The Truth About Unlimited Broadband
Web Hosting is a commodity. The main elements of any web hosting plan are disk space and bandwidth. Disk space is the space you have allotted on the web server to store your website. Bandwidth is an amount you have available to transfer web pages from the web server to the browsers of visitors to your site. Web pages and graphics consume bandwidth or capacity on the web. Bandwidth and disk space cost money.
The network lines that carry data around the web (optic fiber, cable, copper wire etc) have a finite capacity. There is a limit to the amount of data that can be transferred at any point in time. Likewise, the hard drive of a web server has a limited amount of space determined by the physical size of the hard drive.
Many hosting companies claim to offer "unlimited" plans (both disk space and bandwidth), but be aware that there are physical limitations to both disk space and bandwidth. Before you buy an "unlimited" plan, know what you're getting into.
The Attraction to Unlimited
When consumers decide they want to place a website on the internet, they are often unaware of the fact that there are limitations. Unlimited is attractive because it requires no further thought. If it's unlimited then I never need to worry about running out right? Although this is understandable, there are risks with purchasing unlimited plans.
The Unlimited Myth
Many web hosting companies offer "unlimited" as a plan feature. It is impossible for any provider to actually provide an unlimited amount of bandwidth or disk space. It's just not possible.
So Why Do Unlimited Plans Exist?
Most websites only consume a very small amount of bandwidth and disk space. Web hosting companies that provide unlimited anything as a plan feature are banking on the fact that you won't use very much. Unlimited is a marketing trick to get your business. The web hosting market is very competitive. Although selling plans that pretend to be unlimited can seem dishonest, it does not mean that the hosting company will not provide good service. Check in the hosting company's Terms of Service: there will probably be a note about what "unlimited" really means.
When Are Unlimited Plans Ok?
If you have a small website and know that it will not consume too much space or bandwidth, then unlimited plans make your choices a bit easier to understand. Most plans that offer unlimited will have some restrictions such as no audio or video downloads. The reason audio or video downloads are typically not allowed in unlimited hosting plans is because these types of files consume significant bandwidth and disk space which exposes the host to the risk of having to add more hard drive space and bandwidth, which costs them more money. If you choose an unlimited plan and you know your needs won't be very intensive then you won't run into any problems.
When Are Unlimited Plans Not Ok?
If you intend to have a lot of visitors to your site, lots of downloads, including audio or video files, do not choose an unlimited plan hoping to get unrestricted bandwidth. You will find yourself with problems. Your web host is not going to run at a loss for long - they could shut down your website or even charge you extra (read the terms of service).
So What Is The Best Thing To Do?
The best course of action is to plan ahead. Calculate what type of bandwidth and disk space you will need for your site (you can use the information and tools on the FindMyHosting site to do this) then multiply it by 2 just to allow for expansion. Remember, you can always buy more bandwidth or disk space if you need - often for only a few dollars a month extra. Look for plans that meet those requirements. Another FindMyHosting article "Bandwidth Explained" does a good job explaining the details behind bandwidth.
Only consider an unlimited hosting plan if you know your disk space and bandwidth requirements are very low. If, on the other hand, you have an ecommerce site or a site that you expect to grow in size and bandwidth in future, avoid any plans that offer unlimited bandwidth or disk space.