What is Web Hosting Bandwidth

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Author Kevin Ngure
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I remember when hunting for my first WordPress hosting plan. I stumbled upon Bluehost’s ‘performance and reliability’ oriented WP plans.

And among the many tantalizing offers the offers promised, there was one particular feature I had no idea what it really was about.

‘1-click WP installation, automatic updates + free CDN and free Backups, unlimited Bandwidth…etc, etc.’

Now let’s talk about web hosting bandwidth.

Web Hosting Bandwidth

For an average Joe, perhaps a Web Hosting greenhorn, researching and choosing a web host based on the amount of bandwidth it offers isn’t something of great concern. It is never an issue, especially when they’ve ticked all the other boxes!

To successfully run a website today, one of the most basic requirements is an adequate supply of bandwidth. The bandwidth that’s strong and possibly even unlimited enough to sustain page visits and page size.

Yet, web hosting bandwidth is a grey area many seldom focus on. It has lots of facts and fiction hidden deep beneath an ordinary eye’s reach. Many even confuse it with Storage Space, yet the two are different.

In this post, I’m going to delve deep into Hosting Bandwidth, highlight its differences from Storage Space and explain whether it matters when choosing a web host.

But First, What Is Hosting Bandwidth?

For most webmasters, bandwidth isn’t an entirely new term. It essentially describes the amount of data that can be transmitted from a single web host account to users over time. In simpler terms, bandwidth is the speed at which data packets could flow.

Data, in this case, comprise both email traffic and ordinary web visitors arriving at a site. Considering that their arrival is intermittent, web hosting bandwidth is usually measured over a certain period of time, say a month.

The main idea here is to understand bandwidth as being the amount of data needed to transfer files that form a webpage from the server to the user’s screen. The data is basically anything, from texts and images to documents, emails, videos, and so forth.

Bandwidth speeds vary from one hosting provider to another, and sometimes from one plan to another. A bandwidth of T1 transmission media clocks 1.54 Mbps while OC-3 is a bit faster, clocking 155 Mbps.

When choosing a bandwidth, speed and quantity are normally two huge defining factors. That automatically means that bigger, faster bandwidth is desired over slower and capped ones.

The general rule of thumb is: the higher the bandwidth allocated, the better the speed. Everything else, including network, connectivity, and systems will operate smoothly.

What is Storage Space?

Storage space or web space, on the other hand, refers to the total space a server sets aside for the storage of files that help power up the operations of a website. The space is created to hold various file types, including HTML files, web scripts, emails, images, and other vital files.

The same storage space could be used to store backup files and copies of archived versions of the site. It may also be used to keep copies of important files, especially those which could be lost if stored in storage compartments of ordinary PCs.

The idea of web storage spaces can be likened to a large filing cabinet with various partitions. A single office cabinet is divided into several folders where they can keep various files in. However, it is measured in MB (Megabytes), GB (Gigabytes), and TB (Terabytes).

Like an ordinary storage cabinet, web space reduces in space as more and more files are kept in it. As such, choosing a web host that offers sufficient storage space even with shared hosting plans is of great importance.

See, once the available space starts to fill up, there will be little room to pack in more files. The only alternative usually is to upgrade to a plan that offers bigger storage space.

What about Unlimited Bandwidth – What Is It?

In an era of free, unlimited Webhosting bandwidth guarantee, anyone would most certainly choose such an offer. And YES, giant web hosting companies, led by Bluehost, HostGator, GreenGeeks, among others offer it.

But unless you are tech-savvy, you will be surprised to learn that there’s nothing that’s truly “unlimited” about bandwidth allocation. That’s right – bandwidth allocation can never be uncapped, never!

It is a mere marketing ploy, mostly with a catch. The host usually trots it at a level that, under normal circumstances, no site on a shared server will reach. ‘Unmetered bandwidth’ also gives the user a hint that, even though there’s no limit, it actually is there.

But there’s another catch!

Sure, some web hosts provide unlimited bandwidth. But since they pay their ISP’s a fee, bandwidth usage is subject to capping.

A website that draws an excessive amount of bandwidth over and over again is likely to be penalized. Penalties imposed could involve anything from merely metering their bandwidth usage, charging them more and above their package allocation, or suspending the account altogether.

Should You Figure Out Your Bandwidth Requirements?

Of course, you should!

Before you think about paying for unlimited bandwidth (or limited), spare a moment and think about how much bandwidth you need. There are several ways you can do this.

  • First, an online Web Hosting Bandwidth Calculator

There’s a simple web-based Web Hosting Bandwidth Calculator to help you choose a good web hosting bandwidth. It may help you choose the right bandwidth for your website.

  • Crunching the numbers

But away from that, the logic behind calculating your bandwidth requirements is simple.

Bandwidth to buy = (Estimated Daily Visits x Average Page Size x Average Page Visits) + (Average Daily File Downloads x Average File Size)] x 31 x Fudge Factor

Remember that bandwidth allocation comes as Gigabytes (GB) per month and speed is in Megabits per second (Mbps).

  • Check traffic reports on your cPanel

For a more sensible decision, don’t rely on the numbers alone. Instead, use what your cPanel already has – the metrics. This being the easiest way to determine how much web hosting bandwidth you need, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Just log in to your web host account and check real-time visitor reports. It isn’t something hard to do, especially because nearly every single web host today provides.

Upgrading Your Web Hosting Bandwidth Plan

You could alternatively start with a smaller plan and scale your way up. In fact, the best thing about starting small is the gradual increase in traffic, which smoothly allows you to upgrade to even bigger bandwidth allocation. Remember, even if you exceed your allocated bandwidth, your hosting provider won’t shut you down.

Upgrading and downgrading are both acceptable. You can upgrade to the next package and pay the difference or switch to the smaller package and still guarantee your visitors pleasant browsing experience.

Why Do You Need a Lot of Bandwidth?

There’s nothing wrong about sticking to a bandwidth plan that offers an adequate amount of bandwidth you need. But as far as being cautious go, better have more than exceeding from your little.

Besides, with an adequate amount of bandwidth in your hosting plan, no single website visitor will have an unpleasant experience on your site. That inherently means you will record fewer bounce rates.

The main reasons why you shouldn’t fear investing in a lot of bandwidth are:

  1. More bandwidth means more media elements on your website: That’s right, the only way to comfortably feed every visitor with quality images, videos, and other data whenever they visit your website is by having enough bandwidth. And so, having a web host whose bandwidth allocation also allows you to add high-quality content is a plus.
  2. Visitors will view more pages: This is perhaps the most obvious; more bandwidth allocation means greater freedom to update the blog and even add more media. For a blog, an e-commerce store, or even an ordinary business website, it is often a good idea to go for bigger bandwidth. This reason has everything to do with the good customer experience and their ease of accessing new webpages.
  3. It may never crash: Suppose your traffic surges overnight, perhaps because you did a viral post on Facebook or you won an Oscar. Well, if you’ve been recording tens of visitors a day and the numbers shoot to thousands, your little bandwidth will not support the new visits and it could crash. However, if you invest in web hosting bandwidth with measures required to sustain a sudden spike, you will be safer.

In a nutshell, having more bandwidth allocation simply translates to giving your visitors a pleasant browsing experience as well as being able to comfortably accommodate sudden traffic upsurge.

What If You Want To Reduce Your Bandwidth?

Just like upgrading, going a step down to reduce your site’s bandwidth isn’t hard. You could compress images to reduce their size, slash the size of videos on your website, or simply turn to a caching plugin.

A caching plugin will come in handy if you choose to enable automatic compression from CSS, HTTP, and JavaScript. Alternatively, go for a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to keep all your static content and free up some load on your server.

Differences between Storage Space and Bandwidth

When looking for a hosting solution, you might end up having to choose between bandwidth and storage space. At that particular point, perhaps you might end up feeling more overwhelmed, and undecided on the host would best work for you.

Before we look at the difference between storage space and bandwidth, it is important to define what storage space is with regards to web hosting. The two matter a great deal when one’s hunting for a website hosting services provider.

Storage space

If you run a startup or a small business’ website or even operate a personal site, you should be well-aware of its core requirements, especially its storage space and bandwidth requirements. And that starts by having a firm understanding of how the two differ.

Storage space is closely associated with the amount of data or files in the host’s server. It ideally is the storage capacity available at the server for the website’s own uses.

Web space is always limited in nature, and the only way to earn more is to upgrade to bigger capacities. Servers are physical and are partitioned to specific capacities. And upgrading essentially means paying for extra spaces in the servers since the more servers one has, the more storage space they get.

Another unique factor about web spaces is the ease of finding out how much one may need. By calculating the size of various files and media to be uploaded, you can easily get the minimum storage requirements for your website.

However, storage space isn’t without an advantage. The ability to scale storage space makes this factor very critical when choosing a web host. A business can manage its servers and have unlimited access to storage space, rent the space from a cloud-based service provider, or opt for a third-party.

Hosting Bandwidth

Hosting bandwidth can best be defined as the amount of data that can be transmitted from the main hosting server to user computers over the internet in a second. Unlike storage space though, bandwidth allocation is sometimes “unlimited.” 

Furthermore, while storage space comes in packets called Megabytes, Gigabytes, and Terabytes, hosting bandwidth only comes in Mbps (Megabits per second). It is always important to go for speed and quantity when choosing bandwidth.

So, is bandwidth important for a website?

Now, with all these pieces of information, you are stuck between choosing a host based on its bandwidth or not.

‘Does bandwidth really matter?’

Well, of course, it does…and, maybe it doesn’t.

Hosting bandwidth allocation is crucial to the success of a website. It determines how visitors feel whenever they visit, especially on how fast pages load. It also reduces the bounce rate and enhances the pleasant browsing experience.

However, because every host tailors its plans to suit individual and business websites of different categories, bandwidth consideration shouldn’t be an issue. For someone who’s starting out, a few GBs are enough before they upgrade in response to traffic surge.

So, the long and short of it is that bandwidth and data transfer, in general, shouldn’t be a critical comparison factor when buying hosting services, especially in today’s market.

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