What Your Web Host Isn’t Telling You – The Fine Print

If you have a domain or a website (be it blog, ecommerce, etc), you likely have a web host.  The most popular web hosts come with a variety of fun names, like Dream Host, Blue Host, Host Gator, and GoDaddy.  Today, I’m going to be talking to you about something you may not know and that your web host might not want you to know.  It’s not necessarily something they are purposely hiding or something they are trying to obscure, but I would call it something very important that is located in the “fine print.”  This is something that people may have come across before in different ways, but that maybe they didn’t really understand.

What I’m talking about here, is memory.  No, I am not referring to disk space that you may be allocated on a shared/vps/cloud/dedicated server.  Instead, I am talking about the “RAM” (random access memory) figures you may have been given by your host when you signed up.  Many hosts advertise RAM figures such as 2-6 gigabytes for most mid-level hosting solutions.  However, how do you know you’re getting your money’s worth?

Measuring bandwidth is something hosts usually easily provide in their dashboards, as is the amount of disk space you’ve used up.  However, with RAM and your “active memory,” it might not be so obvious especially if you are one of the nearly 75 Million users of WordPress or a user of another Content Management System or “CMS” (like Joomla).  That’s because hosting providers almost always put memory caps on how much memory customers can use if they are using WordPress or another CMS.  Oftentimes, these memory caps max out at 256mb per website.  What that means is that the vast majority of the memory you have “allocated” to you according what you think you purchased isn’t being used.  I won’t name names, but, for example, my last hosting provider *said* I was getting 6gb of RAM, but in reality, because I was using WordPress with only one website/domain, I was only being effectively allocated 256mb of memory to use on a consistent basis.

Why do they do it, and how can they do this?

First, let’s try to tackle why they do it.

From the conversations I have seen and had with my own hosting provider, they do it at lower-mid hosting levels because “resources are shared” and they don’t want any one user to use up too many resources.  They also do it when you are using a CMS like WordPress that uses php code.  I’m not entirely sure the specifics other than that regarding why such CMS is targeted more heavily for memory caps, however, and information on this seems sparse (though there are plenty of articles about how to try to increase your memory limits and WPMUDev have a pretty good article here).  It may be related to the amount of processing power that PHP requires.  Other than that, could it just be simple greed?

The next issue is, how can they get away with this?

I believe the answer to this question lies in yet more fine print and interpretation of your hosting plan.  The first thing is that, though hosting providers may not exactly advertise their memory caps on WordPress and other CMS, they don’t hide it either.  Some google searching may reveal your hosting company’s memory caps provided on their own website, so you can’t say that you didn’t necessarily have the information available to you if you wanted it.  Second, these memory caps exist specifically for CMS like WordPress and Joomla, and may not necessarily exist (according to what I’ve been told) if you manually programmed your own website from scratch using HTML, Javascript, and CSS, for example.

Finally, hosting providers often provide extra ram in case you want to attach more than one domain to your hosting plan.  In my case, I could have “unlimited” domains (which, I’m not sure I believe that), but this is another justification for creating memory caps at 256mb for each domain: if you had 6gb of RAM and you wanted to host 24 domains, you’d be able to use 256mb for each one!  Unrealistic, yes.  Leading on consumers… possibly.

I just thought you’d want to be aware of these things.  If you’re a hosting provider or work for one, feel free to let me know what I’m missing here, or if you are with a hosting company, please let me know your experience.

 

Thanks!

 

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