By now, millions of smartphone subscribers have heard countless advertisements touting 10, 15, 30 (or unlimited) gigs of data shared between users on their personal cell phone plans. Consumers are being bombarded with bandwidth information from AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and other carriers, and I believe this makes for a smarter prospect when discussing bandwidth offers for shared, VPS, dedicated and collocation hosting. Even so, there are variables in hosting requirements that go far beyond what we’ve come to expect on our smartphone plans.
Home or business bandwidth versus contracted bandwidth for hosting
Surprisingly, a lot of rural communities still only have dial up, ISDN or T-1 Internet connectivity, but those are rapidly falling by the wayside in favor of satellite, DSL, cable and other broadband connections like Wi-Fi hotspots. Years ago, load balanced T-1 connections for businesses ran over $1000 per month for the loop and access, but those are not as prevalent today as they once were.
Conversely, we’re now seeing bandwidth offers from hosting providers ranging from a few MB per month up to unlimited, for anywhere from 5 cents/MB up to thousands of dollars for tier one dedicated connections.
If you’re running a ten page informational website with a few images scattered here and there, your bandwidth requirements will be minimal. On the other hand, if you’re running a highly successful e-commerce site with thousands or millions of consumers perusing your site every month, and even more so during seasonal surges, your bandwidth requirements will be much higher and cost significantly more.
Deciding exactly how much bandwidth you’ll need from your hosting provider
It’s critically important to estimate just the right bandwidth requirement for your specific hosting application, as too little will cause your site to under perform and too much will cost you bandwidth expenses that go unused. So, what should the deciding factors be? Should it be primarily price? Should it be the quality of the data transfer as not all hosting providers offer the same tier of bandwidth?
One key indicator is the hosting provider’s offer itself and whether they offer infrastructure specs to back up their packages. Do they offer any sort of redundancy in case they lose one their carriers (and that does happen more often than most consumers realize). Fortunately, a lot of hosting providers have very robust networks so their clients never see any interruptions in their service.
Essentially, you can come up with a rough estimate of the bandwidth you’ll need if you have access to a few key stats like how many daily visits your site gets and the average size of your pages. If you offer the ability to download files, take that into consideration as well. Extend that across the entire month and multiply that by some variable to factor in bursts of traffic. Sites that get hundreds or thousands of visitors each day are obviously going to require more bandwidth than let’s say, a site for a local hair salon.
How you design your website can affect your bandwidth usage
The larger and more complicated your website is, if it’s popular, can directly affect how much bandwidth you’ll require each month from your hosting provider. If you’re splashing hundreds of high resolution images or videos all over your website, these will consume massive amounts of bandwidth as that data is transferred between the web server at your hosting provider and the visitor’s smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop. An important aspect of design is matching the resolution of what is offered on your site to what the viewer can actually see, coupled with how long those images and videos will take to become visible.
Some bandwidth questions you should ask of any prospective hosting provider
Do they offer straight data fees, meaning if you use 15MB, then you pay for 15MB (more often than not offered for small servers with low bandwidth usage), or do they offer unmetered bandwidth, where the maximum data transfer rate is capped at a preset speed, but the quantity of transfer at that speed is unlimited?
Dedicated unmetered plans offer bandwidth pipes only available for your use, whereas a shared unmetered plan means you’re sharing that pipe with other hosting clients. If you’re using collocation services and your traffic spikes at intervals throughout each month, you might ask about billing options on the 95th percentile.
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