Bandwidth Concerns: When WordPress Website Hosting Gets Complicated

Planning a business entails ensuring that its foundations are solid and stable — when your business is run on or even dependent upon a website, you need to make sure your website hosting can handle your needs. While there are a plethora of options for WordPress website hosting, only a few will meet your specific needs when you first launch your website. The problem lies in anticipating when things get complicated, i.e. when your website becomes popular as you want it to, and all of a sudden you need tenfold more bandwidth than you are given.

Bandwidth and You

Bandwidth, in a nutshell, is how much data your website hosting provider can allow you to allow your visitors. If that sounded strange, imagine this: when visitors land on your page and request for a webpage to be loaded (by clicking links and “going” to the webpage), your website will need to load all the data associated with that webpage. Your hosting provider handles this, and the amount and speed of the download of data is called bandwidth.

Obviously, the more bandwidth, the better. The catch, however, is that bandwidth does not come free. Your host will indicate your bandwidth allowance pursuant to your agreement, i.e. your hosting package will come with an allotted bandwidth cap. You’re not the only one your host provides services to, and they need to allocate bandwidth resources properly. In fact, if you use a shared host, the bandwidth indicated is for everyone on that shared host, meaning if another website uses it all up, chances are your website will load slowly or even be unavailable.

So if during your website launch you agree to a certain bandwidth limit, you may need to suddenly increase that if your traffic improves. This is especially true for the case of websites that offer downloads. The bandwidth that the host provides dictate the speeds of all downloads — be it website elements or file downloads.

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Website Loading Speed

We’ve mentioned in other posts how website loading speed affects the user experience. We also mentioned how the typical user will wait only five seconds on average for a webpage to load before considering going somewhere else that search results will suggest. Evidently, as bandwidth limitations on your host’s end will dictate your download speeds (from your visitors’ end, memory, CPU, and connection speed all play a part as well but in more terms of upload speed), you need to make sure that you have enough bandwidth to go around.

It may seem a bit too technical, but bear with us through this formula:

Bandwidth requirement = pageviews every visit * daily visits * average pagesize * 30

This means that you need to factor in how many daily visits a day your website receives every month. Multiply that by the average size of each webpage and how many pageviews each visit generates (on average), and you can compute for your average monthly bandwidth requirement. Double that amount and it’s safe to assume that you can accommodate all of your visitors.

Now this is all prim and proper if you know how many people to expect, but what happens when your website goes viral? Ask your host provider if they have emergency or on-demand bandwidth allocation options you can avail of to prevent any unnecessary problems for your potential visitors (and any loss of profit on your part). Other than that, you can also watch the market fluctuations and preempt any bandwidth problems by increasing your cap before your traffic swells.

Maintaining Usability

Website downloading speeds are an important factor in website usability, which in turn heavily influences the user experience you can deliver to your visitors. Some webmasters might think that their hosts failed them just when they needed them the most, but in fact their traffic swelled to beyond what their bandwidth can allow and the website simply failed.

Another telltale sign of failing usability when you look at your Analytics data is if one webpage is a consistent exit page and you think your content, your design, and everything else is flawless. Check with a webpage download speed tool (there are many free online) if any elements within that particular webpage is causing it to load slowly. Yet another concern is that your website is not optimized for multiple browsers, meaning that in some browsers it might load more slowly.

For the most part, hosting providers guarantee that their bandwidth allocation does not affect browser compatibility — and for the most part that’s true. You still have to make sure that the basic requirement is met, however: your bandwidth allocation cap should still be able to make your website load smoothly and quickly. It should also be able to offer stable and fast downloads for files and other material aside from website HTML elements.

Lets’ take a look at that formula again and apply some numbers. Say that your average pagesize is 50 KB, and you get an average of 3 pageviews every visit. You receive an average of 500 visits a day. All in all, your monthly bandwidth allocation should be:

350050*30 = 2,250,000

That is in KB, so you need 2.25 GB of bandwidth on average. Double that to 5 GB and you get a good deal. Note that you’re depending on a lot of averages, so heed the caution that comes with statistical probability: sometimes normal distribution curves rise and fall. If they fall, you still got it covered. If the averages rise, you may have a problem. On your end, try not to bloat your webpages in size. For instance, if a popular webpage in your website has a pagesize of 125 KB instead of the average 50 KB, and since it’s popular it gets triple your daily visits, then its bandwidth cost per month would be:

31500125*30 = 16,875,000

Or 16.86 GB per month. That’s eight times more than your average, and more than three times over your doubled safe zone.

Obviously, bandwidth concerns are important, however unpopular they can get due to technicalities. The least you can do is avoid doing harm to your bandwidth yourself, accommodating as many users as possible to optimize usability, and ensuring that your website stays live when traffic swells, either through foresight or with the help of your hosting provider.

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