Web Hosting Bandwidth Explained

When shopping for web hosting, a very common concern, and legitimate one, is the amount of bandwidth you will need. When you are buying insufficient bandwidth, you might find yourself in two undesired situations: paying, usually high fees, for the extra bandwidth your web site needed or having your web site shut off. Overbuying bandwidth is not a good thing either as it will put you in the position to pay for something you don't use. This article is intended to help you determine just how much of bandwidth your web site requires.

What is bandwidth anyway?

Let's just see what bandwidth is. Bandwidth is the term that is used to denote the amount of data that has been transferred from your web space to the computers of your visitors. To put it simple, bandwidth is the amount of data that flows across a network wire in a given period of time. In web hosting industry this time period usually is one month. This happens simply because web hosting providers are also charged monthly for their huge broadband Internet connection. This is the cost that ultimately is then passed on to the consumer in the form price for their individual web hosting plan.

Bandwidth being such a delicate matter for a successful web presence, could you at least estimate the bandwidth needs of your web site? The answer is yes, you can estimate it, but you can never be sure of your estimate being perfectly correct because of all the variables involved.

How do I calculate my bandwidth?

If your index page has a size of let's say 50 KB, every time you get a visitor on your start page (assuming that your visitors will only open you first page and not browse your entire web site), your visitor will download 50 KB of information onto his or hers computer. For 100 visitors, you will get a total of 5.000 KB of data being transferred from the web server hosting your site to your visitor's computers.

So a formula for computing your estimated needs of bandwidth would look like this:
Size of your web content * number of visitors that accessed that web page = your consumed bandwidth

The formula looks very simple, yet estimating correctly the bandwidth required by your web site is anything but simple. This is obvious when you look at what makes up this formula.

The size of one web page is one thing, and the total size of your web site is another. You should take into consideration the total size of your web site and this means including files offered for download. Also web sites grow in time or even change completely. When this happens, you must redo the estimates for your web site bandwidth.

When it comes to visitors browsing your web site, it is rather difficult to predict what pages your visitors will access. For example, some visitors would stop at the index page, other will look for the contact details, and some will download your brochure. Knowing the sheer number of visitors your site has over one month can be very helpful in estimating the bandwidth required to support them.

Ultimately, when trying to find out the amount of bandwidth your web site requires you must answer two important questions:

· What is the size of your web site?

· What is the traffic your web site will get?

For a not very large web site that is not very that doesn't offer audio/video downloads and doesn't get very much traffic, you don't need a very large amount of bandwidth. Average web sites use only about 500 MB of monthly bandwidth. But for small web sites that generate a lot of traffic, you should consider a web hosting plan that offers a lot of bandwidth.

For your reference, an average web site (for example a personal or a family web site) will also get average traffic, meaning a range of 50-500 visitors per day.

When assessing the requirements of your web site bandwidth, you must also understand that although you have purchased your web hosting together with the bandwidth as "per month", your total monthly bandwidth is usually broken down into daily rates. Exceeding the daily rates might result in having your web site shut down for the day.

How to keep your bandwidth down?

Having a lot of rich web content (images, flash files, audio files) is a good way to make your web site more attractive for your visitors, but also is the shortest way to burn out your bandwidth. This article won't tell you to give up using such files for your web site, instead simply point out that overcrowding your web pages with images could harm not only your bandwidth, but also the usability of your web site. Good web site design is not proportional with the number of images per page.

Offering downloads on your web such as site music files, .PDF files, flash or video files is another thing that will almost sure consume your bandwidth by just a handful of visitors. The simple download of an average .PDF file half of megabyte in size will consume monthly 1 GB of bandwidth, only with 2.000 people downloading it.

Stick to your goals and adjust your web site's content strictly to fulfill them.

Keeping down the amount of bandwidth your web site is consuming might be easy to achieve with good preparation and excellent web design.

To avoid sky-high bandwidth costs, try to apply the following suggestions:

1) Make the file size of your web pages as small as possible. Lots of tools, some of them freeware can help you to do just that by compressing them.

2) Keep the images on your web site to a minimum. For the images included in your web site, use .JPG or .GIF compression tools to reduce the size and still keep the quality at an acceptable level.

3) Try not to offer too many downloadable files. If your have to offer downloadable files, it is best to only include the ones around 1 MB in size.

The right way the to start when planning your web site's bandwidth needs, apart from the traffic your site will get, is to look at the type your content your are going to serve to your visitors. If your web site is packed with multimedia (video, music, flash etc) or if your offer .PDF files for download, you might consider opting for a dedicated server. Even in the event your web site is just starting out an you have limited funding for its hosting, it would be wise to choose a web hosting provider that will offer you a plan with more resources than your estimate need at a reasonable price.

As no matter how good your estimate is, there is a chance that it will fail, don't forget to look at the charges for the bandwidth exceeding your monthly plan.