Unmetered and Unlimited Space and Bandwidth

While browsing a web hosting forum yesterday I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Unlimited and unmetered hosting is becoming a big taboo in the hosting world. In fact, most web hosting and webmaster forums have begun banning all posts about such plans.

First a little background, including the difference between unlimited and un-metered.

Unlimited space and bandwidth is something that has been around since the beginning of web hosting. A web host usually offers this as a way to attract customers, while at the same time hoping that nobody uses any significant amounts of space or bandwidth. Unfortunately, many hosts offered such a service with the intention of terminating accounts that used more than a few megabytes of space or bandwidth. Thus in the late 90’s there was a significant customer backlash to companies offering “unlimited plans”. As a result, many hosts started clarifying that they didn’t offer “unlimited plans” but instead were offering “un-metered” plans. The difference they claimed is that they just didn’t meter or keep tack of bandwidth usage on the servers.

The present day situation

Almost half a decade later, it now feels like we are experiencing a second coming of the unlimited/unmetered backlash. What’s interesting is there are companies, like T35 for example, that still offer unlimited plans without any intention of deleting accounts that use a lot of resources. In fact, many companies have found ways to offer these plans by placing restrictions on other features to keep everything balanced. At T35 Hosting for example, we limit file sizes to 512kb. That makes it hard for a customer to use tens of gigabytes of space for legitimate reasons (although we do have a few using over 10gb). Unfortunately, the hosts that have abused the unlimited/unmetered offerings seemed to have ruined it for everyone. We now find ourselves at a point where we can’t even advertise these kind of plans in some of the largest webmaster forums on the ‘net!

What now?

All of this reminds me of the automobile industry, where based on bad experiences in the 1980’s, Americans have come to associate hatchbacks with something very negative — making it very hard for any car company to successfully launch such a car. I wonder if the hosting industry has come to a point where we need to re-brand unlimited plans to something that would make them more marketable? Kind of like calling hatchbacks “sports wagons” (audi a3, etc..). What do you guys think? Are unlimited and un-metered plans still worth keeping around? Are the companies offering hundreads of gigabytes (or even Terabytes) of resources the new “unlimited” web hosts?

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