PI Tutorials




OK... let's try and explain bandwidth....

The amount of bandwidth you are allowed each month by your webhost is a measure of the data transfer between your website and the computers of the people using that website.

Let's say your page has 400kbs of pictures and text on it. When a person views your page they download 400kbs of information to their computer (it goes into their Temporary Internet files) i.e. they have transferred 400kbs of data. That amount is deducted from your bandwidth allowance.

If they download some of your backgrounds, presets, objects etc - again, the measure of that file (in kilobytes or megabytes) is transferred from your site to their computer and deducted from your bandwidth allowance.

If they write you an email via your site-based email address, use a form - or Guestbook - or any such item - they use up your bandwidth.

If you upload files from YOUR computer to the site - again it is data transfer and you use up part of your bandwidth allowance.

If someone direct-links to one of your images on your site - the data is pulled down from YOUR site - and so once again uses up YOUR bandwidth and you may have to pay. Simple text links to your site from other people's computers do NOT use up bandwidth but as soon as someone clicks on one of those links and comes to your site, it DOES.

The fact of the matter is, that the servers (computers) that hold the files of websites can only transfer so much data - if one site starts to use too much data transfer it affects the other sites on that server - they slow down. Therefore webhosts have to estimate how much bandwidth can be allotted to each site, depending on how many sites they want to put on the server. They usually give enough (and more) for the average site to run.

How then, can a webhost offer 'Unlimited' or 'Unmetered' bandwidth (which my present one does!)? The fact is that unless they have a server with unlimited capacity (which doesn't EXIST!!!) - they can't. They are relying on the sites NOT using up the bandwidth they allow - they are merely making a calculated guess and by doing that, forcing the site owner to take a calculated risk. When a site does MORE bandwidth than expected they are in trouble and more importantly, because they have to pay, so is the site owner (even though it is totally beyond their control). This is why all webhosts have a nightmare get-out clause that says 'If your site bandwidth usage starts to cause problems to other clients on the server, we reserve the right to suspend the site'. So they are NOT REALLY giving unlimited bandwidth - it is all a big con.

Most decent webhosts will give a warning if you are exceeding your bandwidth allowance. Some just take down your site until the end of that month and then bring the site back up at the beginning of the next month. Some take your site off the web, ask you to contact them and then tell you what they want you to do to rectify the problem. Some demand extra money for the bandwidth you are using and some, like the one I have at present - demand that you buy more sites and domain names and split up the site between their various servers! Occasionally - like the one I had last year called Powaspark - simply tell you that you have 10 days to find a new host and then they take down your site for good.

The question of 'hits' is something else - this is not the same as bandwidth. If you had a thousand 'hits' (views of a web page) but these were all to a page that was low in terms of kbs.... then it wouldn't be a problem - because the bandwidth usage would be low. However, if those 'hits' were to pages high in graphics and the viewer then goes on to download multiple files such as your presets or glass samples from them - it would be a VERY different story.

This is why - when a URL is announced to a group of people and a lot of those people go to visit that page as a result, the bandwidth usage goes up and up and up... if a lot of those people go on to visit other pages, up it goes again... if they download some files from those pages and send a nice little email to the owner to say thank you... it goes guess where?...

As an example, a group somewhere has just posted the URL to my stained glass samples pages and within two days I have done more than half a gigabyte of data transfer!... when you think that the average webhost gives about 3 gigs a MONTH, you can see the problem! I know it's a group - because it all happened on the same day - each file was downloaded the same number of times (20) and ALL the samples were taken each time. This ONE day has caused me big problems. Do remember - most people are members of more than one board... it gets announced on one board and a member sees the post and posts it on another board... in turn someone there sees it... I'm sure it doesn't take a genius to tell you what happens then.

Also people come to sites and, instead of taking a little and coming back another week/month for more - which wouldn't hurt the site as much - they go on an orgy of downloading - taking everything in sight even if they don't really need it... Result? - eventually if enough people do this - the site is taken off the web, leaving the owner upset and/or in debt and other people without any resource to collect from.

It is easy to see, therefore, why too MUCH usage, too MANY links (without permission and therefore control) can, in fact kill a site altogether. I am, in fact, now in the position of having to buy more sites and do weeks and weeks of work.... much of which could have been avoided if people had just ASKED me before publishing links.... and if they only realised that going to a site and downloading everything in sight is NOT always good for the site owner even though it is very flattering.

What really makes me angry in all this - is that many groups seem to leave their members totally uneducated about these issues (and ones about direct-linking and copyright issues) but then moan and groan when they find that the sites they wish to use for resources or tutorials are no longer there.

I hope this has helped you to understand the bandwidth problem. Please don't hesitate to ask if you need anything explaining further - it really is my pleasure - as it's lovely to find someone who really wants to understand. :-)

Rosie Hardman-Ixer, February 2003


© Rosie Hardman-Ixer 2000 - 2003