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08-16-2004, 05:26 PM #1
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- Dec 2003
The unlimited bandwidth in a world with limited resources
This article was orginally written at whreviews.com. We would like to thank Dan for this great article. Also checkout his website more articles.
What's this bandwidth thing again?
First of all, we have to establish one thing here. I'm not necessarily talking about bandwidth in the sense of speed of transmission or data transmission rate (bits/second), which is the correct definition for the term "bandwidth". I'm also talking about the so called bandwidth which measures the total amount of transmitted data (bits).
This whole misuse of the term bandwidth started perhaps because most packages come with a specified amount of Gigabytes/month. Some might've considered it to be the same thing as bandwidth with because the latter is measured in bits/second. But who knows? Anyway, perhaps you already know what I'm talking about.
Still, just to be clear and rigorous I must make a clear distinction between terms. Bandwidth means data transfer rate, which is a speed - the speed of transferring data. Hence unlimited bandwidth would mean, in other words, an infinite speed when transferring data. This does not exist. Speeds are limited in our world. For example we (or at least most of us) believe that the speed of light is the ultimate speed of anything in this universe. However, the speed of light is limited, not unlimited.
Back to definitions, when most hosting companies refer to bandwidth in their shared/reseller hosting packages they actually mean "data transfer", not "data transfer rate". They state for example 5GB of bandwidth, meaning that you'll be allowed to transfer 5GB of data, usually within a period of time of one month. This is the data transfer that you are allowed to use (consume), the amount of data that is transmitted, not the speed at which it is/can be transmitted.
With that taken out of our way, I will say that this unlimited bandwidth issue is one of the most sensitive and maybe to some extent controversial issues in the web hosting industry. Certain web hosting companies actually offer unlimited bandwidth (in the sense of data transfer) in their hosting packages. The thing that really boggles the mind is that they offer it at a fixed price! Can you put a fixed price on something unlimited? In fact, the very idea of unlimited in a limited world is... well... impossible.
Selling unlimited something is overselling at the extreme, no matter what it is. There's no unlimited anything in this world as far as we know.
So companies defend themselves saying that they don't do anything to stop a user from doing his best to "consume" unlimited amounts data transfer. But then we'd be dealing with the so called unmetered bandwidth, which is a different thing.
While unmetered bandwidth is relatively OK when you rent a server with let's say a 10mbit/sec connection (not shared with any other server), when you're talking about shared hosting or reseller hosting, unmetered bandwidth is not OK anymore.
When you rent the server you can use that connection to the max, but when you're just a guy hosted on such a server, you have to "fight" for it with the other people on the server, meaning you'll never enjoy a full 10mbit connection.
There is also such a thing as contented bandwidth, when you are sold a server with a 10mbit connection with unmetered bandwidth, but so are let's say 15 other people. The seller however doesn't have a 150mbit connection - he's overselling. Tricky business this hosting business, isn't it?
Anyway, I digress... The reality is that the (hidden) policy of most of the companies that offer unlimited bandwidth is to either close accounts using more than a set amount of GB/month, or to lower the speed of transmission (that other bandwidth).
So, although the offer states "unlimited bandwidth", the web hosting company knows, and anyone else should know from the start, that it will not be delivered. It cannot be delivered! Physically, the network has a limited speed of transmission, which in turn means that the hosting company cannot send more that xxxGB/month.
Unlimited bandwidth or data transfer do not exist so they cannot be offered. Well, actually they can and they are offered, but they cannot be delivered. They are just hype, just marketing. Deceptive marketing if you ask me.
Often, what reads "unlimited" on the initial offer transforms into "limited" when you read the terms of service. You'll usually find a point where the web hosting company reserves the right to stop the transfer for your account (i.e. close your website) if the bandwidth (data transfer actually) consumption exceeds the "unlimited value" of... lets say 20GB in a single month. This whole thing is barely legal in my opinion. It is however so hard to prove that they were trying to deceive you...
I remember reading about someone who signed-up for an account with unlimited bandwidth. Imagine his surprise when he received an e-mail one day, asking him to "upgrade" the account because he was (basically) reaching the limit of the "unlimited". It might make you laugh too, but it's sad really!
Is there anything more to say?
To make a long story short, the conclusion is that physically it's impossible to achieve unlimited bandwidth. "Extreme amounts of bandwidth" yes, but not "unlimited bandwidth". So anyone claiming to provide unlimited bandwidth is not telling the truth (yes, that means lying ).
For me, unlimited bandwidth is a bad sign. A very bad sign. Sure, from a marketing point of view it's a good sign -- the guys know how to attract innocent, often ignorant clients. But from the potential client's point of view, it's definitely a no-no.
I stay away from unlimited. I can understand overselling and I condone overselling to some extent, but from overselling bandwidth (or any other resource) to such extreme as unlimited bandwidth, there's a long way! An infinitely long way in fact!
Besides, I like to know what I'm getting exactly! When it comes to web space, bandwidth, price, and many other hosting features I expect numbers. The only thing that cannot be expressed exactly is the level of support. For that, as you might know by now, I search for customer reviews.
Unlimited other things...
This article seems like a good place to bring into discussion the other unlimited features that come with hosting accounts. One such thing is the unlimited space. Just like bandwidth, web space is essentially and undisputedly - limited. Hard disks have limited capacities, and although those hosts who offer unlimited space might argue that hard disks can be added when necessary, fact is that even then, the space would be limited. Smart and responsible hosts don't advertise neither unlimited bandwidth (data transfer), neither unlimited space.
Once bandwidth and space limits are clearly defined, unlimited anything else is, more or less, acceptable and, to a certain extent, even standard practice. Unlimited FTP accounts, email accounts, databases and so on are acceptable, but beware that they are in fact limited, not by the host (hence the unlimited claim), but by the amount of space you have bought. Each such account requires space, so when you read "unlimited email accounts", translate it into "as many email accounts as you can create within your limited amount of space", just so you you don't lie to yourself.
As a closure to this article, I wish you an unlimited number of unique visitors! That was just a silly joke. I wish you unlimited happiness! That at least, we may all hope to achieve - we are granted the right by law.
08-16-2004, 06:06 PM #2denisGuest
Great article, I like it!
08-16-2004, 11:16 PM #3
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- Aug 2004
I'm glad you like the article Denis!
08-16-2004, 11:28 PM #4
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- Dec 2003
08-16-2004, 11:59 PM #5
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- Feb 2004
Great article. It is true that "unlimited" is sometimes a much over used phrase in the web hosting buisness.The Web Hosting Show - The Voice of the Web Hosting World
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08-17-2004, 12:07 AM #6
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- Apr 2004
- The GTA
We need more articles like this on the web for those who aren't as internet savvy as the rest of us.
Great article! Thanks for sharing.
08-17-2004, 12:21 AM #7solidstateGuest
Very good article. I had this conversation with someone just the other day. They told me that they would only host with a company that offered unlimited bandwidth. I tried to explain exactly what this article explains, but they stayed determined to find that one company that offered unlimited bandwidth and meant it. If unlimited bandwidth were true, I'd move my website that does 2 terabytes a month to one and pay them $29.99 a month for it . People don't seem to understand that it's just not possible to be a legitimate business and offer unlimited anything.
08-17-2004, 03:56 AM #8denisGuestOriginally Posted by ldcdc
and Welcome to WHC!
Your articles are really very good and useful!
08-17-2004, 04:03 AM #9
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- Jan 2004
It is a good article. Informitave for the new internet users.Seeksadmin - For all your administration and security needs.
12-19-2004, 07:08 AM #10
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- Oct 2004
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