Inodes Explained

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What are Inodes?

Inodes (also known as index nodes) are data structures which define files and directories in Linux-based system. They store the information needed to read files but not file names nor the data itself.

Each inode has a unique number identifying it. The number contains information such as file type and size, creation or modification timestamp, disk location, and metadata.

Operations performed by you can result in inodes behaving in a number of ways. For example, if you were to copy a file, it would need to have a new name and inode number even though the associated data is identical.

Glossary of Inode Related Terms

  • Inode Numbers are unique numbers assigned to each file in the system. Each time a file is created a new number is assigned to it.
  • Data Structures are formats for handling (organize, process, store, retrieve) data.
  • Files store actual information. The type of information stored often depends on the type of file it is. There are many file types, from data files to executable files.
  • Directories are locations where files can be stored in hierarchical format. They provide a means to group files – or from another point of view, separate them.

How Are Inodes Are Relevant to Your Web Hosting Choice

For those who have used web hosting accounts, you will know that using web hosting accounts is similar in some ways to local devices. You create files which are then used by the system.

Each file or directory which is created has both a name and an inode number. This is the reason why we can say that typically, inodes represent how many files and directories there are on a web hosting account.

Inode limits differ from host to host.
Inode limits differ from host to host.

To better understand the context of this to web hosting, you need to know that a fundamental in Linux is that the system recognizes everything as files. This includes hardware devices and file directories.

Each of these ‘files’ count towards the inode limit on your web hosting account. Each web host often offers different inode limits. The lower your inode limit, the fewer files and directories you can create and manage.

The Problem Isn’t Your Website Files

In most cases, however you decide to create your website isn’t a problem with regard to inode count. WordPress, for example, consists of less than 3,000 files and directories in a default installation setting.

No matter who designed your website or what application you’re using to power it you are not very likely to hit your inode limit. These are mostly quite high and if your file count really reaches that number – you have serious problems.

However, each time a visitor comes to your site a session file will be created. This session file of course takes up an inode. If your site has a significant number of visitors, you could find your inode count climbing faster than the session files are being destroyed.

When you reach your inode limit your site will start to fail – in the sense that visitors will begin to encounter errors.

How Many Inode Capacity Do You Actually Get from Your Hosting Provider?

This isn’t an easy question to answer since it really does depend very much on the web host you choose. Different hosting providers have varied approaches to inode limits and how they handle accounts that exceed these limits.

Here’s a closer look at how some known providers manage inode limits:

  • Hostinger: Once you hit your inode limit with Hostinger, you’re unable to create additional files. Exceeding this limit can lead to your account being suspended, requiring you to delete unused web files to bring your inode count below the threshold before your account can be reactivated.
  • HostGator: HostGator allocates 100,000 inodes per shared account by default. Accounts with inode counts exceeding this number will not be included in the weekly backup service. Moreover, if an account surpasses 250,000 inodes, it risks being suspended, underscoring the importance of monitoring your inode usage on their platform.
  • General Shared Hosting Plans: Many shared hosting plans offer up to 200,000 inodes per account. This number is generally sufficient for a wide range of websites, from small blogs to more substantial content-rich sites. However, as your site grows, keeping an eye on inode usage becomes increasingly important.

Despite the critical role of inodes in website management, not all providers are transparent about their inode limitations. For instance:

  • Bluehost: While Bluehost has been known to suspend accounts or throttle CPU usage for exceeding certain usage quotas, specific details regarding inode limits are not prominently mentioned in their terms of service or promotional materials.
  • Web.com: Similarly, Web.com does not provide concrete numbers in their Terms of Service. This lack of clear communication can leave users uncertain about the boundaries of their hosting resources.

Do note though that these limits often increase with the plan you buy in to. Consider them sort of a resource – the better a plan you get, the more files your account can support. This isn’t a hard rule though, so make sure to check your terms of service.

Key Takeaways

As you can see, the single word inode may simply refer to files, but it can have quite a significant impact on your site. When choosing a hosting provider or planning for your website’s growth, consider the following:

  1. Inode Limits Matter: The number of inodes you’re allotted can affect everything from your website’s ability to update and add new content to how well you can back up your site. Choose a provider that offers an inode limit that aligns with your needs. To those who have already bought their hosting plans, it is important to remember that there are limits in your package (even if they say it’s “unlimited hosting”). Don’t panic if you hit those, and simply follow some of the guidelines I’ve shared above.
  2. Provider Policies Vary: Different hosting companies have distinct policies regarding inode limits and the repercussions of exceeding them. Before committing to a host, review their policies on inodes, especially if you anticipate needing a lot of files on your site.
  3. Transparency Is Key: Opt for a hosting provider that is upfront about their inode limits and their policies for when those limits are exceeded. Understanding these limits ahead of time can save you from future headaches related to account suspensions or other limitations.
  4. Monitor Your Usage: Regardless of your provider’s inode limit, it’s wise to regularly monitor your usage. This can help you avoid unexpected suspensions and ensure that your site remains operational and within the terms of your hosting agreement.

By keeping these considerations in mind, you can choose a hosting provider that supports the growth and stability of your website while avoiding the pitfalls of exceeding inode limitations.


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Article by Timothy Shim

Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.
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