This is the archived version of edition 3 of the Good Web Hosting Info (GWHI) Newsletter, published March 9/2004.

Todays content :

  1. Unlimited/unmetered web hosting
    1. Data transfer
    2. Disk space
    3. CPU/RAM usage
    4. Other features

1 - Unlimited/unmetered hosting

Many web hosts offer something unlimited or unmetered. A hard disk, a web server, its connections to the internet etc. all have limitations. After reading this unlimited newsletter edition I hope you have an understanding of what unlimited and unmetered means in the web hosting world.

1.1 Data transfer

Perhaps the most exposed scam in the web hosting industry is unlimited bandwidth. All internet connections have hard limits, so how can anyone offer unlimited bandwidth? The short answer is that they can't deliver what they offer.

The reason that unlimited bandwidth still is offered is that most websites don't use much bandwidth, and as long as no websites on a server pushes really huge amounts of data the server connections will not be overloaded. For the uneducated customer it is apparently better with unlimited than x gb data transfer, whatever x is because (s)he thinks that unlimited is enough no matter how popular the website gets, and extra fees for over usage will be avoided.

If a very busy website comes along and uses so much bandwidth that the connections are overloaded or the hosting provider has to pay their supplier for overusage of bandwidth, the website in question must face the consequenses.

The lesson to learn is that unlimited bandwidth does not exist, and if your web host offers unlimited bandwidth, you can not use any more bandwidth than the server connections can handle or the hosting provider has paid for. That means your fair share plus what is not used of the other websites fair shares. You don't know how much that is so there are no warnings.

If you need more, you will be forced to upgrade your plan or find a new web host. (There is something not right about upgrading from unlimited bandwidth, right?) And to keep their connections fast/keep thier expenses down, your web host have to disable (parts of) your website. How is that for unlimited?

The term unmetered is a little less misleading because it only says that your bandwidth usage is not measured. The same rule applies. You can use your fair share of data transfer plus what is not used of the other websites fair shares. No hard limits is one more term that is perhaps the most descriptive in this case.

The problem with overusage of bandwidth can also occur if the web host have set hard limits on data transfer. But if the quotas are set right, both you and the web host will receive early warnings about overuse of bandwidth and the right measures can be taken to avoid downtime and anger for all parts.

All this does not mean that any web host offering unlimited bandwidth is a bad web host. It just means that they have misunderstood an important part of running a web hosting business or they are using it as part of a speculative marketing strategy. And those are not good signs.

1.2 Disk space

It is not so common, but it happens that web hosts are offering unlimited disk space. The reason why you don't see it so often is that it is very clear to everyone that a hard disk is limited. You can't fill an 80 gb hard disk with more than 80 gb, and the unlimited hard disk is not invented yet.

Unlimited disk space may be offered by hosting startups who does not understand what they are promising, or they plan on suspending any account that grows too large "Your web site has grown out of our hosting solutions". Unlimited disk space may also be offered in unlimited plans*.

* This plan is intended for entry-level sites only.

Unlimited disk space means unlimited problems and should be avoided at unlimited costs.

1.3 CPU/RAM usage

Like it or not, but with shared hosting two other critical resources are normally unmetered. CPU usage, or the load your scripts are putting on the server's prosessor, and RAM usage, or the amount of memory that is required by your scripts. The general rule is that when the load on a server becomes too high, the account(s) who are running the most resource-hungry script(s) must accept that
1 : The scripts have to be optimized
or
2 : The website has grown out of the hosting environment

A quality hosting provider will closely monitor the load on their servers and will be able to alert their customers before their scripts are causing too much problems and proper actions can be taken before disabling scripts/suspending account is necessary.

The amount of CPU and RAM usage that is acceptable for your account is not directly related to disk space and data tranfer. A download site will use a lot of disk space and data transfer and very little CPU/RAM, while it is the other way around for a discussion forum. That's why you can find hosting plans for $10/month that if fully exploited by a demanding website will use so much CPU that it really should be on a dedicated server.

Unlike for disk space/data transfer, you can't tell from plan descriptions how much CPU/RAM usage is acceptable. There may be some notes about it in the terms of service/acceptable usage policy. For example that no script is allowed to run for more than 10 seconds or use more than 8 mb RAM. Or that any script that is causing performance problems will be disabled.

The amount of CPU/RAM that is acceptable to use on one account is more related to the price than to data transfer/disk space quotas. So called highend shared hosting accounts, like the Thinkhost Enterprise plans are suitable for more demanding sites than f.ex. the plans offered by Midphase even though the Midphase plans are bigger (but a fifth of the price).
Host links :
http://www.goodwebhosting.info/links.php?host=midphase
http://www.goodwebhosting.info/links.php?host=thinkhost
Read more about highend shared hosting :
http://www.goodwebhosting.info/article.py/13

A more advanced solution to the CPU usage problems is a virtual private server (VPS). VPS technology isolates accounts from each other, and strict limitations on CPU/RAM usage can be set. So when your website get more visitors than the server can handle, the other websites on the server are not necessarily affected. You can read more about virtual private servers here :
http://www.goodwebhosting.info/article.py/14

1.4 Unlimited features

One more unlimited you will see in hosting plans is unlimited email accounts, unlimited databases etc. This just means as many as you need, only limited by your disk space/data transfer/whatever is applicable. Although the word unlimited is bit misleading because there are limits, it is short so it can be used in comparison charts and "as many as you can fit within your disk space quota" does not look good in a chart.

This is the archived version of edition 3 of the Good Web Hosting Info (GWHI) Newsletter, published March 9/2004.