Bandwidth or Data
Transfer - Which is Which?
Too often web hosts talk about bandwidth and data
transfer in the same breath but truth be known they are
different although very closely related. Bandwidth is
how much data can be transferred at a time and data
transfer is how much data is being transferred. Think of
it this way. If bandwidth were a bridge, then the bigger
the bridge is the more vehicles can pass through it.
While data transfer is the number of vehicles allowed on
the bridge in say a month. In essence, data transfer is
the consumption of bandwidth.
How It Affects Your Site
The less bandwidth you have, the slower your site takes
to load regardless of the visitor's connection type. If
you have more visitors, some of them will have to wait
their turn. The least data transfer you have, the more
often you'll find your site unavailable because you're
reached the maximum allowed until a new month rolls by
or you upgrade your account.
Determining Your Requirements
Usually when a host talks about bandwidth, they are
referring to your transfer. So you need to figure out
what is sufficient for your site to function. You'll
need to gather some information; fairly easy if you
already have a site. Most of this information is
available from your traffic history. If you don't have
an existing site, provide an optimistic estimate if you
intend to heavily promote the site. Then get ready for
Find out the daily averages of:
· Number of visitors / expected number of visitors
· Page size including the graphics of the page
· Page views / expected pages viewed by each visitor
Then, multiply them as follows: Visitors x Page size x
Page views x 30 days = Monthly Website Transfer
You should also throw in a small margin or error there
to take into account email traffic and your own uploads
to the server. If you offer downloads, then you should
add the following:
Average/Expected downloads x File Size x 30 days =
Monthly Download Transfer
Bandwidth is very expensive. All hosts are limited by
their own allocations. Thinking back to the bridge. What
happens is each visitor to your site will be given a
smaller lane to transfer the data, creating many tiny
lanes therefore "unlimited". The more visitors you have
the smaller each lane will be, which makes each visitor
wait for the page to load. More often than not there is
little choice over your bandwidth as your host controls
this. Some hosts may limit the number of simultaneous
connections so in affect slowing down your site and
refusing some visitors. This is called throttling. If
you're concerned about this, you should ask the host how
they control bandwidth usage or purchase a package with
more data transfer.
On the other hand, you can reduce your transfer amount
by building simpler, more efficient websites and
optimizing your graphics. Refrain from fancy flash
presentations or streaming audio. Use CSS, call
page. Remove unwanted tags, white space and comments.
Limit your META tags to those absolutely necessary.
Having too many keywords is not search engine friendly.
Besides many search engines will only review the first
few and ignore the rest.
Another good idea is to cache your website but you might
want to set an expiry date in the HTTP headers so the
browser will refresh the content after a certain time.
Use mod-gzip. It could save you as much as 40% of your
bandwidth. Out of control robots can also suck down your
bandwidth like a black hole. So use robots.txt to keep
spiders in check.
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