When you’re looking for a web host for your website, you probably will come across web hosting companies advertising “Unlimited Disk Space” and “Unlimited Bandwidth” or “Unlimited Data Transfer”. You might wonder ‘wow, that’s great, unlimited…how can they do that for a few dollars a month’. The web hosting company may have a few packages listed, each with a different name/level and price, starting from a beginner package, a business package, and perhaps a reseller or enterprise package. The interesting thing is that they all are advertising the same specs – “unlimited”. How can this be? Why would someone pay more for the same specs, you may wonder? The answer is in the fine print in their terms of service. “Unlimited” here is not the “unlimited” you may infer, it is more like “Unlimited*”, with an asterisk after it. Semantics and pragmatics – It is kind of like Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass”:
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ” “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“Unlimited disk space” and “unlimited bandwidth” or “unlimited data transfer” in web hosting can be limited in many ways in their terms of service and usage policies. For example, there can be limits on how you use the disk space, most likely you cannot use it for any type of storage. There can also be limits on how fast you are using the disk space – though they don’t tell you what the acceptable rate is. For bandwidth and data transfer, there are limits – also just not defined. Most likely there are clauses in the terms of service or service usage policy that say you can only use an average amount of data transfer and an acceptable amount – what these are, who knows. The fine print may just say that “most” accounts fall within these restrictions without any problems.
If the accounts were really unlimited disk space the web hosting companies would have to spend a lot more than the few dollars a month you are paying. Really unlimited bandwidth or data transfer would mean the web hosting company may need to continuously add more server resources to keep up, or the servers will crash. But losing money doesn’t make a successful business or a business that can grow or even survive. So, the solution is to actually restrict use of each web hosting account based on what each is paying – hence the different package levels with the same “unlimited” specs, but varying prices.
This doesn’t mean though that these web hosting companies advertising “unlimited” are bad – or not good for that matter. They can work great for you, for hobby websites, or small websites that you don’t think will get too much traffic, or for playing around with your website design, or for setting up new domain names with a coming soon page. Advertising “unlimited” has become a new seller slogan, but just a note, some web hosting companies may also instead advertise tb – 1,000 gb – instead of “unlimited”. But the terms and restrictions are similar to the “unlimited” with an asterisk. Perhaps better PR is what they are aiming at?