It seems just about every host large and small is choosing to incorporate the term “unlimited” into their marketing campaigns. I really don’t like when companies do this because there really is no such thing as unlimited. Whether the truth is buried somewhere in the terms of service or it’s made apparent by other limitations (Example: unlimited disk space as long as you don’t use multimedia files), there is no such thing as unlimited in the hosting world.
I have to admit I am a complete shill for HostGator. They have been nothing but good to me and I would recommend them to anyone in need of a shared hosting account. My attitude towards them might have been influenced by the shoddy service I received at a prior host, but even with that aside, I’ve been extremely impressed with their professionalism and support turnaround. As great as I think HostGator is, even they are using the “unlimited” pitch to sell hosting. It might be a turn off, but it won’t stop me from using their services as I’m already a happy convert.
So why do these companies do it? It’s because they realize people can be enticed at the offer of more for less, except in hosting, most people don’t utilize the “more” part. We see these offers of 5GB, 10GB, 20GB, or unlimited disk space offered for cheap and we think we’re getting such a deal, but how much you’re really paying depends a lot on how much you’re actually using. I’m not saying you should needlessly use the space just because you have it. All I am saying is not to pay too much attention to space unless you really know you’ll have a specific need for a large amount of space to run your website.
I think it’s more important to look at bandwidth, customer service, price, reputation, hardware, and the number of other accounts on the same server as you. If you’re just starting out with a shared hosting account, your website is brand new without a lot of content. The majority of the space you’ve used is probably attributed to the script you’ve installed. I know you’ll have hopes of growing in time, but why worry about that now? You probably have more space than you’ll need for quite some time.
To give you an idea of the space you probably (don’t) need when first starting out, I’ve gathered up some information on the space required for installing some popular open source software. This is only the space required for a standard install. You would naturally need more room available for content and how much really depends on what kind of site you are launching. (Example: Image gallery or graphic catalog ecommerce site might require more space for content than a blog or news related site)