While it's tempting to think that there's truly a solution out there that allows you to use "unlimited" bandwidth for your hosting needs, the truth is that most "unlimited" hosting solutions are more limited than you might think.
For today's competitive hosting companies, there's no better marketing tactic than telling customers that they can have all the space and bandwidth they need for no extra cost. It's a benefit that almost any web publisher would love to take advantage of - particularly if they have a lot of demands to work with. However, before you start investing in this type of hosting, it's worth making sure that you know what unlimited hosting really means so that you can recognise the catch.
Defining Unlimited Hosting
If you're currently on the search for the perfect hosting provider, then you should find that many of the most popular options offer an "unlimited hosting" plan, which comes with benefits like endless bandwidth and disk space. Most webmasters today prefer to choose shared hosting plans, because they're cost-effective, and generally the best option for those who don't have high-security concerns or a significant amount of volume.
While a single commercial server can support thousands of accounts at once, the disk space occupied by a single site is usually lower than you'd expect, which is why shared hosting exists in the first place. "Unlimited Hosting" is based on the idea that you'd rather have the safety blanket of knowing you're never going to run out of space, even if the chances that you'd go over the basic allowance are very minimal.
Imagine the difference between a server telling you that you can only have a maximum of 100GB of disk space. You'd need to monitor how much space you take up whenever you upload something new. However, if your host tells you that your space is unlimited, you don't have to worry about it. Of course, most hosts don't really mean that your space is actually unlimited. If you do start to use too much bandwidth, you could still end up getting into trouble.
Just like an all-you-can-eat buffet, an unlimited hosting provider assumes that when you have unlimited space, you're only going to use a reasonable amount.
The Limit on Unlimited Hosting
The definition of unlimited hosting is that there's no cap on the amount of bandwidth or disk space that you use. However, if you read the fine print on your unlimited hosting package, you might find that there is a limit there, even though it's very high.
The "catch" of unlimited hosting, or the place where a lot of companies get caught out, is that they neglect to read the terms of service before they sign up, and assume that the moment they sign up for an unlimited hosting plan, they have the right to use tons of bandwidth however they like.
If you check out the terms of service for some of the most popular hosting accounts online today, you'll find that there's a clear definition of what "unlimited" hosting means to that provider. In almost every case - or all the cases that we've found so far, no host means that their hosting package is unlimited. Generally, hosts agree that your usage can go as high as you like until the activity of your site begins to put a strain on the company server. At that point, you'll start to hog some of the resources that you should be sharing with other webmasters on the same server.
Sharing servers means that you need to be willing to do your part to make the environment a better place for everyone involved. If you attempt to run a site that needs a significant amount of bandwidth on a shared hosting plan that only delivers a limited amount of disk space, then you're going to end up getting into trouble.
The Alternative Option
Sometimes, rather than opting for an unlimited bandwidth solution on your shared hosting server, it could be a better idea to go for a completely private server that you can use however you like. When you have your own private server, your bandwidth and disk space can go as far as the server can manage, because you don't have to worry about sharing your resources with anyone else in the shared environment.
With that in mind, private servers are the more "truly unlimited" options for hosting. However, they're also a lot more expensive than most shared server solutions. At the end of the day, the option you choose will depend on what your website really needs from a hosting account.