Gigabyte is New Yardstick as Hosts Compete on Storage

The gigabyte is becoming the new storage benchmark for shared hosting accounts, as providers seek to compete on features like server space and bandwidth, rather than price. Go Daddy today expanded its shared hosting plans, offering 1 gigabyte of web server space on accounts priced at $9.95 a month. The move comes a week after Yahoo upgraded its shared hosting plans to include 2 gigabytes of storage in its $11.95 "starter" package.

Pair Networks, another large shared hosting provider, increased its storage allowances earlier this month to offer 1 gigabyte plans for the first time, limiting them to its premium webmaster-level accounts. That followed a similar move by Hostway, which doubled the server space on all its plans, pushing its platinum plan to 1.2 gigabytes of storage. 1&1 Internet currently offers 1 gigabyte on its $9.99 a month plan in the U.S. market, and 1.5 gigs on the equivalent plan in the UK.

Until recently, few accounts offered much more than 500 megabytes of storage. The huge storage allowances are more space than the vast majority of shared hosting sites will ever need, but are proving to have marketing value for comparison shoppers. The storage increases are one response to the appearance of discount providers offering full-featured shared hosting plans at $5 a month and lower, allowing hosts to add value to their plans without cutting prices and squeezing profit margins. Another factor is the storage arms race between webmail providers, sparked by Google's introduction of 1 gigabyte of storage for its Gmail service this spring.

Hosting providers also continue to add features that will improve their competitive position. In today's announcement, Go Daddy highlighted its addition of Microsoft's ASP.Net scripting technology on its shared accounts. Go Daddy hosts only a small percentage of its sites on the Microsoft platform, but offering ASP.net differentiates it from Yahoo, which hosts its sites on the FreeBSD operating system and uses Perl and PHP as its scripting choices.