What is Bandwidth?
From time to time, you may get an email from your server that says you’re approaching your bandwidth limit for the month – what is that?
In a nutshell, “bandwidth” is the volume of data being sent from your server out to the internet. Some elements, such as images, are larger and will consume more bandwidth. Text takes up very little bandwidth.
If you have an image that is 5MB in size, it will take 5MB of your bandwidth allocation every time someone loads that image on your site. Busy sites consume more bandwidth.
Why did I get the email?
We have our servers configured to send out emails to our customers when they are approaching their monthly bandwidth allocation. Most servers will send out emails at the 80%, 90%, 95%, and 99% marks, which typically gives ample time to plan for a bandwidth increase.
If you receive the 80% notice, and there are only a few days left in the calendar month, you likely will not need to add additional bandwidth. If you receive the 90% notice, and there is only a day or two left in the calendar month, you may be able to get away with that, too.
However, you should be aware that once you hit that bandwidth limit, your account will automatically be suspended. This is a fully automated process that will occur unless bandwidth is added or other arrangements are made in advance, regardless of the time of day or night the limit is reached. Your site will be offline, and the message “Bandwidth allocation exceeded” will be displayed to anyone trying to access the site.
Why do I have to pay for more bandwidth?
We pay for the bandwidth our customers use, and we include a reasonable amount of “free” bandwidth in your monthly hosting fee. Because we ourselves have to pay for the total amount of bandwidth used by our customers, we can only allow so much “free” bandwidth before we start losing money.
Our network carriers make money by charging us for the bandwidth we use. You can think of bandwidth like water utilities: The data is like water, the internet cables are like pipes: The pipes/cables are always there, and the water/data flows through them. The amount of data flowing is metered and charged for, just like water. The utility company/internet carrier charges for the volume used.
Because we’re a Mom and Pop shop, and not a big-box host like our competitors, we unfortunately pay a higher rate for bandwidth than they do.
How is bandwidth measured?
Bandwidth units are bits, bytes, kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, et cetera, just like disk space; however, they are not the same thing. Just as an ounce can be a unit of weight or volume, a gigabyte can be a unit of space or volume, depending upon its context.
Overall server bandwidth is measured by network equipment called switches. Network topography is likely something you’re not terribly interested in learning about, but to sum it up, a switch is a device that connects your server to the network, and it also directs traffic to destinations on a network. Your server is connected to the switch by a network cable that connects to a port on a switch. Each bit that comes through the port is measured and routed by the switch.
Your account’s bandwidth usage is measured by the server itself, through various scripts.
How do I know how much bandwidth I’ve used and how much I’m allowed?
You can always check on your bandwidth consumption versus allocation in your BCH Customer Portal. Click on “My Services” and then on the green arrow to the right of your shared hosting account package. The next page will show various statistics about your account, including bandwidth usage. It will look something like this:
Bandwidth usage: 112544MB / 500000MB (23%)
You may also log into your cPanel account and click the “Bandwidth” icon to get a graphical overview of your recent bandwidth utilization.
How can I decrease my bandwidth usage?
Many times, high bandwidth consumption is caused by large images being served from a site. Be sure to optimize your images for website usage – don’t use the giant original from your digital camera, and always resize images to the size at which they’ll be displayed. The built-in WordPress image “resizer” only changes the displayed size – it does not reduce the amount of data sent to the browser.
Here is an excellent image optimization article:
Google has a more technically-in-depth article here:
There are a number of WordPress plugins that can go through and resize all of your images; however, some of these can cause high load on the server, while others can radically decrease Dashboard performance. Use caution and only select plugins with a hefty number of good reviews.
Reducing the number of images on your pages will help, too.
Another method to reduce your bandwidth consumption is to utilize a CDN (Content Distribution Network) solution, such as CloudFlare. CloudFlare has many advantages (discussed here,) among which is decreased bandwidth usage. This is because the CDN caches images and other content off your server, and send it to your readers from their nodes – not your server itself.
If you’d like us to help you learn how you might be able to lower your bandwidth utilization, just let us know in a support ticket – we’ll be happy to help!