When buying web hosting, what features do you look for? There are obvious features and less obvious, but important ones and here I look at inodes and why you should check it before buying.
Inodes information is not always mentioned on the sales pages listing web hosting plans. Typically, you visit a page on the web hosting seller’s site and it lists in detail all the features you can expect like space, bandwidth, SSL, domain name, databases, and so on. It often does not include any information on inodes.
It can be hard to find your inodes allowance with some web hosts, but the information will definitely be there somewhere and it is an important issue for some people shopping for web hosting.
Inodes information may be buried in the terms and conditions of a web hosting company or in its help files and it is something you should definitely find out before signing up for a web hosting plan. You don’t want to hit the inode limit, your website may stop working.
What is an inode?
Wikipedia inode entry says “The inode (index node) is a data structure in a Unix-style file system that describes a file-system object such as a file or a directory.” Ignore all that data structure and Unix information, basically inodes is the number of files and folders you are allowed to create in a web hosting account.
The maximum number that is allowed could be anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 and it depends on the web hosting company. Inode limits vary. It also depends on the hosting plan you select and inode limits vary from plan to plan even within the same web hosting company.
The number of inodes (files and folders) allowed at the higher end of the web hosting price range is much greater than at the lower end. One of the limitations of cheap web hosting is the smaller number of inodes allowed. If you pay more, usually more inodes are allowed.
How many inodes do you need?
Do you need to worry about the number of inodes you will use when buying web hosting? Well that depends on the size of website you intend to have and the number of sites you want to create within your account.
For many people, the inodes limit is not an issue that they need to be concerned about, which is probably why it is rarely mentioned on the sales page in hosting plans. For some people it is an issue though. It is an important issue if you intend to have multiple websites.
This website for example, has hundreds of articles and uses around 27,000 inodes. Imagine if there were 10 sites like it on the hosting account!
The inode limit a web hosting company sets mostly affects you if you run multiple websites, but in some circumstances, such as when a web host as a low limit, it can impact you with just one website. You will be fine when you first create your website, but the limit could become a problem in a few years time if your site is large and growing.
Some people have a main website and then install a blog or store in a subdomain. A subdomain is basically a subfolder in your hosting account. This means you then have two websites on your account and are using twice as many inodes, which can be a problem. Create a staging site, adding forums, a shop and so on, all increase the inodes – files and folders. A 50,000 inode limit on a budget hosting account could then be a problem.
Email messages in accounts provided by your web hosting may count towards the inode total. Backups can also use extra inodes, plugins and themes use inodes.
What if you hit the inode limit?
Some hosts have a hard limit and when you reach it, they prevent you from creating any more files on the server. This means that not only can you not create any more posts or pages, you also may not be able to update WordPress or plugins, because that would mean adding more files.
Some web hosts are said to have a soft limit and if you go over, you may simply get a warning. Nothing bad happens and you can continue to use your site. However, they will have a hard limit too, so if your site continues to grow, eventually it will hit the hard limit. Then your site will stop working.
Here is what Bluehost says:
“We only allow 50,000 inodes per cPanel account, because that is where we see optimal server performance. We do understand that not all of our customers can reduce their file count that far; for this reason, this is a “Soft limit” meaning that while the limit is reached, you will still be able to upload files. Once the account exceeds 200,000 files then it will be in violation of our Terms of Service and can result in possible suspension.”Bluehost
Every web host has its own rules. Don’t assume they are all the same. They are not.
One solution if you run out of inodes is to upgrade the plan. Web hosting companies always have multiple plans at different price points. Upgrading to a better one could increase the inodes limit. Upgrading from one plan to another at the same web host will be carried out by the hosting company with little or no downtime for your site.
How many inodes are you using?
There is no single universal way to show how many inodes your website is using. Every web host is different. It is quite likely to be somewhere in your hosting account control panel, but you will have to find it yourself.
To take just one example, SiteGround users can see the number of inodes they are using from the Client Area > Services > Manage > Statistics. For anyone else, you will have to look through all the settings, features and options in your hosting account for the information.
If you back up your website, and you should, your backup plugin or service may show the number of files backed up. If you download backups, you may be able to see the number of files that way.
How to reduce inodes used
Every file on your website uses an inode. Reduce the number of files if you reach or come close to the inode limit for your hosting account. Anything unused should be removed.
- Remove plugins that are disabled and not currently in use
- Remove themes that are installed, but not being used
- Remove backups if stored on the site, store backups externally
- Delete the cache and remove the cache plugin. Caches are useful, but add files
- Delete old emails if email is included with your web hosting
- Remove unused images
There may be a lot of unused images in your media library. When an image is uploaded to WordPress, the theme often makes multiple copies at specific sizes. If you switch themes at any time, those extra images may no longer be used because the new theme creates new image copies at the size it needs, which may be different. The old images remain on the server using inodes.
There is a useful WordPress plugin called Regenerate Thumbnails that deletes old thumbnails and creates only the ones your theme needs. It can free up a lot of space on the server and free up inodes. An alternative is reGenerate Thumbnails Advanced.
Some plugins have a lot of files and the popular Yoast plugin contains over 1,000 files for example. Imagine 10 plugins of similar size to Yoast. They would use over 10,000 inodes! Cut plugins to a minimum.
Some themes contain main files and the popular Kadence for example, has nearly 600. OceanWP has over 600.