My site is very bandwidth heavy - what can I do?

If you run a busy or popular website then you may be familiar with a term called "bandwidth". Bandwidth is effectively the amount of data transferred from your website to your visitors. When someone browses your website, all of the images they see and all of the other embedded content are usually downloaded to the visitors local device - or at the very least are "sent" from your website to their device. Each time this happens, the amount of data transferred is deducted from your overall monthly bandwidth limit. If you have large, high quality images on your site, or just a lot of visitors, it's easy to see how bandwidth usage can dramatically increase.

Why is bandwidth not unlimited?
As with disk space, bandwidth cannot simply be unlimited. There are limits in place either based on speed, or total bandwidth transferred, but these restrictions are essentially the same in theory.

There are some hosting providers out there that do indeed offer "unlimited bandwidth" with their hosting packages. We would encourage you to be extremely wary and skeptical of these claims. Typically these hosting providers are advertising "unlimited" as a marketing ploy because they acknowledge that most users will not use very much bandwidth at all. It looks like a much better deal advertising "unlimited" in comparison to a provider who puts a fixed, set limit on bandwidth. Additionally, the "unlimited" hosts very commonly will have arbritary or hidden limits on these accounts and may even suspend or terminate you if you do begin to consume a lot of bandwidth!

At ThisWebHost we do not offer unlimited bandwidth because we do not want to potentially mislead customers. All of our packages are advertised so that you can fully use any of the resources available to you. We want you to be aware of exactly what you are paying for and that you can use any of the resources to capacity. We have no hidden clauses, no arbritary restrictions, and we routinely see customers approaching their bandwidth limits each month without any problems.

What do I do if I hit my bandwidth limit?
If you've hit your bandwidth limit for the month, the immediate fix is to upgrade your hosting account to the next available tier. If you are on shared hosting and are not currently on our "Large" shared hosting package, you can do this automatically from within our client area. If you are on our "Large" shared hosting package and still need more bandwidth, then your next step is upgrade to one of our "Semi-Dedicated" hosting packages or above. This is not an automated process and will involve one of our engineers needing to manually move your site across to a new server. If this is something you require, please open a ticket from within our client area.

At 1TB/month bandwidth usage and above, we typically consider that a website has outgrown shared hosting - even semi-dedicated. Usually with increased bandwidth usage you will also see an increase in the number of visitors to your website. This subsequently increases CPU usage, RAM usage and other resources such as entry processes and web server threads. Because of this, at 1TB and above we strongly recommend moving to a Virtual Private Server (VPS). Our VPS offerings can scale all the way up to 16TB or more so provide plenty of room for website growth and expansion.

Steps to Reduce Bandwidth Usage
If upgrading your account is not an option, perhaps due to budget concerns, then there are other options available to you. You could begin looking at ways to reduce your bandwidth usage. Are the images you upload to your website very large, or perhaps not well optimized? There are tools out there that can help you to resize, or even recompress your images, saving up to 50% of the size (and bandwidth) of each image!

Every website is different, so it's very difficult for us to provide a typical idea of how to reduce your bandwidth usage. We recommend discussing the situation with a web designer or developer who may be able to assist you.

What other options are available to me?
If you've reached the situation where you are consuming a lot of bandwidth and upgrading your account with us is simply not an option, or otherwise not possible, then there is a possible last solution for you.

CloudFlare are a company who have been providing free Content Delivery Network (CDN) services for many years now, in addition to other services. Their service is 100% free at the basic level, and they have no bandwidth limit, nor do they charge for bandwidth. Their system works by moving your domain name to their nameservers and then they take control of your DNS. They then point the DNS back at your account with us, but are then able to monitor your traffic and website requests to look at ways of caching your content.

What is caching? Simply put; CloudFlare will take a copy of your content and store it on their network. When a visitor requests your website, CloudFlare will ultimately pull some of the requests from their network rather than our servers, and in turn this means you are using less bandwidth on your account with us. As an added advantage, CloudFlare will try to choose a server closest to each visitor so that your website loads as quickly as possible. This can increase your website speed across the board. CloudFlare works beautifully in this regard when it comes to images - as websites containing high quality images typically consume more than 50% of their bandwidth on these images alone. This means CloudFlare can save you the same 50% or more, transparently.

What are the disadvantages of CloudFlare?
The immediate disadvantage is that it's not a part of your service with us. This means that we are not in control of it, and if anything goes wrong it's not something we can assist with - only something we can escalate with CloudFlare and wait for them to fix it. That said, CloudFlare do have an excellent track-record, and uptime and reliability should not be a concern.

Some users of CloudFlare have pointed out that their terms and conditions effectively allow CloudFlare the ability to add/insert/inject code into your website, such as their own tracking code, affiliate codes and the like. It should be noted that there are currently no examples of this having happened, but it's certainly something to consider as a possibility in the future. Again, as we are not in control of their product, this is a risk of something they could introduce in the future.

Because CloudFlare pulls content from its own servers and not from your hosting account with us, it will render any website statistics (Webalizer, Analog, AWStats, etc) that we provide as part of your hosting account essentially obsolete. This is because our servers will not register the content as having been loaded (we can't see it being loaded on CloudFlare's servers) so cannot log it at all. In this situation we recommend using something like Google Analytics or other Javascript based tracking/statistic system.

What are the advantages of CloudFlare?
CloudFlare is a free service that has no upper (advertised) bandwidth limit. It can (and has, in situations we have seen) save you a tremendous amount of bandwidth on your hosting account with us every month. This could mean reduced costs, and would perhaps even allow you to downgrade your hosting account with us to one that requires less bandwidth each month - saving you money in the process. Because there are no upper limits, it can greatly assist you in expanding further and reaching more visitors without worrying about escalating costs.

The CloudFlare CDN can dramatically increase your website speed and improve the viewing experience for your visitors.

If you'd like to implement CloudFlare on your website with us, please get in touch.

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