When evaluating web hosts and hosting plans, you’re bound to come across metrics that differentiate each plan. One of the most important is bandwidth.
What is Bandwidth?
In web hosting, bandwidth refers to the amount of data your site can transfer to end users in a given time period. It is the quantity of web traffic your website can handle per second, and is typically calculated as the rate of data transfer in gigabits/megabits per second (gbps/mbps) or gigabytes/megabytes per second (GBps/MBps).
Think of bandwidth as the diameter of a water pipe. The bigger the diameter, the higher the amount of water that can flow through it per second.
Bandwidth and data transfer (or bandwidth usage) are used interchangeably but the two do not refer to the same thing. Bandwidth is the rate of data transfer. Data transfer is bandwidth usage often denoted in GBs or TBs per month. Hosting plans may specify bandwidth as well as monthly bandwidth usage.
Why is Bandwidth important for hosting?
If the bandwidth allocated to your website is too low, your web pages will load slowly and makes it harder to upload high-quality, dynamic content. This would adversely affect the end user experience – visitors could opt for faster websites offering similar content.
Page loading speed matters for search engine results ranking, too. All other factors being constant, faster websites rank higher. Good bandwidth ensures users aren’t fixated on page loading speed but can instead concentrate on the one thing that brought them to your site in the first place – the content.
How can I check my Bandwidth?
Bandwidth is specified in the hosting plan you choose. Check the traffic reports on your site’s cPanel. There are also free, third-party tools that can assess your site’s speed, such as Website Speed Test by Pingdom.
What is Unlimited Bandwidth?
Web hosting plans will specify the allocated bandwidth. Premium plans will usually include unlimited bandwidth. Unlimited bandwidth usually means there is no cap on the page loading speed visitors experience on your site. In other words, visitors enjoy the maximum speed the host can offer in gbps/mbps as long as their Internet connection can accommodate it.
Unlimited bandwidth is not the same as unmetered bandwidth usage or data transfer. Unmetered bandwidth usage means there is no cap on the amount of data transferred per month.
What happens when I exceed my Bandwidth?
What happens when you exceed bandwidth and data transfer limits depends on the terms of the hosting plan you choose. Many web hosts allow you to exceed your bandwidth or bandwidth usage during emergencies for an extra fee. Others will throttle your speed once you surpass your bandwidth usage which would then degrade the user experience.
How much Bandwidth do I need?
The bandwidth your website needs is determined by several factors. Start by establishing the average or median size (in MBs) of your web pages. Next, check the number of visits to your site each month as well as the average pages viewed during each visit. Multiply these three metrics to determine the bandwidth usage for each month.
So, if your site attracts 1,500 visits each month, each visit involving 4 pages on average and your web pages being on average 2MB each, you need 1,500 x 4 x 2 = 12,000MB. Add 10 to 80 percent to this as redundancy.
How can I reduce my Bandwidth?
Most web hosts allow you to downgrade your bandwidth plan in case you realize you signed up for more speed and capacity than you needed.
This guide provides a practical overview of web hosting bandwidth which should help you make the right decision.
You will not have information on visitor traffic if your website is going live for the first time. In this case, the prudent thing to do is subscribe to the lowest bandwidth hosting plan as you gauge traffic over the first few weeks and months. You can then increase capacity if visitor traffic demands it.
However, if your site is associated with a well-known brand, there may be a rapid uptick in traffic from day one. You may be better off starting with a mid-tier hosting plan.