We have all seen these ads for web hosting services: unlimited drive space, unlimited bandwidth, etc. To understand how it works, think of a web hosting computer like your home or office computer, except extremely powerful. If your computer had unlimited capacity you would never have to upgrade your hardware or replace it again, ever! That would be nice to have, wouldn’t it? All you would need is to have your site hosted on one of these unlimited-capacity computers and, since it is unlimited, it would serve any needs you have from then on. However, the truth is much different. There is no such thing as something being unlimited. Not even air or water are unlimited. If you read the fine print from those companies offering unlimited hosting services you will see that they are, in fact, not unlimited and there will be a consequence for using too much of any resource (drive space, bandwidth, etc.). Do you really want to go to work one morning, bring up your home page, and see “This site has been disabled” just to find out it’s because your site used too much of a resource? It happens more often than one might think. Other hosting companies simply shut your account off, claiming a technical problem in the hope that you will go elsewhere.
Any one computer or group of computers can only do so much work. Large companies spend millions of dollars building data centers, buying network equipment, and filling them with multiple computers (web servers); whereas, there would be no reason to do this if they actually could get an unlimited hosting account, one with truly unlimited resources. Large companies spend millions because web servers, just like your home or office computer, don’t have unlimited resources.
A major part of systems administration is managing the resources that are available to all sites on a web server. Telling a web site owner that they can have all they want and those resources are unlimited is nothing more than a fairytale. A correctly-managed web server will have limits on the resources that any one account can use. This assures that no account can overload the server, which, in turn guarantees the responsiveness of every site on the server. Clearly stating limits upfront is being responsible as well as respectful to the business owners who use the service.
Article written by Larry Johnson, Network & Hardware Consultant
© WAASI, Inc.
Last updated: 11th October 2012