Bandwidth and Data Transfer Explained

One of the most important decisions that adult Webmasters can make is in choosing the best combination of hosting performance, value and service to meet the needs of your site both today, and into the future. Two of the most important factors to consider being the amount of bandwidth and data transfer that your prospective hosting plans provide.

Understanding Bandwidth and Transfer
The amount of data transfer available with any hosting plan is important, so understanding some of the basics about bandwidth and data transfer can help you to choose the host and plan that's best for your needs.

While bandwidth and data transfer are somewhat synonymous, the two are typically referred to from unique perspectives. In a nutshell - both have to do with the amount of data that is transferred to and from your web site; either by you uploading files, or your site’s visitors viewing pages and downloading files, or by your emails if you are using your host for your email service. If someone comes to your web site and downloads a 1MB file, you've just transferred 1MB of data. If 1,000 people download that file, you,ve transferred 1,000MB or 1GB.

The Difference Between Bandwidth and Data Transfer
In nearly all cases, budget web hosting plans are looked at in terms of data transfer and not bandwidth. Why? Think of an Internet connection as a water hose and the data (site traffic) as water. Bandwidth refers more to the size of that hose in addition to the amount of water flowing through it. Often you will see hosts offering "unlimited data transfer" but often the one offering you unlimited data transfer (back to the water analogy) is only letting you drink from a very small hose. This means you can drink and drink all you want but chances are you could not get enough water through the small hose to amount to much.

In the web hosting industry, bandwidth is a real and significant cost. There are no unlimited plans out there. A host that offers a really generous data transfer plan is bound to have one if not both of the following:

1. A small and limiting connection to the Internet
2. Lots of sites using up lots of the available bandwidth.

Either case results in a slow loading web site.

How Much Data Transfer Do You Need?
Depending on the content and traffic of your site, this could be a little, or it could be quite a lot.

If your site is mostly basic HTML pages and modest size photos, then bandwidth should not be a tremendous issue - even if your site is receiving fairly heavy traffic.

On the other hand, if your site offers large photos, videos and audio files, then bandwidth is a major concern, as these types of files will use lots of it. If this is you - then be prepared to pay a bit more, but be happy knowing that if everyone is truly paying for the bandwidth they use, your host should have plenty always available.

I hope that this article has helped explain the difference between bandwidth and data transfer to you. If you have further questions, you can find answers on XBiz’ Hosting Highway message board. Good luck! ~ Stephen