. It is simply impossible to have the funds (or even space) to offer everyone unlimited access to storage, CPU power and RAM.
It is also impossible to offer unlimited bandwidth when there is a limited number of cables available to transmit data around the globe; and 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).
Hosting companies want their piece of cake too
First and foremost, always remember that web hosting companies – even the best ones, are in the business to make money. Some may do it more honestly than others, but ultimately they are all after something you have – your money.
Some of the unlimited (data transfer) web hosts we currently track include:
|A2 Hosting||Unlimited||Unlimited||Super fast SSD hosting, great uptime record.||$4.90/mo|
|BlueHost||50 GB||1||Recommended by WordPress.org, powering over 2 million websites.||$3.95/mo|
|InMotion Hosting||Unlimited||2||Very reliable web host – This is where we host WHSR.||$3.49/mo|
|Interserver||Unlimited||Unlimited||Very reliable server plus low price guaranateed for life.||$4.25/mo|
|iPage||Unlimited||Unlimited||Top budget hosting – super cheap price and okay server performance.||$1.99/mo|
|One.com||15 GB||Unlimited||Cheapest unlimited hosting service.||$0.25/mo|
|SiteGround||20 GB||Unlimited||Premium hosting. Trusted by more than 50,000 users including SoundCloud and National Geographic/||$7.95/mo|
|TMD Hosting||Unlimited||Unlimited||Reasonable pricing, extra hosting features you can’t get elsewhere.||$5.85/mo|
|Web Host Face||20 GB||Unlimited||Reliable server, very cheap price. One of the best budget hosting choices in town. .||$1.63/mo|
The cheapest unlimited hosting costs less than $1/mo!
Look at the table!
Do you think these web hosts will provide you with unlimited computer resources (even if that were possible) for just the price of a pack of candy? Hell no!
At those rates, even if you buy a home PC you’ll likely be paying off the bill for years to come.
Truth: There are always limits in life
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
Believe me, 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.
The Bright Side of Unlimited Web Hosting
“This doesn’t sound fair! I thought I am signing up on an unlimited hosting. These guys are just plain old dishonest and I am quitting on my host!”
Again, do not jump to conclusions too soon. Before you get mad and scream scammers, there is a logic explanation behind these unlimited hosting offers.
The reason why hosting providers are able to offer unlimited hosting plans is simple.
How unlimited hosting is “possible”?
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).
You can argue that selling unlimited hosting plans are unethical, but it does not indicate that the said hosting company is bad. Take Hostgator 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 view on overselling and unlimited hosting
For your reference, here’s a little more detail on how Hostgator’s preparation works (my Hostgator review here).
Read what Brent Oxley, Hostgator founder, said about going unlimited:
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
Should you go with unlimited hosting provider?
The truth is, the quality of a hosting deal relies on a number of factors.
The last things we need to compare nowadays are the basic hosting features, such as data transfer, disk storage, and so on. 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 WebHostingHub’s unlimited hosting plan with BlueHost unlimited hosting plan?
We get more or less the same thing in both deals: unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, unlimited databases, unlimited addon domain, etc. So how do we decide between the two?
It’s just too difficult to distinguish a good web hosting provider from substandard ones from outside nowadays.
Picking up the right “unlimited” hosting deal
To pick up a good host, what you need to do is obvious. Stop looking from the outside in and start comparing the hosting service quality from inside. You can:
- Spend some money and sign up with a host on a trial basis. Then track everything you need and if you don’t like what you see, cancel before trial period ends; or,
- Rely on real hosting reviews that do the testing job for you – for example, WHSR! We signup and test almost all hosting services we review here.
Some of the host uptime data we published in our hosting reviews:
TL; DR: What You Need to Know About Unlimited Hosting
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, after sales service, software support, and so on.
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.
- List of 10 best hosting services you can trust
- How much bandwidth does your website need
- How much does it actually cost to create a website
- How to choose the right hosting for your websites
- How to buy a domain name (from registrars or existing owners)
- Switching from HTTP to HTTPS: The A-to-Z guide to SSL
- The basic of website hosting and domain name
- The cost of building and maintaining a website