Unlimited bandwidth hosting has developed out of fierce competition between web hosting companies and it is great news for consumers. If you have unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth, then you never need to worry about your website growing too big or too popular for a cheap monthly hosting package – at least in theory.
But is unlimited bandwidth hosting really unlimited? The answer, of course, is no. Hosting companies have huge banks of servers and massive quantities of fiber optic cables to provided internet access for the sites that are stored on their servers, but all of these things have physical limits.
The internet is not restricted to one location but websites must have a physical location. They are not floating around in space. That is what web hosting means: providing storage space for websites and the cables etc that are needed to connect them with the rest of the internet.
So hosting companies are limited to the amount of capacity that they have. And given that they probably have thousands of customers, many of them with a large number of sites, then clearly each site and each customer must have limits too.
Something you will notice if you compare shared unlimited bandwidth hosting deals with the more expensive reseller or VPS packages, is that the reseller and VPS offers have limits. It seems crazy that you can be paying 5 to 10 times as much for a reseller or VPS deal that has limits, when you can get unlimited bandwidth hosting for so cheap.
The reason for this is that the limits on reseller and VPS hosting packages are real and specified. The limits on shared hosting packages can be varied depending on what other customers are doing. If you buy a VPS, you have that space and that bandwidth and nobody else can use it. Your sites will never run slow because somebody else is using a lot of bandwidth.
On a shared unlimited bandwidth hosting package, one the other hand, your sites will be stored on a shared server with one IP address that is common to other customers. So in fact you cannot use all of the hosting company’s servers. You cannot even use the whole of that one server, because other customers will need space too. All of this is hidden in a ‘fair usage’ clause in the company’s terms of service.
Unlimited bandwidth hosting packages are offered on the assumption that most customers will not use much bandwidth at all. Taking all of the customers together, each customer’s sites will have peaks and troughs that will even out against other customers’ needs. It’s a little like airlines double booking a few seats each time because they know that some people will not show up.
So what happens if you do need a lot of bandwidth? Check the fine print for your own hosting company, but you will probably find that you are asked to upgrade to a more expensive package pretty fast. This will happen if you are trying to store a lot of pictures, offering audio or video on your sites, or if your site becomes very popular and has a lot of visitors. As soon as your sites are taking up a lot of space or consuming enough bandwidth to make things difficult for other customers, you can expect to receive a polite email from your hosts making it clear that their unlimited bandwidth hosting is not available to customers who really need a lot!