Article by Jerry Low
Geek dad, SEO data junkie, investor, and founder of Web Hosting Secret Revealed. Jerry has been building Internet assets and making money online since 2004. He loves mindless doodling and trying new food.
When researching and choosing a web host to house your domain, one factor to evaluate and compare is the cost for your required amount of bandwidth,
Yes, many providers offer “unlimited” hosting plans, but upon taking a closer look, you’ll find that unlimited isn’t truly unlimited – there are always penalties if you use too much as is based on a “normal” usage, whatever that means. That said, knowing how much bandwidth your site truly requires can be a bit of an art form.
Essentially, bandwidth is a term to calculate the rate of traffic and data allowed to flow between users and your site via the internet. The term “bandwidth” is often mis-used to describe “data transfer” but in reality these two are two different things.
Data transfer is the total amount of data to be transferred in a given time, usually measured in month.
Bandwidth is the measure of maximum data that can be transferred in a given time, usually measured in seconds.
The number in “data transfer” tells you how much data you can transfer in a month. The number in “bandwidth” tells you how fast the data can be transferred.
Imagine bandwidth as the width of a water pipe where data transfer is the amount of water flowing out from the pipe. How wide is the pipe width (bandwidth) determines how fast can water (data) flows. Fundamentally, data transfer is the consumption of bandwidth.
For site owners looking for a web host, the amount of bandwidth that a hosting company site offers can typically serve as a good indicator of that host’s capabilities – the higher the bandwidth, the better the speed; network; connectivity; and systems.
As mentioned above, many hosting organization offer cheap hosting plans that include “unlimited bandwidth.” To the purchaser, this means that they can run as much data and as much traffic to their site as they need without ceilings. To the hosting provider, it means a way to give a flat cost to a buyer that generally will work.
As ever, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Simply put, it’s just impossible for hosting companies to offer unlimited bandwidth – it’s too expensive to provide unbridled access to every customer. That said, most companies fall somewhere into a “normal range” of bandwidth use by default, and this range is what hosting providers use when creating their “unlimited” packages. By “unlimited,” hosting providers can cater to the majority of their client base – however, there absolutely is a ceiling on the bandwidth included in that package cost; the trick is to know what it is.
By comparing your site’s actual required bandwidth with the bandwidth offered in that “unlimited” guise, you can better determine which level of hosting you truly need and whether a given provider will truly meet your needs.
Think about bandwidth like a pair of pants: you need the size that you need. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to buy up a size, but at the same point, there’s a number that fits. If your waist is a size 36, you simply aren’t going to fit into that 32. Simple math.
In bandwidth, it also doesn’t make sense to purchase up – this is why it makes sense to work with hosting providers who offer scalable solutions. As for buying small, that’ll only get you into trouble. Know your actual need to get the service that works for you – here’s how to calculate your required bandwidth:
If you don’t know, use Pingdom’s Load Time test on a few pages and take the average of those tested pages for your base testing number. Here are some real life examples:
This is the base of knowing your required bandwidth – however, you’re not done quite yet. You also need to include an allocation for extra “room” in case your traffic spikes. Generally speaking, I recommend giving at least a 50 percent spread. But you need to allocate extra room to grow and traffics spikes – leave at least 50% tolerance.
To do this calculation, use the following formula:
Bandwidth needed = Average Page Views x Average Page Size x Average Daily Visitors x Number of days in a month (30) x Redundant Factor
- Average Daily Visitors: The total number of monthly visitors/30.
- Average Page Size: The average size of your web page.
- Average Page Views: The average page viewed per visitors.
- Redundant Factor: A safety factor ranged from 1.3 – 1.8.
If your site does not use or allow downloads:
Bandwidth needed = [(Average Page Views x Average Page Size x Average Daily Visitors) + (Average Download per day x Average File Size) ] x Number of days in a month (30) x Redundant Factor
- Average Daily Visitors: The total number of monthly visitors/ 30.
- Average Page Size: The average size of your web page
- Average Page Views: The average page viewed per visitor
- Average File Size: The total file size divided to the number of files
- Redundant Factor: A safety factor ranged from 1.3 – 1.8.
Yes and no.
Bandwidth calculation is crucial when you are developing an application for mass public or trying to cut down hosting costs.
HOWEVER, the numbers in bandwidth / data transfer shouldn’t be a major consideration factor when choosing a web host – especially if you are just starting out.
Bandwidth (data transfers), as well as storage space, are hardly a meaningful comparison factor for hosting shoppers – especially if you are new – in today’s market.
If you check, almost all shared hosting providers are offering “unlimited” storage and data transfer. While the term “unlimited” is nothing but a marketing gimmick; web hosting users often get more than enough capacity in terms of storage and data transfer bandwidth. In most cases, it is the server RAM and processing power that limits the usage of an unlimited hosting account.
If you are looking for a web host, learn more about things you should care about when choosing a web host.