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What is bandwidth?

What is bandwidth and how much do I need for my web host?

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In simple words bandwidth is the total capacity of your computer's connection with that of the ISP to carry data, or the data transfer rate. The more bandwidth, the more capacity to carry data, which means data transfer from an ISP's computer to your computer will take less time and hence the webpages will load quickier on your computer screen.

Connections that use dial-up modems have very narrow bandwidth of around 50Kbps or 50,000 bits per second. This means they can only carry a small amount of data and hence webpages may take a long time to download over a dial-up connection.

On the other hand a Broadband connection has much better bandwidth ranging from 128Kbps and upwards, which lets it transfer data at high speed and allows webpages and videos to download faster. The larger the bandwidth, the less time it takes to download pages from the internet, but it also means paying a premium price for using a broadband service.

It may be well understood that communication over the Internet is made of various links. Like one link is from your computer to that of your ISP's. The other could be from your ISP to the server where your website is hosted. There could be various other succession of links from the source to the destination. A weak link, which has lower bandwidth may create a bandwidth bottleneck and affect the overall speed of data transfer.

How much do I need?

Imagine a situation where a visitor types in your domain name in his web browser and starts viewing your website. For the website to be visible to the user's computer, data must transfer from the server where your website is hosted to that of the user's computer. Now it is the bandwidth your host has allotted to you which will decide the rate of transfer of data from the server to a user's computer.

Bandwidth becomes even more important when there are many people viewing your site simultaneously. The server at your web hosting company must serve pages to all the viewers, which might not be possible if you have less bandwidth. For example a simple page will use around 10k of your bandwidth to load on a user's computer. You must now be able to assess the total number of visitors who are expected to visit your website per month. You can then make an estimate of how many pages will need to be transferred from your host server to your visitor's computers. For example if 1000 people visit your site in a month and visit at least 3 pages, 3000 pages will be transferred in total which will use approx 3000 X 10k = 30,000k of bandwidth. 1GB of bandwidth per month would enable transfer of 100,000 pages.

Most home businesses generally require less than 1GB of bandwidth per month. So it would be a good idea to take a 1GB per month plan with your web hosting provider. You can always increase this by paying more if and when you need more.

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