There are a number of trigger words in sales capable of piquing a prospects interest. One of the most frequently encountered in the web hosting business is “unlimited”.
Ads are rife with claims of unlimited bandwidth and unlimited disk space. If the claims are to be believed, computer scientists have come up with a way for hosting providers to offer you infinite storage and transmission capacity for only $9.99 a month. Yeah—it doesn’t happen. Here’s why unlimited hosting claims are a myth.
Storage is finite—period
First of all, there is no such thing as an unlimited storage device. Storage is limited by its very nature. There exists no physical object with unlimited capacity. The simple fact of the matter is a disk drive will only hold so much information before it is filled to capacity. So how do hosting providers presume to offer unlimited storage space? Well, they’re playing the same game airlines play when they overbook flights, betting everyone who bought a seat won’t show up.
In the case of a hosting provider, they know some sites will require lots of storage, while others won’t. They use this theory to sell everyone on the idea of unlimited storage, knowing most people will never get close to needing it, which leaves more room for those who will get closer to doing so. Under most circumstances it works out fine, however, when it doesn’t—well—it doesn’t. Next thing you know, your pages are loading slowly and your customers are abandoning your website out of impatience. Ecommerce website builders need to pay particular attention to this to ensure a positive customer experience.
Transmission is limited by infrastructure
A useful way to think of bandwidth is in terms of water (data) flowing through a pipe (network). Yes, the reservoir from which it is drawn contains far more water than you will ever need. However, the amount of water you can access at any given moment is still limited by the capabilities of the pipes bringing it to you. In other words, the amount of water available is irrelevant—what matters is the capacity of the system bringing it to you. Whether you have a fire hose or a garden hose, you will still only have access to the amount of water the hose you have at your disposal will convey
Read the fine print
So, if the term unlimited is inaccurate, how do hosting providers get away with billing their services as such? Some of them refer to unlimited as the amount for which you will be billed, rather than the amount you’ll have at your disposal. They know their systems are only capable of so much capacity and so they tell you, your price is one set figure, regardless of your monthly usage, “You will never see a bandwidth bill from us. Unlimited bandwidth is included in all plans.” Others say their services are unlimited, but establish a threshold after which additional charges accrue. Still others simply add a caveat to their Terms of Service, which of course usually goes unread, limiting their unlimited offer. If you read most hosting company TOS documentation carefully, you’ll find a usage policy buried in there somewhere.
Forget unlimited, focus on reliability
Rather than fixating on “unlimited” when looking for a hosting provider, pay attention to its reliability and performance statistics. If your business is small enough to function in a shared hosting environment, “unlimited” won’t be an issue, but up time definitely will be.