Overselling Website Hosting – How It Works, and Why We Don't Do It

Published March 19th, 2014 by Michael Farin

As you may have noticed in your search for web hosting - hosts come big and small. You can host a site from $3 a month all the way up to thousands of dollars for a single dedicated server. No matter the price of your plan, all hosts share a common set of basic needs: data center space (including power, HVAC, etc.), hardware (like servers and networking equipment), licensing fees, bandwidth, and a knowledgeable staff to be able to support this complex environment. Those needs come at a cost.

A customer paying $3 a month doesn’t make a fraction of a dent to the cost associated with a single server. So, in order to recoup their investment and make a profit the host needs to put as many $3/month clients on that server as possible. Some big name hosts put upwards of 500-1000 of these $3 customers on a single server in order to return a profit (after all web hosting IS a business). This is where overselling comes into play.

Resources are always limited. A server only has so much processing power, memory, disk space and bandwidth. The downside to that is that every client shares the resources. When a host “allows” you 100GB of disk space for $3, they are betting on the fact that you won’t use a fraction of it. Sometimes they might be right – but sometimes you really do need that space you were promised. That doesn’t bode well for the host – who actually doesn’t have that 100GB to spare (especially with 499 other clients on that same server).

At that point, your $3 plan isn’t worth it to the host. This is the ugly side of overselling. What does the host do when you are using all of what you were sold? You get pushed to a different (more expensive) plan or you get the boot. Ugly, right? Overselling means that you don’t really get what you paid for.

Now – let’s talk about hosts that offer “unlimited” everything. Sorry, but this is a flat out lie. We encourage you to check out their acceptable use policy (aka the fine print) that will almost always state that “unlimited” really means - “unlimited within reasonable use”. Basically, if you go over their secret number of acceptable usage – you are in trouble. You either get fined with overage charges, pushed into purchasing a better plan, throttled to the point where your website slows to a crawl, or in rare cases you can be completely kicked off of the service.

What can you do to actually get what you pay for?

Step 1 – don’t give in to the “unlimited” hype – do a quick search and you will easily find the fine print.

Step 2 – invest in a quality web host. Sure, you might pay a bit more, but you actually get what you pay for without hassle.

At EndLayer, we’re fully transparent about how many tenants we put on each server – check out our Shared Performance Metal (SPM) plans here.

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