Up until a few years ago when you purchased a hosting package you got a fixed amount of storage and bandwidth. If you went over your monthly quota, you could purchase some additional bandwidth. In fact you could even have a couple of days grace period in which the cost of that additional bandwidth was deducted from what you had paid in advance for your existing hosting package (usually up to 50% of your remaining credit) … not to mention that, if you were lucky that bandwidth was a ‘rollover bandwidth’, meaning that whatever you didn’t use in a given month, was added to your tally for the next one, giving you a nice cushion that enabled you to absorb a spike in traffic, and basically served to ensure that your site would remain online under most circumstances. In recent years, however, webhosts have hit on something that borders on a scam: they offer unlimited bandwidth in big bold letters in their homepages, and then tuck some very strict restrictions in their TOS, things like twenty simultaneous connections (or other even more obscure measurements). This means that rather than a monthly lump that can be allocated any which way, now your bandwidth is restricted on a minute by minute basis and you have no flexibility at all. If you exceed the limit, or have spammers get a little too active, or suffer a DDoS attack, tough luck… and this situation is then compounded by the fact that limited bandwidth hosts have been forced to switch to an ‘unlimited’ scheme or they have been driven out of business. After all, common sense would seem to suggest that ‘unlimited’ is a more generous option.
So what are the real world consequences of this arrangement? Basically that, if you are lucky and one of your posts happens to go viral, your host will immediately take your site off-line, effectively robbing you of your success… and given that it may take a while for you to sort the situation out (usually by purchasing an upgrade to a more expensive unlimited package that is a tad more unlimited than the unlimited package you had purchased in the first place thinking that it was, you know… unlimited), all that potential traffic will be lost.
This is, as you can probably imagine, not a position you want to find yourself in… and the situation is further complicated by the fact that some hosts have made it needlessly complicated for you to migrate away from their servers by disabling the ‘Backup Wizard’ from their cPanel. Yes, you can still create a backup the old fashioned way, but especially when it comes to databases, the lack of a one-click solution is a pretty major pain.
In other words, if you are looking for a host, beware of the fact that chances are that the words ‘Unlimited bandwidth’ you see prominently displayed in their homepage don’t mean what you think they do, and -especially if you are not a pro- contact them to ask about the status of the ‘Backup Wizard’ before you sign on the dotted line.
After all, even though you are looking for a host, you don’t want end up being taken hostage.