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When shopping around for web hosting, you will see massive lists of great features that various companies offer. One common thing that many hosting companies claim is they can provide unlimited bandwidth.

On the surface, this sounds great, but is it something you need? And is it even possible to provide truly unlimited bandwidth?

Before you sign up for any hosting account, make sure you understand this feature and whether you need unlimited bandwidth for your website. On this page, you will get a comprehensive overview of unlimited bandwidth, including answers to questions such as:

  • What is Meant by Unlimited Bandwidth?
  • Is Unlimited Bandwidth Possible?
  • How Much Bandwidth Does Your Site Need?
  • Should You Only Use Hosting with Unlimited Bandwidth?
DreamHost Shared Hosting
Source: DreamHost.com

What is Meant by Bandwidth for Web Hosting?

Anytime you see the term bandwidth in regards to hosting, it refers to how much data is being sent back and forth from the hosting company to visitors to your site.

Whether the hosting company offers unlimited bandwidth or has a cap on how much you can use each month, they will always track the total data used.

Many things will impact the amount of network bandwidth you are using, including the following:

  • Number of Visitors – Each time a visitor comes to your site, the hosting company sends the page data to their browser to see it. If your home page has 10MB of data on it, for example, and 100 people visit your site, you would use 1GB (10MB * 100 – 1000MB, or 1GB) of bandwidth. (Of course, many factors impact the actual amount of data transferred; this is just a broad example).
  • Type of Data on Your Site – While (technically speaking) bandwidth is determined by the amount of data, not the type, it is important to think about what content is on your site. For example, images require much more bandwidth than text, and videos require far more than either.
  • Uploading and Downloading Files – If you are using your hosting account for cloud storage, you are using your bandwidth each time you upload or download a file. For example, downloading a 1MB file would take up approximately 1MB worth of bandwidth.
  • Third-Party Hosting – If you have a 100MB video on your site, there are many ways to serve it to visitors. If you have the video on your web hosting server, it will take up 100MB of bandwidth each time it is downloaded. If, however, you have the video on YouTube and just embed it onto your site, the amount of bandwidth you need is nearly zero.

Is Unlimited Bandwidth Possible?

For most people starting a new website, the term unlimited bandwidth seems straightforward: No matter how much traffic a website gets, the hosting company will serve all the visitors without any problems or extra charges. However, the reality is that hosting companies use the term “unlimited bandwidth” a little differently.

Rather than giving customers an actual unlimited amount of bandwidth, the hosting company is simply saying that they are not specifying an upper limit to how much they will provide. If you read the fine print of these companies, they all include a clause that says something to the effect of “if you use more bandwidth than a normal website, we reserve the right to cancel your account.”

Of course, hosting companies will not quickly cancel your account since they want to keep your business. So you generally do not have to worry about your site going offline just because you get a surge in visitors.

Instead, reputable hosting companies will notify you that your site uses more bandwidth than expected and that you need to upgrade to a different hosting package.

Unlimited Bandwidth
Source: InMotionHosting.com

Once you understand that unlimited bandwidth is more of a marketing term than an actual offer of services, it makes it easier to find the hosting company for your needs. For example, if you are comparing two hosting companies and one offers unlimited bandwidth and the other offers 10TB of bandwidth per month, there is no functional difference for the average small business site.

Just because unlimited bandwidth hosting does not technically mean truly unlimited, however, does not mean that hosting providers that offer this are misleading. In fact, for many small business owners, opting for a hosting package with unlimited bandwidth is still a good idea.

Why is Bandwidth Important?

Bandwidth is important for several different reasons. Keep the following key points in mind when evaluating your hosting needs and deciding what hosting package is right for you:

  • Site Loading Times – The most significant reason you want to understand the bandwidth used by your website is that it directly impacts how fast your site loads. The more data transferred, the longer it takes for a page to load fully.
  • Load on the Web Server – The main thing that a web server does is process requests and send the requested data. Using more bandwidth means you’re placing more of a load on the web server. This means that if you are sending and receiving huge amounts of data, you will need a more robust server.
  • Data Backup – It is a best practice always to back up the data for your website. If you are using a lot of bandwidth, that likely means that you have a lot of data on your site, which means you need more space for storing your backup files.

With these key points in mind, you will want to keep the amount of bandwidth used to a minimum. Keeping bandwidth to a minimum is done by compressing images, using caching, embedding videos from third-party sites, and paying attention to other factors affecting bandwidth.

How to Check Bandwidth

Keeping an eye on how much bandwidth your site is using is a good idea whether your hosting provider offers unlimited bandwidth or not. The way to check bandwidth usage will depend on what type of hosting you signed up for.

The most popular option is with cPanel, which is used for Linux-based hosting. You simply log into your cPanel and visit the statistics section, which will show you your disk usage, your bandwidth usage, and other cPanel details.

You can also see how much bandwidth you have available for the month. In this image from the affordable hosting provider HostInger, you can see that the user has used 1.02MB out of an unlimited amount of bandwidth:

Hosting Stats
Source: HostInger.com

How Do I Know I have Enough Bandwidth?

When trying to figure out how much bandwidth you need for your site, you will want to look at how much traffic you expect to be getting and how much data will be sent or received with each visitor.

For small businesses, most people will be surprised at how little bandwidth is required each month. This is because modern web hosting does a great job at compressing files and operating efficiently.

Unless you are running a website that will be getting thousands of visitors per day, or each visitor will be using a large amount of bandwidth, you likely will not ever hit your bandwidth limits.

Additionally, if your site uses more bandwidth than expected, upgrading to a new hosting package that can support more bandwidth is fast and easy as long as you use a highly rated web hosting company.

Why do Web Hosting Companies Advertise Unlimited Bandwidth?

Business owners ask this question frequently. It has a straightforward answer: Hosting companies advertise that they offer unlimited bandwidth (even though truly unlimited bandwidth is impossible) because it is an effective marketing strategy.

Many great hosting companies offer unlimited bandwidth and many place clear (but high) limits on the amount of bandwidth you can use. Both of these options can provide excellent hosting services that will more than meet your needs.