What is Web Hosting Overselling? How to Avoid It?

Overselling is a business practice spread across multiple industries (e.g. travel industry, lodging industry, telecommunications, etc.), which is used as a means to secure maximum return on investment. The practice of overselling stems from the expectation and knowledge that some customers will not take full advantage of all the resources they are entitled to or that some will cancel their reservations, bookings or other services.

Selling more than one’s readily available resources, makes sure that the gap caused by cancellations or between the average usage of resources and the maximum allocation is filled. Some industries regulate overselling, and if customers are denied a service they were expecting, they are entitled to compensation.

This somewhat grey area business model of maximizing ROI, has also permeated into the web hosting industry with more or less the same effects we can see in other industries that resort to this practice.

What does Web Hosting Overselling Mean?

In the context of web hosting, overselling is generally limited to shared hosting plans. The very nature of shared hosting plans allows hosting providers to make use of overselling. So how does web hosting overselling work in practice?

Shared hosting means that several websites are hosted on the same physical server and resources are pooled between users of the same server. Although each user is, in theory, allocated a maximum number of resources, web hosting providers know – by continuously monitoring server usage – that not all users will use resources to the maximum. In fact, on average, most users will not.

For example, if a hosting company has a server with 4 TB disk space and 8 TB bandwidth, and their advertised shared hosting plans come with 40 GB disk space and 80 GB bandwidth, the server would be able to accommodate up to 100 users, and any new user above this number would have to be put on another server. However, in practice, server resources are rarely used to the maximum by their users, and if a server is under-allocated, the hosting company will keep on adding users to the server. By selling resources it no longer has, the hosting company will engage in overselling.

Web hosting overselling is more predominant with unlimited shared hosting plans, where hosting companies don’t define the exact resources each client will receive, and although plans are advertised as unlimited, they are in fact quite finite.

Hosting companies that practice web hosting overselling rely on the fact that users are none the wiser – if their website is up and running at all times, load times are normal and there are no server downtimes or outages, they will continue to be happy customers. If done to the extremes, however, overselling can have detrimental effects on the quality of the services provided. Cramming more and more users on a server until it can no longer handle the load can end up in a disaster and many angry customers that will certainly notice they are being short-changed.

While overselling is a way for hosting companies to get the most profit out of their investment, web hosting overselling is also a risky move for the hosting provider as many things can go downhill if it’s not done properly.

Why are Hosting Companies Overselling?

As lucrative the hosting industry is, it’s still a highly competitive field. By analyzing web hosting overselling from a purely business standpoint, we can perhaps relate to the need to take the path of least resistance that would bring the highest ROI. From a purely ethical point of view? It’s a dodgy practice, no question, but it’s also a way for hosting companies to provide highly affordable services that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

Hosting companies have to recuperate costs incurred with advertising, affiliate programs, and so on, and one way to do that without driving up the costs of their services is to squeeze out as much as they can from their servers, while maintaining affordable prices. From this perspective, it’s not a one-way street, where the hosting provider heaps all the benefits without giving anything in return. Not all hosting companies that engage in overselling are inherently bad, but if overselling is not managed correctly, and things get out of hand, the chances of the service degrading and servers failing are very high.

How to Avoid Overselling Hosting Providers?

We reiterate: not all overselling hosting providers practice overselling at extremes. There are reliable hosting companies that will provide shared hosting services, even so-called unlimited plans, that are up to par and deliver on their promises of offering a reliable server environment, with high availability and plenty of resources. Before you choose a hosting provider for your website, you’ll need to do some research. You can read hosting reviews from more than one source and you can get in touch with the hosting provider itself to clarify any concerns you may have regarding their plans and services.

Our Recommendations?

Whether you’re in the market for a shared hosting plan, a cloud-powered VPS plan, or a robust dedicated server hosting, the following hosting companies are among the top hosting companies that don’t oversell:

1. BlueHost

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bluehost not oversellingBlueHost has been long perceived as one of the top hosting companies on the market. It’s a WordPress.org endorsed hosting provider that is known for its flexible and affordable shared hosting and WordPress optimized hosting plans. BlueHost doesn’t cater exclusively to WordPress users and provides all types of hosting plans for a wide range of customers.

BlueHost has a reliable server infrastructure providing security and high availability. Even their shared hosting plans come with powerful features such as enhanced cPanel and resource protection technology that identifies sites that use excessive resources and re-assigns them to isolated systems temporarily, thus, mitigating many of the risks associated with shared hosting plans. The flexibility and scalability of their plans, as well as the state-of-the-art server technology recommend BlueHost as a top choice in web hosting.

2. InMotion

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inmotion not oversellingInMotion Hosting is another web hosting company that doesn’t compromise on quality. Their business shared hosting plans are some of the most full-featured shared plans in the industry that are placed on Samsung SSD drives for fast data retrieval and content delivery. InMotion shared hosting plans come with free data backups, cPanel included, eCommerce capabilities, easy WordPress management with WP-CLI, access to web builder and web design tools, SSH access, and several other useful features.

InMotion boasts a 90-day money-back guarantee with all their Business Hosting plans. Their higher tier cloud VPS, managed hosting plans and dedicated plans are recognized industry-wide for their advanced features, top-notch technology and solid uptime guarantees.

3. HostGator

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hostgator not oversellingHostGator has been around for 14 years now and their dedication to maintaining a perfect balance between affordability and quality hosting services has paved the way for their success. Their hosting plans are varied and complex enough to meet every need from that of personal users to that of business users.

HostGator lines up an array of features. Their shared hosting plans come with cPanel included, 45-days money-back guarantee, 1-click script installs, access to free website templates and website builder tools, support for several CMSs (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.), 99.9% uptime guarantees and around-the clock support. Those looking for hosting plans for high traffic sites, can opt for HostGator’s cloud hosting, VPS hosting, or dedicated hosting plans that are known for their powerful resources, advanced features and scalability.

Is Your Hosting Provider Overselling?

There is no easy way to tell if your current host is overselling or not. One thing is certain. If your website starts slowing down and takes a lot more time to load, probably something is happening in the background. It could be overselling. Why would you pay for slow hosting, when you could get better performance and loading time at same price? Please consider the above mentioned hosting companies!


David Cross

David is the chief editor at WebHostingMedia right from the beginning. He has a great passion for building and managing websites and creating helpful content. He is also interested in programming - currently learning python.