Bandwidth Explained

Although I discuss web hosting bandwidth (also known at data transfer) in the web hosting rating criteria section of web hosting, the topic deserves some special consideration to better inform hosting choices. The term itself, bandwidth, takes on many different definitions depending upon the technology discussed (radio, data line capacity, web hosting, etc.) The web hosting world uses the term bandwidth in the following way:

Bandwidth = the total amount of data, typically measured in MegaBytes or GigaBytes, that may be downloaded or uploaded from a particular web site or web hosting account during a given month. A web hosting account is metered and restricted to stay under its monthly bandwidth allotment. This is also often referred to as Data Transfer.

That may confuse some further so let me expound a bit by way of analogy. This entire web site, with all its html files, databases, and images is about 2.50 MegaBytes. That’s not much storage because I don’t upload a lot of large images and most of that is text typed by my stubby little fingers. My web hosting account allows about 40 GB in storage so I have about 39,997 MB to go until I fill up my storage so I better get a stenographer and quick.

Here’s where web hosting bandwidth comes in. My account allows me 300GB of bandwidth per month. It is measured on a monthly basis, like an odometer, and reset to zero at the end of the month. Let’s assume that I have to upload the entire contents of my web site of 2.50 Megabytes. As I’m doing that, the web hosting company is metering my account and figuring out how many megabytes I uploaded to them which is 2.50 MB. As I uploaded the entire contents of my web site, I just used up 2.50 MB of my 300 GB bandwidth per month that I get and have 29.997 GB remaining. Let’s assume, though that you like my web site so much that you visit every single page on my web site. You have now downloaded 2.50 MB and used up another 2.50 MB of bandwidth and now my “odometer” has only 299.995 GB left. This continues as you get the word out and many visitors come (about 125,000 in a month) until the web hosting company “cuts me off” and won’t allow files to be downloaded or uploaded any more or charges me an overage fee. It’s kind of like minutes on a cell phone except the web hosting company, in this case, is limiting the amount of aggregate data that can pass back and forth between my web site.

In real life, the entire web site’s contents are not downloaded or uploaded repeatedly but certain pages are viewed over and over again. In my case, my Web Hosting Ratings List, is viewed about 150 times per day. The file is 45 KB in size so that computes to about 6.750 MB per day of bandwidth or about 202.5 MB per month. Other files are viewed as well but I don’t really use more than about 2 GB of web hosting bandwidth per month (so why are you worried about needing 1000 GB?)

How Much Web Hosting Bandwidth Do I Need?

Ah! That’s a trick question. You already know, by way of analogy, that if you have a mostly text site, only a few MB in size, with only a few thousand visitors per month that you don’t need much.

My site is growing, however, what about when I have 10,000 visitors per day. I’ll need much more bandwidth on my account than I have today as those 10,000 visitors eat up bandwidth with every page viewed (and there are lots of great pages to view here). So, one factor, in bandwidth choice would be the number of visitors to your site.

Here’s another analogy. I gave some free web space to a friend of mine who was having a baby and told her she could upload Windows Media files in the form of videos and audio up to her site. Lo and behold, the week her child was born, I got a warning that one of my web hosting accounts was about to exceed its bandwidth limit. Turns out she had uploaded some 2 minute video clips of the baby, each 10 MB in size. Dozens of friends and well-wishers wanted to view the video of the baby. You can imagine, with repeated downloads, how quickly bandwidth can add up when it is being downloaded 10 MB at a time. The same is true of websites that host large photos with web hosting bandwidth metered off 1 MB at a time every time a person views or downloads a large image.

If you want a rule of thumb, get a high bandwidth web hosting account when:

a. You are going to have lots of visitors
b. You are hosting large files, video, or photos
c. Both a and b are true

Keep in mind that some host’s unmetered bandwidth does not apply to sites that primarily host videos and photos or are for file-sharing but, if you are a business with an information website and expect tons of visitors then you can, theoretically, host as many customers as you want since for you the bandwidth is unmetered. If you want a lot of bandwidth, with no restrictions regarding file-sharing, video, photos, or audio then high bandwidth plans are the plans for you. As always, requirements should dictate your choice.

5 thoughts on “Bandwidth Explained”

  1. Thanks a lot. This really helped me understand bandwith. Unfortunately, I am part of a group undertaking a, hopefully, massive video project so we are going to need a lot of bandwith.

  2. Thanks very much. This article is helped me a lot to know about bandwidth with examples and helped me to choose which band width will suit for my web host.

  3. Thank you so much for this explanation. I am not a techy mind and was going spare trying to work out bandwidth stuff. Your articulate and concise expanation along with the analogies made it really easy to understand. Appreciate the help :-)

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