When you are looking for a web hosting service, it can sometimes be difficult to know which option to choose. This can often be because you are unsure about how much bandwidth you will require for your site. It may seem easier for you to take the ‘unlimited plan’ on offer for the sake of convenience, but if you took a little time for a closer look you may discover that there are hidden extra charges for going over what would be considered normal usage even within an ‘unlimited’ plan.
Knowing exactly how much bandwidth you will require for your site can be a bit hit and miss. You can work out a rough estimate, but if you are on a tight budget can you really afford the penalties of going over your set limit?
What is bandwidth?
We use the term ‘bandwidth‘ to quantify the amount of data and traffic that is allowed to travel between your site users and your website. It is just a fancy name for what essentially is data transfer over the internet.
Essentially, bandwidth is the maximum measure of data that can be transferred at any given time. You will often see bandwidth measured in rates per second. This is telling you how fast your data will transfer. However, the size or amount of data being transferred is a different thing. Your consumption of bandwidth will be greater when you are needing to transfer more data for example. So there are two sides to measuring your bandwidth needs: The speed your data flows and the amount of data flowing.
When you are looking at the packages on offer from hosting companies, a good indicator of their quality and efficiency will be through the size of the bandwidth on offer. Those offering a higher bandwidth will be the companies that will be able to provide a better service. The higher the bandwidth the better the speed and connectivity etc.
The pros and cons of unlimited bandwidth
As appealing as unlimited bandwidth sounds, there are good and bad sides to choosing an unlimited package. From a consumers point of view, unlimited bandwidth sounds perfect because you can run as much traffic and data to your site as you like without limit. This is also a good selling point for the hosting provider because they an offer a flexible package that will usually meet most peoples needs. However, while an unlimited option may be a good choice for most purchasers, there will be cases where an unlimited package can seem too good to be true.
Truth be known, it is actually impossible for any web hosting company to offer a truly unlimited bandwidth. It it were true, it would be vastly too expensive for a hosting company to provide. They couldn’t offer unfettered and unlimited access to every single one of their customers.
In most cases the average customer will fall into a somewhat normal range of bandwidth use, so hosting providers have come to expect this. This is why they can so confidently offer unlimited packages knowing that the vast majority of their customers will never push their bandwidth to the absolute limit. Hosting firms are usually able to comfortably provide for the majority of their customer base in this way.
If you know that your website is going to be very ‘data-heavy’ then it may be wise to determine your actual bandwidth needs before choosing what level of hosting you will really need. This way you will be able to find a web hosting provider that will truly be able to meet your needs, while at the same time know with confidence that you will never meet with any unexpected penalties for exceeding the ceiling of your bandwidth use.
How to Calculate the Bandwidth you Need
Do you know that the formula used to calculate your required website bandwidth is not all that complicated?
When calculating your bandwidth needs, it really doesn’t make any sense to buy more than you need. This is why it is a good idea to choose a provider who can offer you scalable solutions. Knowing what you need for your site to function properly and being able to scale up your needs with the same provider should your demands increase in the future is the best way forward.
Lets take a look at how to calculate your required bandwidth:
- Estimate the average page size of your site in kilobytes (KB). If you are unsure, you can use Pingdom’s website speed test to find out the average size of your pages
- Multiply your average page size (in KB) by the monthly average number of your site visitors
- Multiply the result by the average number of page views per visitor
The above calculation will give you your average required bandwidth, but you will also need to add on a little bit of wiggle room. This is to cover your back should you experience a sudden traffic spike. You are looking at a 50% spread here, but also remember to include a bit of extra space for any traffic spikes and also for natural growth over time.
To find your Bandwidth + Redundancy (without user downloads) requirement, 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.
To find your Bandwidth + Redundancy (with user downloads) requirement, use the following formula:
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.
By working out your bandwidth needs, you will be able to choose the right package on offer for your web hosting needs. By looking at the bandwidth being offered on each plan, you can get a better idea about whether the company will be able to fulfil your needs. It may be that an unlimited plan will suit you just fine, but you will only know this for sure if you can find out what actual limits are in place from the company. Most providers will be happy to share this information with you, so you will be able to see if it is worth going for, or if you should choose something with a more generous bandwidth allowance.
Further reading: If you are unsure about the different types of web hosting on offer from providers, then you may like to read our post about different types of web hosting and how they work.