A couple of my sites provide a lot of files for download.
On my old webhost (asmallorange – a great shared host by the way), I originally started with a few small websites using their “Tiny” plan – a $25/year (just over $2/month!) plan that provided 75mb of space and 3GB of bandwidth per month. As needs grew, I kept increasing the plan, but it got to the point where I was upgrading just to get more and more bandwidth. I went from paying $25/year to $25/month, when really my sites would have survived in the end on a $10/month plan if I didn’t offer free downloads.
I eventually moved to a VPS for various reasons, but again, an issue became “what happens if I start using too much bandwidth”. I then thought of a solution! Use a host that oversells!
For those who don’t know what “overselling” is, the idea behind it is that the host offers a massive amount of diskspace/bandwidth for a low price. In many ways it’s similar to the “unlimited” high-speed internet most people receive for under $50/month. If everyone was downloading hundreds upon hundreds of gigabytes every month, there’s no way the internet provider could survive. They’re counting on there being a lot of people who use very little – tiny old granny who just uses it for email and to check the weather for example helps offset the cost of “Jimmy the download-every-program-and-tv-series guy” who uses a ton.
What do oversellers do to keep someone from going a little too crazy? Well, most have a special clause in the user agreement that states you can’t use more than a certain % of the server’s processor/ram resources. Serving web-pages uses processor power, and especially in the case of something like a forum (or anything else that accesses a database), it can use a *lot*. For example, someone running a VBulletin who uses 300GB of bandwidth just for serving the forum is probably going to get booted from just about *any* shared host well before they even get close to using that much because the CPU power and RAM usage is going to be insane.
The truth is, the majority of websites will never be able to use the bandwidth offered, because the resource usage has to be too high to get there.
There is, luckily, something that doesn’t use much in the way of resources – serving stating files (html, images, etc). Since all my processor-intensive stuff was on a VPS, I decided to look to an overseller for serving my static stuff.
I looked around a fair bit. You can actually find a lot of ftp file hosts for under $10. Not wanting to spend quite that much, I looked at web-hosts to see how the price varied. GoDaddy’s cheap plan offers 300GB of bandwidth for $5. I figured that seems reasonable, and they also throw in free Google AdWords, Microsoft AdCenter, and Facebook Ad credits.
I started signing up for the plan. There’s a 3-month minimum on that plan, but they throw in a domain for just over $2 so I grabbed that too.
Once signup was complete, I took a look in the control panel to check out the advertising credits – low and behold it told me I hadn’t purchased any plans that qualified for them. I was a little irked by this. I checked the plan listing again. Even though they show the pricing in Canadian dollars by default for me (I live in Canada), the fine print shows that the Microsoft AdCenter credit is only available to those in the US. I wasn’t thrilled since it was the Ad provider I was hoping to try. I decided I may as well set up the hosting itself.
I hopped into the Hosting section of the control panel, and was surprised to find 2 packages available. One I had bought, and the other came free with the domain. They both had the SAME diskspace/bandwidth offered. I decided to use the free one, and cancel the other right away since it didn’t look like I was getting the credits anyway ($20 CDN for a 3 month period down the tubes it seemed). The free one DOES force ads on you, but since I was using the space for hosting files, it didn’t matter anyway – nobody would ever get the ads.
I got it all set up – I created subdomains to help separate the files, and created an .htaccess file to set the MIME types of the files and to prevent hotlinking from anywhere other than my sites (although I removed the hotlink protection later since it also disables a right-click-save-as). Uploaded the files which went rather quickly, and got to work on everything else.
As far as the other ad credits went, it turns out they show up in the account a few hours later. Obviously I didn’t get the Microsoft AdCenter one since it was US-only, but the Adwords and Facebook Ad credits both came the next day. I was fairly pleased since I had just started a Facebook ad account after reading up on it, so I went ahead and used the $50 Facebook credit.
So, how does this all boil down to an experiment? Well… for $15.66 I got:
- a domain
- free webspace (10GB space and 300GB transfer)
- $50 Facebook Ad credit (which I used on a new Facebook Ad account)
- $20 Google AdWords credit (which I didn’t use because I already had an old Adwords account)
- additional webspace for 3 months (which I cancelled right away anyway)
- a year without paying a cent more, after which I’ll simply have to renew the domain at around $10/year
Basically at this point, I’m paying under $1 month for hosting files.
The question becomes “is this too good to be true?”. That’s what the experiment is – to see how it goes long-term. I’m about $35 ahead of the game for an entire year of free hosting because of the Ad Credits I used regardless. Now if I can go the entire year on free hosting, serving 30GB/month of files, I’d have to say this is pretty much a success.
Only time will tell.
UPDATE: Using HostGator now in a similar capacity. I’m no longer using GoDaddy for anything.