The Truth About Overselling!

I'm THE TRUTH like AI.

Whee-oo, judging by the popularity of that last post, it’d probably be in the best interest of our blog traffic to keep this “exposé” bandwagon rolling!

(You see, our business plan from the start has been to build up a successful hosting company as an audience for our eventual blog, which we then sell to Rupert Murdoch for $503.22241490 MILLION)

On to the goods.

If you’ve ever visited webhostingtalk, or maybe slashdot, you’ve probably heard all about the other dirty little secret poisoning the web hosting (and ISP) industry…


AIEEEEEEEEEEE! Just typing the word strikes terror deep in the heart of my butt!


There, I did it again, just to be brave.

So, what IS overselling? I guess a definition is in order.. I’ll make one up now.

Overselling is when a business (or individual) offers more of an product or service than they currently have.

Yuck! Overselling is TERRIBLE!

Just imagine if you bought a house in a new development, put in your deposit, waited two years, and was about to move in when the developer told you “Sorry, we don’t have a house available for you after all. We sold 40 houses but only built 10!”

What did the five fingers say to the face?

You’d probably slap him right in the face.

Overselling is the WORST!

Just imagine if you bought a ticket on an airplane flight and when you showed up, they told you they’d overbooked (nice EUPHEMISM, airplane jerks!) and would you be willing to take a later flight for a free round-trip ticket anywhere in the continental US? Well, sheesh! Maybe I would!

Good thing I took the free ticket!

Overselling is still pretty much the SUCK!

Just imagine if you went to a big house party at your cousin Jose’s, and the idiot only has ONE bathroom! I mean, how can he expect to have 50 people in a heavy drinking and eating environment for four hours with just ONE bathroom?! What if two people have to pee at the same time?! Or even worse…


Pee and Poo for good girls and boys!

Clearly, if you’re going to have a group of people, you better make DARN sure you’ve got (at least) one bathroom per person! Or else, you’re just another CRAZY OVERSELLER!

Alrighty. By now, you probably know where I’m going with this… so I might as well just get it over with.

“Overselling” is not terrible at all!

In fact, it’s one of the primary tools that makes a zillion very useful (and critical) business models possible! One of those business models is web hosting.

You see, in web hosting at least, customers have WILDLY varying usage levels. To top it off, no customer even knows what their own usage level is going to be like beforehand.

Any business with this sort of customer profile, simply MUST “oversell”.. it comes with the territory. You’d be crazy not to! In fact, one of the PRIMARY values you’re providing to your customer base IS the “overselling” itself!

Let me illustrate why they must “oversell” with a reverse example.. and let’s use us!

Imagine we didn’t “oversell” at all. We still offer 20GB of disk space and 1TB of bandwidth on our $7.95/month plan because that’s what the competition has forced us to offer. 1TB of bandwidth is about an average of 3Mbs. 3Mbs for a month costs us about $90/month. The 20GB of disk space actually costs us about $200 (BELIEVE IT OR NOT!), because of the level of availability and backups we provide. So, we’d be losing about $200 up front and $82 / month on each and every customer!

And, all in the name of not “overselling”, our disk arrays would sit 98% empty and our network pipes 1% full!

It's worth it!

What if you went to get a gym membership and they were like “We have a state-of-the-art facility with an elliptical machine, complete set of free weights, stairmaster, treadmill, yoga class, kickboxing, rock-climbing wall, and olympic sized pool.. per member! You’ll never have to wait to use anything, anytime, seven days a week, 24 hours a day! Membership fees are $45,000/month with a $300,000 set up fee.”?

It’s the same thing.

But our “overselling” is even better then a gym’s. At a gym, sometimes you’re going to have to wait to use a machine. A machine you are PAYING hefty membership fees to use! That’s not right.

But with us, you really CAN use all the stuff we’re offering. You won’t be disabled for it. You won’t have to wait. Your performance won’t suffer. It’s just a good thing for us there’s a difference between being able to use something and actually using it!

“But what if, let’s just say, everybody DID use it one day? Just WHAT IF? Then you’re screwed, eh?! Then the house of cards all comes crashing down around this charade of a pyramid scheme scam!!”

That’s true. I guess it’s a good thing we live in this universe, where we have the law of large numbers, and not in your universe where ANYTHING THAT CAN HAPPEN, DOES!!!


Of course, we do actually do have people who use their full 20GB, and actually DO stream porn and use the TB of bandwidth, all for just $8/month. And we actually DO lose a crapload of money on these people! But we only lose it on these people. And there are very few of them. And, as a bonus, they love us. And they refer their friends. Who, on average, don’t use their full 20GB and 1TB.

Guess what? We keep our file servers 90% full at all times, and our peak traffic times at 85% of our capacity! Why? Because despite the wild variations among all our customers, on the aggregate our disk and bandwidth usage grows very predictably. It’s easy to add another disk shelf and it’s easy to add another gigabit uplink, so there’s no reason to do it before we need to. Performance doesn’t suffer and it keeps our costs nice.

And it all works out! And we are ALL happy. Us, because we’re living on the edge and making a profit. You, because for only $7.95/month you know you could use up to 20GB of disk and 3Mbs of bandwidth should the need ever arise. And that’s a pretty small price to pay for such peace of mind!

For just $7.95/month you too can be a horse and child!


But what about CPU minutes?!

Oh yeah, that. Ever since we quadrupled our disk space and octupled our bandwidth there seems to be a lot of reports of “Yeah, but you’ll never be able to use it, they’ll shut off your site for cpu resource abuse as soon as you get popular!!”

Here’s the thing. People who are getting disabled for “cpu resource abuse” are people who are crashing their server. It’s completely unrelated to the disk/bw limits, except for the fact that those higher limits got us a lot more customers, so we are a lot bigger now, so a lot more people (not percentage-wise, just overall) are causing problems, possibly getting disabled, and then possibly complaining about it.

Some people point to our CPU Minutes FAQ in our wiki and say “Aha, you can only use up to 60 cpu minutes a day and then you’re disabled!” But that’s not true either. The truth is, it’s really always handled on a case-by-case basis. However, our customers really want to see a hard number.. so we put up 50-60 because you’re definitely not in trouble if you’re under that.

Just like disk and bandwidth, we’d LOVE to offer every CDI customer the ability to use like, I dunno, the equivalent of a dual xeon 3.5Ghz to themselves. That only costs us like $2000 plus $25/month for power+ space.

.01% of our customers would actually use it, and be AMAZED at the deal they’re getting, and the other 99.99% would use close to 0 cpu minutes, just like it is now.

The only problem is technical. It’s a lot easier to share disk (file servers) and bandwidth (that’s just how it works) then it is to share cpu. And if one user starts using up an entire shared server’s worth of CPU, everybody else on that server is affected. It’s not possible for a single user to fill up ALL our shared disk pool, or ALL our bandwidth (not counting DDOSes), but it’s not too difficult for one to “fill up” an entire CPU.

Which is why we have to act on it.

Ideally, we’d be able to have a set up where you can use up to X (an insanely high amount) of CPU, and each additional “cpu minute” would cost a little extra, just like we do for storage and bandwidth. And actually, we’re working on it. But until then, we’ve just got to cap some problem people. And we’re really sorry about it!

About the author

Josh Jones