When it comes to hosting your website nothing could be more crucial than getting enough bandwidth to keep your visitors clicking; not waiting. In the world of web hosting, there are several factors that can distinguish a good user experience from bad, one of those is bandwidth. Good bandwidth is important for many reasons, but here are some of the most common needs for it:
- Video – whether streaming or not, bandwidth is important.
- File transfer – uploading and downloading of files.
- Real-time – real-time video and audio.
- Surfing – plain old web surfing, regardless of what you’re doing on the web your experience is better when pages load quickly and things are moving happily along.
In considering these needs then, how can the best bandwidth be achieved?
First, use a dedicated server over shared so as to not share bandwidth with other websites and their visitors. The minute you begin with a dedicated server it’s only you and your website visitors whom will be using it, thereby isolating bandwidth for all of you. For the user, this translates to considerably faster download times which in turn means faster page loading. For you, this potentially means more clicks, more visits, and could result in more income.
Second, make sure heavy weight items that require a lot of bandwidth like videos, are hosted outside your site where possible. This ensures that the bandwidth will come from the video hosting site and not your hosted network. For example, streaming videos from youtube actually allocate bandwidth from their network, but host the videos locally and bandwidth is consumed directly from your account.
Third, take your time and be vigilant in choosing your hosting provider. Many people tend to lean towards the cheaper side to save some money, but in reality, as with many things in life, you get what you pay for. In paying more typically you’ll get higher up times that are guaranteed, up to 100% in some cases, and better service. A higher quality provider for the most part will use higher quality gear like routers, switches, T1/T3 lines, and network connections that not only are faster, but more reliable.
The provider’s network connection may have a significant impact on your overall bandwidth. For example, if your server has a 10Mbps leased line then this is the capacity it can handle at any given point in time. If you have numerous visitors and/or a site rich in graphics, some visitors could end up not being served at all during peak periods. Many providers today offer unlimited bandwidth, but remember it’s only unlimited up to the maximum on the leased line as in our example and they may include a number of undesirable caveats.
Also, make sure your provider is properly insured and protected with the appropriate backups and failover devices in place. This will safeguard your investment and provide some peace of mind to boot. It’s critical as well to familiarize yourself with the provider’s discipline on exceeding bandwidth capacity as some will shutdown your site immediately, while others will institute monetary penalties that could blow out your bank account.
Lastly, make sure that you choose the right plan that will provide you with enough bandwidth to grow. If you exceed your allocated bandwidth allowance, your site shuts down or you’re charged outrageous fees. So plan for the future or upgrade later on. By using bandwidth usage tools (most host providers supply these as part of the hosting plan) you can easily see when you’re approaching the max. Once you get close, don’t hesitate, upgrade. Whether you have any idea upfront, or plan on waiting to see how the public responds to your content, you can use the following example to determine what’s right.
Let’s say I have a website that’s fairly new and it’s currently getting about 200 visits each day. It’s a pretty basic site with the standard graphics, stylesheets, etc. For the sake of this example each time somebody accesses the site they view 10 pages at an average page size of 50k. In this case, I would need roughly 3,000,000KB per month. And the formula I used is as follows:
Visits per day Views per visit Ave page size Days in month
200 * 10 * 50k * 30
This amount translates to 3GB per month, which is arrived at by dividing 3,000,000KB by 1 million. This gives you the gigabytes needed since it’s now the standard by which bandwidth is measured.
Measuring and estimating the amount of bandwidth you’ll need is not a trivial task, but this formula will provide a solid gauge based on a few known factors (or known if you’re up and running already). It will prove useful in purchasing your initial plan but after that it’s critical that you monitor the site regularly and make use of the bandwidth monitoring tools your host provides you. This is a good way to see that you don’t buy too much straight from the start, while allowing you to wean yourself into what’s best for you, your visitors, and your budget.
In the end the guidelines outlined here can provide you with insight and tools to prepare yourself in making the right purchase for your site, using them and conducting a bit of research on the side with make for a healthy happy web experience for all.