One of the most significant challenges in web hosting is calculating how much bandwidth your website needs. Give yourself too little, and your website’s performance will drag down to a crawl under heavy load. Too much, and you’re unnecessarily funneling away money that could be going elsewhere. Accurate estimation of your bandwidth requirements is a must if you’re to strike a balance between cost and performance.
Thankfully, this isn’t all that difficult to do…provided you know which questions to ask.
How Resource-Intensive Is Your Website?
The first question you need to ask yourself is how heavy your website is. Websites that are more resource-intensive will naturally require more bandwidth than small, lightweight sites. Note how many pages your website consists of, along with the size (in kilobytes) of each page. Multiply the two numbers – that’s how big your site is.
How Many Visitors Does It Receive Each Month?
Your next step is to note how many visitors your site receives on an average day. Now, this is a bit of a tricky number to calculate, particularly if your website isn’t yet online. If you don’t have your own traffic to go by, I’d recommend trying to track down the traffic statistics of similarly-sized websites in your field. Figure out the average of all those, and you’ve got a decent number to go by.
The next step is fairly simple. Multiply the number of users per day by the size of your website. This is how much bandwidth those users will use if they visit every page on your website once. Multiply that by the number of days in a month, and you’ve a rough upper estimate of potential bandwidth requirements.
What Do Those Visitors Use Your Website For?
Unfortunately, things aren’t really as simple as plugging in the formula I described above. There are other mitigating factors you need to take into account as well. For example, how many times does an average user view each page? In the case of a news site like The New York Times (which automatically refreshes itself at a set interval), a user might view a single page on the site several times over before finishing with it.
That’s not the only thing you need to account for, either. You also need to take note of what your audience uses your website for. A news site or blog might not use that much bandwidth, but if you’ve got flash games or HD video, your bandwidth requirements are going to go through the roof. Keep that in mind.
How Much Growth Do You Expect?
If your website is static and unchanging, great – you can safely ignore this question. If, however, you’re like 99% of websites on the ‘net; you’re probably expecting some growth in the near future. This could be anything from adding new pages to your site to attracting new users. The fact is that your host needs to take into account how much your site’s going to expand over time.
Thankfully, most hosts allow scaling. Those that don’t probably aren’t worth the money.
How Frequent Are Traffic Spikes?
Last, but certainly not least, how frequently do you encounter traffic spikes? Are they the sort of thing that occurs regularly enough to merit extra bandwidth, or can you get away with simply scaling up as-needed? Again, this is a case where you’re going to need to monitor your site for a bit in order to work things out.
As a web-master, it’s imperative that you accurately predict your bandwidth requirements. Otherwise, you’re either going to wind up with a slow, poorly-performing website, or a bank account that’s two sizes too small. Neither of those is a particularly attractive option, is it?