What is bandwidth and what website elements use it up?

Sep 23


Sarah Phelt

Sarah Phelt

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Do you know what kind of things use up your Bandwidth? In this article I will explain bandwidth and what kind of things use it up.


Bandwidth is the amount of Data, What is bandwidth and what website elements use it up? Articles measured in GigaBytes, that can be transferred (downloaded) from your web space each month.

This means if one visitor downloads a 4MB Music File, for example, from your website (public_html folder) it will cost you 4MB in bandwidth. So if ten visitors download the 4MB Music File, or one visitor downloads the 4MB Music File ten times, either way it will cost you 40MB of bandwidth in total. However. It is not that simple because each web page viewed also costs bandwidth. For example. If you have a Music Product Web Page that consists of 1MB of Introduction Text and 1MB of Music Pictures it will cost you 2MB of bandwidth each time that Music Product Web Page is viewed (downloaded into one visitor's web browser, from your public_html folder into their computer). And each time a visitor views (downloads) the 2MB Music Product Web Page and then downloads the 4MB Music File it will cost you, another, 6MB of bandwidth. Times that by ten visitors and it will cost you 60MB of bandwidth in total.

So when choosing a Web Hosting Package you should first calculate how many visitors you expect to visit your website per month (i.e. 1,000). Then you assume each visitor will view every web page at least once. Let's say you have ten web pages making up your website that use 1MB of bandwidth each. So 10MB of bandwidth usage. That means 1,000 visitors viewing 10 web pages each (using 10MB of bandwidth each), which is the equivalent of 10,000 web pages being viewed (downloaded), would require 10,000MB of bandwidth. Or put another way, 10GB of bandwidth. 1,000MB is approximately equivalent to 1GB. In reality, unless you have a "Downloads" website, each web page should not use up 1MB of bandwidth at all. So you should get more like 1,000 visitors using only 1GB of bandwidth, which is the equivalent of 1 visitor using 1MB of bandwidth to view (download) your whole website. In turn, 5GB (5,000MB) of bandwidth should be able to accommodate approximately 5,000 visitors. Remember. This is based on each visitor viewing your whole website (every single web page). If your average visitor only views five web pages then you will accommodate twice more visitors of course.

So far you have calculated 1MB of bandwidth usage per visitor, per view of your whole website. However. You should be aware that it is not only your visitors who are using your bandwidth.


 The Search Engines  Search Engines not only scan your website (public_html folder) looking for words/phrases, email addresses and other information, from within your web pages, in order to list it but they also store (CACHE - pronounced: cash) a copy of your web pages on their server. This is so that the general public can view those cached (stored) web pages when your Web Hosting Provider's server (computer) is not allowing your website to be viewed, perhaps because you ran out of bandwidth and/or because their server has temporary problems for example.

The CPanel  Your CPanel (Website Control Panel) might not be available to you, depending on the terms & conditions of your web hosting package/provider, if you run out of bandwidth. This is because certain operations you carry out using your CPanel involve bandwidth. Downloading your email, from your web space into Windows Mail or Outlook Express for example. Downloading files using the File Manager control panel or a FTP Account. And so on.

Website Linkers  Websites that make a link to one or more of your web pages will be using your bandwidth indirectly whenever that link is clicked on. For example. If your website is www.productsandservices.com and you have a web page called products.html, any website linking to your product web page (http://www.productsandservices.com/products.html) is inviting its users/visitors to click on that link and therefore directly visit your product web page. This means those users/visitors will be downloading the content (text, images, video, music and so on) of your product web page and more importantly be using your bandwidth. This may seem fine, because you want other websites linking to your web page(s) in order to make your website more well known, but the downside of this is too much traffic (too many websites linking to your web pages, bringing too many visitors who use up your bandwidth).

Too much traffic can become a problem if you have a FREE Video Download link in your product web page for example (i.e. http://www.productsandservices.com/video.wmv) that too many websites are recommending and linking to. For example. When you get one visitor clicking on your FREE Video Download link, who originally came from a recommended website link or directly from your own website, that free video (file) download should not use up too much of your bandwidth. Especially if the video (.wmv file) is reasonably small (i.e. 10MB or less - Approximately 5 Mins or less). The problem arises when you get a couple of hundred visitors clicking on your FREE Video Download link. That is when bandwidth becomes your nightmare and enemy.

Curious Visitors  With too much traffic comes too many "Curious Visitors". These are visitors who are just curious to know "What is your website all about?", "Who are you?" and "What can your website do for me?". There is nothing wrong with them, because they are the same visitors who might become "Regular, Buying, Visitors" one day and/or spread Word-Of-Mouth about your website, it is just that while they are curious visitors they remain "Bandwidth Users" or "Bandwidth Guzzlers!!" as well. In fact, they do help to get your ratings up with the Search Engines so they are not all bad!! The only way to effectively get rid of them though, if you are struggling with your bandwidth, is to introduce some sort of membership scheme to your website.

Blogs and Forums  Before someone can view a blog post (article) or forum post (message) in their web browser (i.e. Internet Explorer) the content (i.e. text) of that post has to be downloaded first, from your website (public_html folder) onto their computer. This means some of your bandwidth is used in the download process. As explained at the beginning of this section, this type of bandwidth cost applies to any web page that needs to be viewed and any file that needs to be downloaded.


 With the above knowledge you should be thinking more about bandwidth distribution. For example. Many people, when they first build a website or have one built, make the mistake of creating their whole website in one go with a mentality/view of When the website is finished it will make me, and my product/service, look Professional and Established. This is great if you can afford the bandwidth associated with the features found on a professional, established, website but not so great if your website only looks professional and established with no features on it due to lack of bandwidth. I am talking about professional features such as Product Demonstration Videos or Video Tutorials that are viewed/downloaded by hundreds of curious visitors whereby you can afford them bandwidth in the hope of making some of them buying visitors; A Helpline that allows your visitors to download helpful .pdf files; And web pages that are full of images, presented in a slideshow, for example. All of which can be bandwidth heavy when you have hundreds of visitors only, never mind thousands of visitors.

So what is a good way to distribute your bandwidth? Answer? One way is to distribute your bandwidth in stages by paying for it in stages. For example. Do not build your website with professional features on it at first, until you know how many people will be visiting your website, therefore saving yourself a certain percentage of bandwidth (both in terms of bandwidth usage and money costs). Or put another way. Why pay for 100% of your bandwidth needs, which includes professional features, when you are only just starting to get traffic (i.e. only 25% of your bandwidth is currently being used because you only have 110 visitors a month to your website). In other words. Do not pay for 20GB of bandwidth now when you only need 5GB of bandwidth now - In the future you might need 20GB of bandwidth, but that is in the future. Many web hosting providers allow you to upgrade your package.


Build up your website content with well written articles at first, without any downloads, so that eventually you get other websites (Website Linkers) linking back to your website or well written article web pages. Each time one of their visitors click on their recommended link to your website, or well written article web pages, they will cost you bandwidth. This is because they will be viewing (downloading) the content of your website or web pages. This is a small bandwidth cost to pay though because those visitor's clicks will be raising your ranking/position with the search engines.

Set up a Google Analytics account in order to analyse your traffic (visitors, web linkers and so on). The bandwidth cost can be a little heavy depending on the frequency that Google Analytics scans your website for information/statistics and the amount of web pages on your website that need indexing (linking) for search engine results.

Do you need a Blog and/or Forum.....straight away? Although these are good for building interaction with your visitors they are bandwidth and web space wasters when they have no visitors. Making a blog and/or forum well known takes time. Usually 3 - 6 months but anywhere up to a year. You do not just copy and paste articles/posts into your blog and/or forum and then they become well known over night. You have to nurture them first by getting to know who your visitors are. So ideally you build a good website first, get visitor numbers up and then use a blog or forum as an advice section of your website for example. Many people make the mistake of thinking a blog is a website - It is not. You cannot do with a blog what you can with a website and vice versa. They are two different formats. The bandwidth cost for a blog or forum depends on how frequently your blog or forum is scanned and indexed by Google Analytics and the search engines for example, as well as how often the general public view it/them. A blog and forum tend to use more bandwidth simply because new posts (articles) are being added to them on a daily/weekly basis that need scanning and indexing.  


 One way to get a huge amount of traffic is to advertise your website in various internet directories, internet classified ads, link your website on someone elses website/blog/forum and so on. However. When these methods work but do not bring your website enough traffic there is a tendency to get frustrated, which can lead to desperate measures. Take the following two scenarios for example.

Scenario 1 - Imagine you run a genuine Massage Services website with products on it (i.e. Massage Oils) that is not getting enough traffic. One option to improve your traffic might be to buy into a link-building/link-sharing list whereby you and up to 750 other websites agree to link to each others website in order to improve each others search engine rankings/positions and therefore bring in more traffic and hopefully more paying visitors. Regardless of the bandwidth costs of more traffic, the downside to this idea is that some of the websites in that list could of been blacklisted by the search engines; Making your website association (link) to those other websites a future possibility for the search engines to blacklist your website. And unless you check all of the websites in your list for virus infections, spamming, adult material and so on you might end up linking to some really bad website(s).

Scenario 2 - Sticking with the above genuine Massage Services website with products on it (i.e. Massage Oils). Another option for getting more traffic would be to link to genuine Adult Material websites, with you thinking their visitors might want to buy your products once they visit your website. The downside to this idea though (even if you were lucky enough to get such a link) is that you would get too many visitors, a very expensive bandwidth cost and some visitors visiting your website simply because they hope it will be selling something more than just Massage Oils.

What the above two scenarios are saying is that you should keep your website linked with websites you know are clean (trouble free) and more importantly with genuine websites that are genuinely within the subject matter of your website. It can be frustrating when first building a website but do not compromise your website's bandwidth, potential credibility and reputation by attracting the wrong audience.


Having Video Tutorials or a Promotional Video for example on a website these days is a great way to promote/sell a product, but it is also the quickest way to run out of bandwidth. One bandwidth cost to consider, which many people tend to forget, is that some people will want/need to download your video(s) more than once. For example. They might be viewing one of your videos when suddenly they lose their internet connection, perhaps because their broadband disconnected naturally or because they ran out of time in their local internet cafe, and therefore want/need to view that video again. However. The next time they decide it would be better/quicker to download the video, onto their Flash Drive for example, so that they can watch it later. This is a typical scenario of why people are forced to download/view your videos again. And it is not because they want to cripple you with bandwidth costs, it is because they want to view your good video(s) - Especially if they have paid for them of course. So be aware of these bandwidth cost scenarios.