I want to start out by saying that not having a limit does not mean infinite usage is possible. We’re all smart enough to know that no matter what storage technology we’re using to power your sites there will ultimately be a finite limit. What “Unlimited Storage” means to us is being free from an arbitrary limit that you have to keep in mind and be careful not to cross. There are several analogies I can make but the best that I can make is to “Unlimited Calling” on cellular providers.
When it comes to a cellular provider offering “Unlimited Calling” it does not mean that you can talk an infinite amount of minutes within a month as there are obviously a finite number of minutes in the month for you to talk. The key here is that you no longer have to worry about how many minutes you have used, how many minutes you have left, and whether you are going to run out and have to upgrade [read: pay more]. “Unlimited Storage” is the same in that while it’s not infinite – you no longer have to worry about running out or having to upgrade your storage to keep running your site.
Many see “Unlimited Storage” as a “marketing gimmick” or a “trick” to “fool those that don’t know any better,” into signing up. With many providers this is often unfortunately the case. There are a lot of providers out there that offer “Unlimited Storage” but when you read the Terms and Conditions there is either an arbitrary limit specified or, even worse, there is an ambiguous “fair use” clause that essentially says that if they decide you’re using too much they’ll kick you off or force you to upgrade. These providers have unfortunately damaged our industry as well as damaged providers that want to offer “Unlimited Storage” to simplify the lives of their customers.
Unlike other providers offering “Unlimited Storage” – we have applied no new limits to our newest plan with “Unlimited Storage” that didn’t already apply to our pre-existing and still-available limited plans. We did pick out the limitations that applied to all of our shared plans and specifically listed them in our Unlimited Policy for clarity. We hope that having the limits that do apply clearly listed will be helpful to anybody considering our services. The key here is that these limits have always applied even long before we offered “Unlimited Storage” on any plan. At the beginning of this year we made several very large changes that have allowed us to offer hosting plans without arbitrary storage limits in a way that makes sense.
We invested heavily in our infrastructure in Q1 2016 which included upgrading all servers to brand new Dell R630s each with 48 CPU Cores and 256 GB of System RAM. Each of these servers has four 10 GBPS connections two connections to each of two redundant networking switches resulting in 20 GBPS of connectivity to the internet and 20 GBPS of connectivity to our new NimbleStorage CS500 Storage Area Network. To put this into perspective our entire network prior to these upgrades was 1 GBPS – total. Everything is redundant from the power supplies in the servers to the power supplies in the switches to the switches themselves. Even the server hardware is redundant as we now run all customer servers on Highly Available hardware with fail-over.
The network upgrades alone have allowed us substantial flexibility when it comes to storage and making it available to the machines that need it as they need it. In the past we used purely local storage and we were limited by the total physical number of drives each server could hold. Once the server was full of drives we were essentially stuck – unable to add more storage. There are network storage options but our previous 1 GBPS network was not sufficient to support network storage with the speed and low-latency our customers need.
Our Nimble Storage CS500 SAN can scale out to 800 Terabytes of storage or 800,000 Gigabytes to put things into perspective. This SAN is one of the largest factors in our decision to remove arbitrary disk limits. For years it has been almost a daily process of notifying customers that are nearing their storage limits and working with them to either reduce their usage or to upgrade to a new plan level resulting in them paying more. At the end of the day it can get quite daunting to keep track of how much storage you’re using, how quickly your storage usage is growing, what your limit is, how close to your limit you are, and then actually upgrading to additional storage as you need it.
The primary goal I set when I decided that we would offer plans without arbitrary storage limits several years ago was to simplify the lives of our customers. We are still the same company and we still offer the same service and support. The only difference between what we have sold for years and the new plans now is that you no longer have to worry about whether you’re going to run out of disk space at an inopportune time or whether or not you’re going to have to spend more down the road to keep your site alive just because you have more content. We want your sites to grow – and we want you to enjoy that process.
The secondary goal is to simplify the lives of our sales and support staff as well as potential customers. In the past if a customer were to call in and ask about signing up and transferring their account over we would have to ask a question like, “How much disk space are you currently using?” I am sure many of you are reading this and thinking, “That’s an easy question! It shows me right here [wherever you see your disk usage currently.]!” Unfortunately it’s not such a simple question for a lot of hosting customers. Many times we’d get answers like, “I don’t know,” or even, “Where can I see that at?” Moving away from tiered storage plans has allowed us to skip those questions and allowed us to focus on what matters – the user’s experience with the service and support.
Just today, about half way through writing this post actually, I was helping a customer conduct a restoration of some of their WordPress files due to an upgrade failing half-way due to running out of disk space. This customer did move to the new plan with “Unlimited Storage” and was able to resolve the issue and upgrade their WordPress without issues. Had they already been on such a plan – they would have been saved the whole experience of resolving the issues caused by running out of disk space.
At the end of the day the absolute last thing I want to do is to mislead anybody. We are keeping our older storage-limited plans around for anybody that isn’t comfortable with an “Unlimited Storage” plan. At the end of the day the service and support provided by us will be the same no matter which type of plan you’re on – the only difference is whether or not you’ll have to worry about running out of disk space through the normal operation of your site.