Many users of shared hosting, or even VPS don’t know about this, but there is a limit on the “unlimited” disk space that most hosting companies offer. That limit is imposed by inodes, usually a “soft” limit and a “hard” limit.
What is an inode?
An inode is a data structure to store the information about a file or folder. A file consumes one inode (the size of the file is irrelevant) and a folder also consume one inode. Most hosting companies take in account everything, from your files/folders, emails, etc. Hostgator is no exception to this.
Take as an example WordPress 4.0, it needs around 1,400 inodes in a default installation, without any extra themes or plugins.
According to the Terms of Service of Hostgator, on shared hosting, there is a “soft” limit of 100,000 Inodes where you are automatically excluded from their weekly backups, and a “hard” limit of 250,000 inodes where you are automatically in violation of Hostgator Terms of Service (TOS) and most likely your account will be suspended. You are also violating Hostgator terms of service if you continuously publishing and deleting large numbers of files.
A lot of people hit this inode limits because they have lots of files, per example, most of the web gallery software (and CMS like wordpress) will generate thumbnails of the picture you upload, sometimes it will generate multiple thumbnails of multiple sizes each one, this is nice for faster load times (doesn’t need to download a big picture to display it on a small frame) but will consume lots of inodes. Imagine that your web gallery, or CMS, creates 5 different sized thumbnails of each picture you upload… you will be consuming 5 times as much inodes than you think.
With that you know that their “unlimited blogs” campaign isn’t actually unlimited, if you take in account the 1400 inodes needed just for a standard installation of WordPress 4.0, with a dozen of articles, a custom theme, some plugins and a couple of pictures, it will get above 3,500 inodes fairly easily, of course some wordpress websites can have a lot more articles, pictures, and whatever content and pass well beyond the 5,000 inodes.
If we take the value of 3,500 inodes as a “normal” WordPress website/blog, and divide the inode soft limit of hostgator (100,000) by the 3,500 inodes of a normal WordPress website/blog, we end up with a limit of 28 blogs before getting automatically excluded from Hostgator weekly backups, and by diving the hard limit (250,000 inodes) by the same 3,500 inodes, we know that after 71 wordpress websites/blogs it is a violation of Hostgator terms of service and most likely the account will be suspended, bringing a halt to all your websites/blogs hosted on that account.
For most bloggers and website marketers this limit is fine, but if you already had problems with this inode limit on hostgator or any other hosting company, and really want to get rid of it, take a look at Dreamhost. It’s a little more expensive than hostgator but they don’t seem to bother with inode limits (they didn’t even define an inode limit of any sort), but overall is a webhosting company with better quality, and of course, quality usually walks hand in hand with the price.