You’ve probably seen the amazing web hosting deals offered by companies like BlueHost, HostMonster, and LunarPages. The claim to offer something like 300GB of storage, and 3000GB (3TB) of bandwidth for the low price of $7/month (or similar).
Do you really think that’s possible? Looking at storage space alone, a 500GB Hard Drive costs $150. Do the math, no one can afford that. You’re paying $7/month for your hosting account ($84/year), right? Now, you’re buying what’s called shared hosting. For $7/month you have access to a small slice of a server’s resources. There are probably 100 other websites hosted on the same computer as you. So, that would mean that computer would need 30000GB of storage (300GB x 100 users). That’s 30 Terabytes, or 60 of those 500GB hard drives! There’s no way any webhost could afford that, and there’s no way their servers would accept that much storage.
So what’s going on? The hosts are overselling. Your electric company does the same thing. The servers have a certain amount of storage, say 1000GB (two 500GB hard drives). Though there’s only 1TB total, they go and tell everyone they’re getting 300GB. The company figures that no one is going to use all of the storage they’re allotted, and puts 100 sites on the same machine. So, theoretically you could hit that 300GB mark, there just would be less storage available for everyone else. The trouble is, you can’t hit the 300GB mark. The company puts a little clause in the hosting contract that says your service can be cut-off for “excessive use of resources.” Basically, they say “knock it off!” whenever you use “too much” storage. Of course, only the hosting company knows what the cutoff point is. It could be 20GB or even 5GB. It’s legal, because you agreed to it when you paid for their service.
The same goes for bandwidth. The hosting company may claim 3000GB, but are you really getting that? No. They’ll likely cut-off your service when the CPU cycles your site is consuming goes beyond a certain point. As the visitors flood in (like when a blog post you wrote gets Dugg), your CPU usage will increase. This is a nice excuse for the host to cut your service, as it doesn’t draw too much attention to your service.
Pretty much every host on the planet oversells, but some do it more than others. But what if you need a ton of storage and bandwidth? What do the bigger sites do? You have a few options, but be prepared to hand over some cash. Just note that if you’re starting a new site/blog you probably won’t run into the overselling problem, but when it grows you may need to look at different hosting options. Here are your options:
- A Small Orange: ASO offers quality shared hosting for those who want to avoid the reselling game entirely. I’ve been hearing a lot of good comments about ASO lately, and they seem like a great host. They have plans for nearly everyone. From the $25/year “Tiny” plan to the $30/month ($360/year) “Super” plan.
- VPS Hosting: A VPS, or Virtual Private Server, is like shared hosting in the fact that there’s more than one site per server, but the similarities end there. With a VPS, there are much less people on the server, you have root access generally, and you can even resell unused space to other people. RapidVPS seems to have some good options, and I’ve been considering them for a new project of mine.
- Dedicated Server: How would you like to have a whole computer dedicated to hosting your website? This is what the big web companies like Yahoo do (though they use more than one computer in a Server Cluster), and it isn’t cheap. You’re looking at $99/month or more (generally more). 1and1’s Root Servers are allegedly good, though some people have complaints about the Managed Servers.
Well, hopefully I’ve done an adequate job at describing web host overselling. It’s not entirely easy to put to words.