Overselling In Web hosting – Pros And Cons

Overselling in web hosting- the necessary evil

Overselling in web hosting is quite common these days. All the hosting companies oversell their services to varying degrees. In order to have a huge clientage on the limited available infrastructure and resources like bandwidth, server disk space, instead of selling to 10 people companies oversell to 100, 500 or even thousand websites. Otherwise selling only to 10 people will not even make enough money to fulfill the cost, profits will be a farfetched dream. Overselling in web hosting is not always bad if done reasonably with ground realities in mind. Overselling is not banned by law. We will discuss the different aspects of it to realize the necessity of overselling.

Why Overselling in web hosting?

Why the need of overselling in web hosting does arise in the first place?  It is a basic question that everyone asks. Actually it has its root deep into brief internet history. In the initial era of www say about 20 years back, the website needs were minimal with only HTML based support. Graphics was of very less quality and multimedia content was hardly comparable to what we have these days. So in that time even 5 or 10 Mega bytes worth space was enough for setting up a website, so setting up a server giving nominal space & bandwidth to few people and earning cash was the business model being followed in those days.

However by the end of 90s, storage capacity became lot cheaper and website content’s technology reached even farther. Due to enhancements in telecommunication, bandwidth became abundant and cheap. So website hosts were able to give away half a GB worth space easily to each website owner.

However by the years 2008, the whole thing went wild as far as webhosting is concerned. Now hosts start emerging offering sky high bandwidth to go with 100s of GB worth disk space.

There are hosting service providers who firmly believe these advancements against their principles, as this is encouraging the ‘unethical’ overselling in web hosting. However the fact remains that software and hardware technology has moved miles ahead in the recent era. So plain HTML has been replaced with more advanced, interactive ASP, JSP, PHP, Ruby, Python languages to name a few. These languages not only support the HTML based content but also multimedia content, and other useful components like Chat, Photo sharing, Video etc.

So few hosts anticipated and acted accordingly to cater to these needs and some haven’t. So by 2008 more and more space was required for websites. But now with the presence of images, databases, scripts and animations the space needs is more than ever.

So it is imperative for website hosts to oversell, in order to fulfill the space requirements of all their users.

How to meet the promise then?

Now the second important question. If the host decides to oversell, how do they meet everyone’s requirement. Like if the server has 100GB worth disk space available, how can they fulfill the promise of 50 GB space promised to each of their 100 customers?

Indeed it is not possible. However on an average scenario, the space requirements for all 100 customers would not be touching the upper threshold both in terms of space and bandwidth. In this kind of hosting model multiple websites are hosted on single server or at least single company’s servers, and no website is expected to consume the entire system resources like CPU, RAM etc at once. However, it has to be admitted that CPU thresholds are hardly discussed in host’s advertising and policy documents, or if discussed in policy they are written in a way to look neutral statements.

Sometimes it is possible for a particular website to reach the threshold limit of CPU for but for a little while only, and it happens because of crappy or faulty or malfunctioning script. Similarly it is also possible for a website to use the entire allocated quota of space.

So the website which depends on dynamic script for different backend processing, if a malfunctioning script is handed out to end user the results can be shattering for the CPU resources like CPU and RAM. Alarming situation in my opinion is the rough estimate that about two third of scripts are not written in proper manner.

So basically this problem is associated with overselling in web hosting which is unjust to the core. This is certainly not an issue with host or the fact that it oversells its resources. The real issue lies with the coders or developers of such scripts. The bad scripts are not limited to normal or average non-professional websites; many reputed websites also have this problem of malfunctioning scripts.

Now coming to the disk space, as mentioned earlier that it is highly unlikely to a website to consume that much space in the first place.  However if the overselling in web hosting load reaches certain limit the host move the data to another server or acquire a new server. So if a reputable host is selected space can never become an issue with the over-seller host. The best thing about this movement is that it is transparent to the end user including the website owner that the movement is taking place. There is hardly a downtime in the overall transition.
Why Overselling in web hosting is considered bad then?

It is more of propaganda by the hosts that haven’t adopted this strategy. Also due to financials involve of purchasing new servers every now and then, they think it is a risky business model. So the host who have invested so much on the old server technologies have little money left to now adopt to this rather expensive business model of overselling in web hosting. So now rather than accepting the overselling in web hosting as an alternative model at least, they reject it altogether. You can call it professional jealousy even.

But as times have told us repeatedly those who don’t have the guts to change die down eventually.  So the more expensive option of dedicated hosting, or shared hosting without overselling in web hosting is bound to go down the drain with ever increasing competition and exceeding customer base. However it can’t be emphasized more that like all over sellers are not bad, similarly all over sellers are not good either. So basically the over sellers who oversell wisely should be your choice, because there are many imposters out there who do overselling but not the server addition required in case of expansion. You will end up pulling your hair out in frustration then, as your website will be down all the time and you have more disgruntled customers than regular visitors.