While setting up your website for a personal portfolio or another small business, you will have to decide on hosting bandwidth. Put simply, hosting bandwidth is the capacity to handle traffic to your site. The more capacity your site has, the more visitors it can handle — but the more you’ll have to pay.
Learn about the following topics to help you determine how much bandwidth your business website needs:
- What website bandwidth is and why it matters
- What affects bandwidth
- How to calculate your website bandwidth needs and determine the best host
What Is Website Bandwidth?
Website bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred between your site, its visitors, and the servers that host your content. Typically, this is measured in megabytes per second (MBs) or gigabytes per second (GBs), depending on a site’s capacity.
This is how much data your website can send at once, which is important if you are receiving lots of traffic simultaneously. Each time a person visits your site, it has to transmit the data needed to view the content on the page they are trying to view. You’ve likely seen a site crash because its bandwidth capacity couldn’t handle all the traffic.
Choosing the right amount of bandwidth
Think of bandwidth as a roadway that leads to your website, and users’ phones and computers are trying to connect with your site as cars. If you only have two lanes and lots of cars trying to get to the same place, you will end up with a traffic jam slowing down the speed that information travels. This could potentially bring things to a complete stop if you max out your bandwidth and your website becomes inaccessible.
Having more bandwidth is like adding lanes to the road to support more visitors, allowing more people to visit without disrupting traffic flow. But having a 10-lane highway running through a new city that is not often visited yet is wasteful and expensive. Thus it’s important to honestly assess your bandwidth needs to best support your site and your budget.
Why Does Bandwidth Matter?
Bandwidth matters because it will dictate your site’s user experience and determine how many people can access your content. Usually, bandwidth is capped each month. New visitors use some of that available capacity when visiting your site.
The higher the capacity, the more you can support over the course of the month. Too little capacity and your site can become overrun if it gets lots of traffic, you’ll likely need to up your capacity — paying a premium especially if it’s in the middle of the month rather than changing your monthly plan. Like a data cap on your mobile phone’s cellular data plan, you can go over, but you’ll pay more than usual.
What Affects Bandwidth?
The number and frequency of visitors coming to your site are important factors. If your site becomes popular or goes viral, you could have a huge influx of traffic that will eat up your bandwidth, for example.
Yet another key factor is the kind of content you host. If your site is largely text and some images, and maybe some small scripts in the background, you won’t be transferring tons of data to a visitor’s device so you can support more visitors. You might need more bandwidth to support visitors if your site is heavy on media, high-resolution images, and videos.
How To Calculate Your Website Bandwidth Needs
Now that you understand what website bandwidth is and what affects it, you can pick a plan that will serve your website and your needs. This will require a little napkin math to figure out where your site’s needs are currently — although it’s important to keep in mind growth patterns and expectations for the future. Follow these steps:
- First, if you have already set up your website, figure out how many monthly visitors you have, usually readily available within your host’s dashboard. You can also find this information if you have set up Google Analytics or other website analytics tools.
- Check how many pageviews the average visit is getting. If the average visitor clicks through to three separate pages, they are using more bandwidth than someone who lands on your homepage and leaves immediately. It’s good you’re getting pageviews, but you’ll need the bandwidth to support it.
- With the details you collected, calculate how much data transfer that requires and the average size of a webpage on your site. You can use several tools: GTmetrix or Pingdom are popular options. Check as many pages as possible to get a useful average figure — though you can use your largest webpage in terms of data transfer as your baseline.
Formula for bandwidth needs
You can calculate your bandwidth needs with a simple formula:
(Monthly visitors * average pageviews) * average webpage size
Here’s an example: your site is currently getting 1,000 visitors each month, and those visitors are opening three pages per visit. Each page is about 5 MB in size. Your equation should have these figures:
(1,000 * 3) * 5 = 15,000
That figure is how many megabytes each month you transfer. 15,000 MB converts to 15 GB, which is how much bandwidth you need each month to support your current number of visitors.
But bandwidth needs to support your growth, so set its ceiling at a reasonable level — at least twice what your current usage is. This allows more visitors to come to your site in the future and for you to ramp up the content on your web pages if needed. You need to handle any spikes in traffic and interest should your site start to take off.
How To Determine Which Host Is Best for Bandwidth
With the knowledge of how much bandwidth you require, you can select a host that can meet your needs. There are a couple of things to remember when picking a web host based on bandwidth capacity.
First, consider the type of bandwidth plan. Do you want metered or unmetered bandwidth? Here’s a quick breakdown of these types of data plans:
- Metered bandwidth has a strict cap. That means if you purchase a 50 GB monthly plan, you cannot exceed that amount. You are capped once you exceed that monthly amount of data transfer.
- Unmetered bandwidth is more flexible, allowing you to exceed your transfer limit. However, if you exceed your plan by a lot, your host may slow bandwidth speeds or place a hard cap on data transfers. You may also have to pay for exceeding the soft cap, depending on your host provider.
Most hosting providers today offer unmetered bandwidth by default because most people will not receive the traffic required to exceed the cap. Most sites are not highly viewed or heavy on data that needs to be transferred, so it is unlikely that the average site will be a bandwidth burden.
Shared or virtual private server?
- Shared hosting means your site will share servers with other sites. This spreads out the cost of bandwidth, disk space, processing power, and other needs to keep your site online. If your site is new or not receiving lots of visitors yet, this choice will save on costs as you grow.
- A VPS provides dedicated resources for your site alone. It is more expensive, but it guarantees your site will have the bandwidth and disk space needed to handle increased traffic. VPS services often offer much higher bandwidth caps, making it a better option once your site is established and getting consistent interest from visitors.
This may feel like a lot to consider, but it’s best not to worry too much about it. Start with a realistic bandwidth plan but know that upgrading or downgrading as needed is easy. Remember, if you need to pay for more bandwidth, it’s likely a good thing. That means your site and business are getting more interest.
FAQs About Bandwidth
Are bandwidth and storage the same thing?
Storage is the space available for your files, and it decreases as you add new files. Bandwidth is how much data you receive, which resets each month.
What file types can I use?
Audio files consist of MP3s, WMAs and WAVs; MP3s take up the least space. JPG/JPEG format is usually the best for images, while bitmap (BMP) is a less favorable format.
How can I reduce bandwidth?
There are a few ways to reduce your bandwidth, besides upgrading your hosting plan and using fewer/smaller downloads and videos. You can utilize a content delivery network (CDN) and use a caching plug-in.