One of the most common concerns people have when deciding to host a web site is figuring out how much bandwidth they’ll need. Get too little bandwidth and you might be hit with overage fees or have your web site shut off altogether. Get too much and you’re paying for bandwidth that you don’t really need. The following is a helpful guide for determining the amount of bandwidth that’s right for your web site.
Every time someone views a web page or downloads a file, bandwidth – also known as data transfer – is used. How much is used depends on the size of the page or file that is being viewed or downloaded. Essentially, the amount of bandwidth that your web site will need depends on two key factors:
- Web site content and file size
- Web site traffic/popularity. Let’s look at a few web site examples to get an idea of what their bandwidth requirements might be, and why.
Let’s start with web sites that have high-bandwidth requirements. If you have a web site that has large-sized content and gets a huge amount of traffic, you’re going to need a lot of bandwidth. An example of a web site that requires a lot of bandwidth would be http://www.compfused.com/ This web site is comprised of thousands of pages, and almost all of those pages are packed with images and video clips. Simply viewing the pages uses a lot of bandwidth, and of course downloading the video clips uses a TON of bandwidth. Combine this with the fact that this web site probably gets tens of thousands of visitors per day and you can see that its bandwidth requirements are quite extensive.
At the other end of the spectrum we have low-bandwidth web sites. A good example of a web site that requires a relatively low amount of bandwidth is my own site. Take a good look around this site and you’ll notice that its layout is very simple – this simple design is intentional to ensure fast page loads. My web site has about 20 pages total, and most of those pages are pure text, and therefore have a very small file size. Even though I get a good amount of traffic to this web site, its bandwidth requirements are very low because all the files that are viewed are very small and require very little bandwidth to serve up. My web site can get thousands of visitors per day and not break a sweat.
Now that we’ve looked at examples of high and low-bandwidth web sites, it’s probably a good time for me to mention that many web sites on the Internet fall into neither of these categories. Rather, your average web site is more of a medium-bandwidth web site, meaning that it is a cross between the high and low-bandwidth web sites that we discussed above. Pinpointing the optimal bandwidth for medium-bandwidth web sites can be difficult, but with proper planning you should be able to get pretty close.
The average web site contains a mix of text and images throughout its pages, and may or may not offer files for download. The average web site also gets average traffic, meaning anywhere from 50-500 visitors per day. Assuming these factors, a hosting plan with anywhere from 3-5 gigabytes (GB) of data transfer per month should suffice. For sites that get more than 500 visitors per day, or those that offer numerous large files for download, it may be wise to secure a hosting plan with 50 gigabytes of data transfer per month – or more. It is important to note that most web hosts quote your allotted bandwidth in “per month” terms, when in fact that number is actually broken down to a “per day” limit. For example: one web site of mine has 125GB of allotted bandwidth/data transfer per month. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? It is. However, in reality that equates to about 4.2GB of bandwidth per day. One day, several months ago, I made a large (12 megabyte) video available for download on this web site. It received over 400 downloads within the first two hours! That amounted to 4800 megabytes (MB) of data transfer, or 4.8 gigabytes. You guessed it, I exceeded my daily bandwidth allowance and my site was disabled for 24 hours. Lesson learned? Either order more bandwidth or adjust my web site content to fall within my bandwidth limitations. Not wanting to pony up the dough and purchase more bandwidth, I removed the video.
While we’re on the topic of daily bandwidth limits, I’d also like to point out that if you’re hosting with a free host – such as Yahoo! Geocities – prepare for bandwidth limitations of just 3-5 megabytes per day. This means that you won’t be hosting any video clips or large downloads for long. I once had a web site hosted with Geocities that consisted of just one page – one single page. The page was filled with tons of sports car images both big and small. Once my site started to get 100 visitors per day, even that amount of traffic caused me to exceed my daily bandwidth limit. As a result, my site was shut down almost every day, for a period of several months, due to continually exceeding my daily bandwidth limit.
The point I am trying to make with this article is that with proper preparation and web site design, you can ensure that you always have enough bandwidth to go around. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- When building a new web site, try to make the pages as small (file size) as possible. There are many free tools out there that will tell you the size of your pages and can also compress them to make them more compact.
- When using images on your web site, try not to go crazy – keep the number of images to a minimum. If you must use tons of images, try a .jpeg or .gif compression tool to make the images as small as possible.
- Make a concerted effort not to offer too many files for download. If for some reason you feel that you need to offer hundreds of downloadable files, try to select ones that are small (1-2 megs) in size.
By following the tips above, you’ll be able to more accurately predict your bandwidth needs based on your web site content and estimated traffic. Obviously these tips are only general guidelines – the true test is launching your web site and carefully observing and monitoring your bandwidth usage patterns for several months. Inevitably you may need to alter your web site layout/content from time to time to stay within your monthly bandwidth limits. Better yet, if your site becomes so popular that you really do need more bandwidth, simply order more bandwidth from your existing web host or switch to a host that provides more generous monthly data transfer. As your web site grows in size and popularity, sufficient bandwidth will always be a concern, but, such is the price of success!