They can pop up out of seemingly nowhere and create fear for small businesses hosted on our servers. Visions of a website shutdown and lost business at a critical time can be frightening, sometimes spurring extreme measures. What am I talking about? The dreaded disk space warning message! What can you do? How do you prevent the problem from occurring in the first place?
First of all, don’t panic! If it’s the first time you’ve ever gotten the disk space warning message from us, it will most likely be warning you that you are using 80% of your allocated disk space, so your site’s won’t be dead in the water quite yet. The warnings start at 80% and go up to 98%, warning you about one of two things; email or actual disk space (sometimes, you’ll get both, but I’ll explain this in a bit).
It’s important to read the email to see exactly what it’s saying so you can take the proper course of action. What you don’t want to do is ignore the email and carry on…it’s telling you some very important information that’s key in maintaining the functionality of both your website and your email service.
Let’s clear the air on this disk allocation stuff and figure out what it means. Our typical business hosting account gives or allocates to you 1000mb (1gb) of disk space on our server for your use. This space is used to host your website files, any databases you may need, and all of the email accounts you create with your domain name. We’ve been hosting small to medium sized business websites for a number of years and have found that 1000mb is usually more than enough disk space for the average website; typical sites average around 40-50mb’s in size, if that. You could always just upgrade your hosting plan and get more disk space, right? Sure, but adding more space to your account will only buy time, not solve the problem. Save your money and read on; we’ll show you some reasons why your site may be running out of space and briefly describe how to address those problems.
IMAP Email: The Number One Suspect
With our hosting services, you create your domain-based email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and typically access it one of two ways, either POP or IMAP. These methods are chosen while setting up your established email account in your favorite email application (Outlook, Apple Mail, etc):
- POP basically means that the email is not kept on the server. New emails wait on the server until your email application (Outlook or Apple Mail, for example), checks and downloads it. Nothing is left on the server (this is the typical setup).
- IMAP means that the email is kept on the server so it can be accessed from multiple computers. Sent, Junk, Drafts, and the Inbox folders are typically stored on the server (you can always add others as needed).
Email accessed using POP is almost never a problem because the email usually never stays on the server long enough to matter as long as your email application checks mail at regular intervals. The IMAP method; however, doesn’t do anything with the email until instructed otherwise…it just remains on the server. It’s not just the unread or read email that stays on the server, but, depending on your email application settings, it can also include your sent mail, drafts, and archived mail. Left to its own devices, your email on the server can accumulate to the point where it either fills the allocated space for the email account or, if setup with an unlimited quota, consumes all of the free space in your hosting account. If the email account fills up, that email address stops working, but if your hosting account fills up, not only will your email stop functioning, but your website may fail to work.
Keeping up with IMAP email is easy! Regularly purge the deleted & sent mail folders on the server (the two biggest offenders), and store email you want to save locally on your own computer. Some of these tasks can be setup via the options in your email application (sent mail can be stored locally instead of on the server automatically, for example). If you do this simple maintenance a couple times a month, your email will rarely consume too much disk space.
Media Files: Close Cousin of IMAP Email
Photographs, movies, presentations, and any other type of media file can quickly eat up your hosting account’s disk space. If not carefully managed, they can also soak up space in your email as attachments. If you’re putting media files on your website, optimize them first! Don’t upload photographs straight from your camera to your website unless the upload tool is actually reducing the file size while they are are uploading. Often, an unoptimized photograph’s file size can be measured in the megabytes or more and uploading a whole series of such photos can blow through your free disk space quickly. Photos of 300kb or less are best (including those in your presentations). If you’re uploading photos to your hosting account so that they can then be processed by something else, don’t forget to delete the photos when your processing is done. The same can be said for movies; run them through some optimizations before upload or consider uploading them to Youtube and simply embedding them on your website.
Maintain Your Site
Your website is your business, your livelihood, and your responsibility. You maintain the front-end of the site, but don’t forget to maintain the “back-end” of your website. Every website hosting account we offer is self-managed and comes with the easy-to-use cPanel hosting control panel that allows you to not only manage email accounts, but also setup databases, make website backups (ULTRA important!!), and much more…take advantage of it! Don’t know how? Just contact us and ask; we’ll show you how! If you pay attention to the maintenance of your hosting account, you’ll never face those panic-inducing disk space emails again…we promise!