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Q: How much bandwidth do I need?
by Mike Slocombe

Q: I am starting a small online newspaper for ex-pats in southern Spain. How much bandwidth will be needed? And is there anything I should be watching out for?
Struan Robertson

A: The term bandwidth is usually used to describe the total amount of files and data transferred from your server every month.

Technically, this isn't correct because bandwidth really refers to the amount of data transferred in any given second.

Both figures are important though, and how much you get of each will depend on your hosting package.

The bandwidth offered by a hosting company depends on the capacity of its connection to the internet.

If your server has a 2Mbps leased line, for example, then it can only cope with 2MB of traffic at any given point and some visitors may not get served during busy periods. Remember that if your site sits on a shared server, other sites will be eating into the total available bandwidth too.

The amount of data that can ber transferred from your site will usually be restricted by your host.

The amount you'll use can be calculated fairly easily - if the elements of your homepage (HTML page, graphics, style sheets etc) add up to 50k, then every time someone accesses that page, it'll burn up 50k of your bandwidth allowance.


So if a 100 people access your home page every day, you'd use up 5 meg's worth of your bandwidth allowance (100 people x 50k). Multiple that by 30 days and you'll get a monthly total of 150 Meg/month.

It's not so easy to estimate bandwidth on large, complex sites, but this simple formula can help you get a ballpark figure:

Average Daily Visitors x Average Page Views x Average Page Size x 31

If you're hosting your site on the free space that came with your dial up account, you can expect a relatively miniscule allowance (e.g Demon Internet only allows 150 Mbytes/day) while most web hosts offer a sliding scale of charges linked to bandwidth requirements. Be wary of deals offering 'unlimited bandwidth' as they often come with a crate load of caveats.

It's important to secure a hosting deal that meets your bandwidth requirements as the punishment can be swift and punitive if you exceed their limits. Some hosts will instantly suspend your site while others will levy wallet-lightening surcharges.

More info:
» Calculating bandwidth
» Reducing bandwidth

May 2004

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