Many hosting packages now seem to feature unlimited bandwith. First do you know what it means and second how honest are they being.

Mobile phone users were being offered 'unlimited' data packages. Some customers justifiably made full use of their 'unlimited' data package only to be hit by a nightmare bill at the end of the month. A bit late to discover the 'fair usage' policy which is a sort of secret cap on how much data is 'unlimited'.

It turns out a policy of 'Fair usage' had been applied by the mobile companies on their 'unlimited' data package. Amazingly when this was legally challenged it was considered legal, the the Advertising Standards Authority did eventually get involved. Now a mobile phone company is unlikely to promote unlimited data in the UK unless it really was unlimited.

It has come to my attention that a number of hosting companies have been promoting packages with 'Unlimited' bandwidth. For me this raised a warning light or two.

First, what is bandwidth?

It has generally referred to the volume of information per unit of time that a transmission medium (like an internet connection) can handle.

This is how much data can or has passed to and from your account in a given period of time. The same term can be used to refer to capacity of an internet connection, say your home connection maybe 50 megabytes per second.

In this item I am referring to your hosting package. You hope, I expect, that your website will be really popular. This will mean that the amount of data going to and from your website will be greater the more traffic it gets. You probably couldn't even guess how many gigabytes that might be per month. Ok, so your website has be working fine on your 'unlimited' package. The bills are as you expect, no problems...

So what could go wrong? A nice thing would be an article of yours goes viral and people are flooding to your website to check it out. The less positive possibilty is that your website suffers a DDOS attack. This is where your website is gets thousands even millions of hits from a network of bots with the intention of shutting the website down.

There are a few issues here but lets focus on the bandwidth. Your usage will be much higher than you might expect and the chances are the hosting company will take your website offline, primarily to protect their network but also because they also have to pay for their bandwidth. On occasions the website has not been taken offline and the customer received a very big bill at the end of the month.

So what should you do? To be fair 99% of websites will never have a problem and it probably isn't worth worrying or paying for extra bandwidth. It is worth checking with your hosting company what their policy is should the traffic to your website exceed any set limits and what those limits are, unlimited isn't a useful answer as it is very unlikely it really is.

Cavespider, asking the questions you may not have thought of