There are lots of vendors who offer low cost hosting with unlimited storage and bandwidth at least until you read the fine print.  Only the universe is unlimited - as far as we know.  Everything in life costs something and as we like to say around here, TNSTAAFL (there's no such thing as a free lunch).

These cheap hosting services are able to say they offer unlimited space and bandwidth in great part because the vast majority of their customer use a fraction of the space and bandwidth that they are paying for.  Consequently the occassional customer who uses a great deal of space is being subsidized by the other 99% who are using their fraction.  If you read the fine print of their use policies you will quickly find that the limitations they place on the use of your site quickly brings the actual use well below the realm of unlimited.  A few examples... [items highlighted in red are emphasis by us]

GoDaddy touts itself as the worlds largest web host and offers unlimited space and bandwidth.  But, if you read their product disclaimer they say, "storage subject to availability of space on a single clustered server and subject to the Terms of Service in your Hosting Subscriber Agreement. Limitations apply to other plan features."  By definition, the amount of space on a server is limited to some amount and remember, it is likely shared with hundreds if not thousands of other accounts like yours.  Call them and tell them you have a teribyte of web data to host and see what they say. More horror stories about them at Forbes.com.

JustHost offers unlimited space and bandwidth.  If you read their Terms and Conditions Policy they say in part, "Any file over 40MB in size will not be backed up onto our backup servers and in the event of server failure, will not be recoverable."  And they go on under the topic resource usage"

User may not:

  • Use 25% or more of system resources for longer than 90 seconds. There are numerous activities that could cause such problems; these include: CGI scripts, FTP, PHP, HTTP, etc.
  • Run stand-alone, unattended server-side processes at any point in time on the server. This includes any and all daemons, such as IRCD.
  • Run any type of web spider or indexer (including Google Cash / AdSpy) on shared servers.
  • Run any software that interfaces with an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) network.
  • Run any bit torrent application, tracker, or client. You may link to legal torrents off-site, but may not host or store them on our shared servers.
  • Participate in any file-sharing/peer-to-peer activities
  • Run any gaming servers such as counter-strike, half-life, battlefield1942, etc
  • Run cron entries with intervals of less than 15 minutes
  • When using PHP include functions for including a local file, include the local file rather than the URL. Instead of include("http://yourdomain.com/include.php") use include("include.php")

While our shared services are suitable for the bulk of our customers, there comes a time for some websites when they are better suited for a larger plan, which allows for more dedicated CPU and memory resources. We reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to discontinue service to any customer with a website or other hosted data that takes up more than 10% of the server resources and/or 10% of the server's CPU. This means that if your website is found to be utilizing more than 10% of the CPU and memory of the service, we reserve the right to take your site offline. If this becomes necessary, you can either upgrade your hosting package, or request a pro-rated refund of the amounts you have paid in advance for the services. Due to the severity of this, and our ability to act quickly to correct these situations to avoid server issues, we will do everything reasonably feasible to provide you with a warning prior to taking your site offline, but we accept no obligation to do so.

Yahoo Small Business provides "unlimited space and data transfer" but the following is burried in paragraph 9.6 of their Terms of Use Policy:

You acknowledge that the Web Hosting service is offered as a platform to host and serve web pages and web sites and is not offered for other purposes, such as remote disk space storage. Accordingly, You understand and agree to use the web hosting service solely for the purpose of hosting and serving web pages as viewed through a web browser and the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) protocol or other equivalent technology. Yahoo! Web Hosting is designed to serve the web hosting needs of small, independently owned and operated businesses in the United States. It is not intended to support the greater web hosting needs of large enterprises or internationally based businesses. Yahoo! Web Hosting is also a shared web hosting service, which means a number of customers' web sites are hosted from the same server. To ensure that Yahoo! Web Hosting is reliable and available for the greatest number of users, a customer's web site usage cannot adversely affect the performance of other customers' sites.  Additionally, the purpose of Yahoo! Web Hosting is to host web sites, not store data. Using an account primarily as an online storage space for archiving electronic files is prohibited. You further agree that if, at Yahoo!'s sole discretion, You are deemed to have violated this section, or if Yahoo!, in its sole discretion, deems it necessary due to excessive burden or potential adverse impact on Yahoo!'s systems, potential adverse impact on other users, server processing power, server memory, abuse controls, or other reasons, Yahoo! may suspend or terminate Your account without notice to You and with no liability to Yahoo!

Now we won't allow some of these things either but the limitations of space and bandwidth placed on you and our participation in the use of your site will generally be enough to avoid problems.  And if you have a legitimate need to do something, because we expect to work more closely with you, we can usually  find ways to address these issues for you.  And more importantly we don't tell you there are no limits and then stick limits in the small print.

One other point about these cheap rate hosting companies.  If you check the terms of their reseller accounts (those people like us who buy a chuck of a server, manage it and sell it to people like you), they never offer unlimited reseller plans and modest amounts of space at the 40 GB, 80 GB and 120 GB levels cost some serious money compared to the individual cheap rate accounts.  Why do you think that is?  Is it because there is a much higher probablity that the reseller will utilize closer to 100% of the resources available to them?  If this resource were "unlimited" in a real sense, these companies would quickly go the way of a Wall street  banker without a friend in Washington.

The bottom line with a hosting company is, does the package you are buying meet your needs.  The price of hosting is a small part of the cost of creating and maintaining a web site.  Does the host support all of the features that you are going to need six months from now?  In general it is difficult to know about all of the esoteric features of a web server that may or may not be in place to support your site.  Generally most mass scale hosts have to lock down their servers in ways that restrict many legitimate activities.  With thousands or tens of thousands of customers they have no choice so as to protect themselves from abuses like spam and the like.  They are WalMart and you get the prices of WalMart.  We are not WalMart and don't play in that business.  We are more about maintaining an engaged business relationship with you and your site.