By far one of the most frequent questions we get is: “Is such and such web hosting really unlimited?” While all top website hosting providers may differ slightly, the answer really is yes and no. Yes—for all practical and reasonable personal and small to medium size business site purposes, you’ll get as much disk space and bandwidth you need. No—but that doesn’t mean you have an infinite amount of storage and data transfer. After all, there are physical limitations and the hosting companies can’t allow some site’s usage to adversely affect their operations.
These days a lot of web hosts advertise unlimited hosting plans—listing unlimited disk space, bandwidth, and often, unlimited email. But to get the real story, you’ve got to dive into the terms of service pages of each company. These are usually accessed via a small link at the bottom of the hosting company’s home page. Again, while each company states their policy a bit differently, basically they give themselves an out by saying your usage cannot be excessive enough to cause problems—or something similar to that. Although most of the web hosting company’s don’t list the specific storage or bandwidth amount you may not exceed, they do state your account could be suspended if you do so.
Here are some examples from some of the top website hosting company’s terms of service agreements—current as of the time of writing this article:
InMotion Hosting – They prohibit using your hosting account primarily for archiving and storage. They don’t mention a specific limit but say you must not adversely affect server/network performance or you’ll need to upgrade to virtual or dedicated hosting.
iPage – They also don’t list a specific limit but instead state their services are for normal use only. They further state that excessive usage not consistent with normal usage patterns is prohibited.
Go Daddy – They state that your account is subject to a limit of 500,000 inodes (or files and folders) and 1000 tables per database with no database larger that one gigabyte. You are then issued a violation warning and are subject to suspension if no action is taken.
Hostgator – They state that the use of more than 250,000 inodes (files) may result in a warning and then a suspension if no action is taken. However, they also say that accounts that slightly exceed the inode limits are unlikely to be suspended.
From the above examples, it appears that although the web hosting companies want to ensure that no accounts cause problems due to excessive usage, they also want to provide some wiggle room in their policies. Some don’t list a specific limit amount, some say you will be subject to suspension, and others say you may be suspended but probably not if you only slight exceed the limits.
Please note this article is not meant to be the definitive legal position of any of the above or other web hosting companies. Also be aware that the terms of service agreements are constantly being updated, so I encourage you to do your own due diligence and check them out for yourself. Lastly, keep in mind that the above policies relate specifically to shared hosting accounts. Dedicated hosting plans may have different rules regarding usage.