With the way most websites are setup, images; audios and videos are typically stored on the webserver.  There is generally nothing wrong with this setup – but as a site owner, we have to be aware of the limitations for data storage or bandwidth usage that form our hosting plans.

Recently, I’ve had discussion with several clients who have been reaching the limits of data storage and bandwidth and what they can do about it.  The main questions that came out of these dicussions were – “What does it all mean”!

Data storage

Is the physical storage of information.  It’s just like the hard drive on your computer.  When you save something, install a new application etc, it uses up the physical space available. Just like filling up a cardboard box!

On a website this includes, all the files required to run a site.  This includes, but is in no way limited to:

  • In the case of WordPress, all the ‘script’ files that appear on the server (i.e the .php, .js and .css files)
  •  images, audio files, pdfs, videos etc that are uploaded (either through the WordPress uploader, the uploader you use for your website admin if you don’t use WordPress, Dreamweaver or FTP – to name just a few methods).
  •  Databases – each database will have a ‘physical’ size that takes up data storage space
  • Mail – if you use your webserver for mail (i.e not your ISP mail or Google apps or similar), the incoming mail is stored on the server until you retrieve and delete it.
  • Backup files for the website, unless you have a process to send them offsite and delete them.

Is kind of like the size of the pipe that leads into your website. Or, for another analogy, the physical road to your website.  Think of each piece of data as a car that comes to or from your website – the more cars on the road (i.e the more people coming to your site), the more congested that road gets.

The difference between a road and a data pipe is that, to some extent, the data pipe can expand to cater for more traffic.  However, MOST hosting providers will limit the total amount of traffic you can have TO and FROM your website in a month.

Each time a visitor views your website, images and data are downloaded from the site to the visitors PC’s – that’s how the browsers display the webpage on a PC.  The more visitors to your site, the more data downloaded, the more bandwidth your site uses.

Mail is the same – when you send and receive mail through your website, it uses your bandwidth allocation.

If you are using a lot of video and audio (typically these types of files are large), your bandwidth usage will increase almost exponentially.

The other side to this coin – is that UPLOADS are generally included in the total as well.  So if you are doing an update and upload new images, new videos and new audios to your webserver – that uses up your bandwidth allocation as well.

The upshot:

  1. The bigger the files you upload to your webserver – the more bandwidth is used
  2. The bigger the files offered to the public, the more bandwidth is used each time a page is displayed
  3. The more traffic to your website, the more bandwidth is consumed
  4. The more mail you get through your webserver, the more bandwidth is consumed

I’m very careful of hosts who offer ‘unlimited’ bandwidth because this means they are typically ‘oversubscribing’ their services on the chance that some sites will use next to nothing and other sites will use way more.

As a side note, bandwidth is often referred to as Quota.

About the Author Charly Dwyer

Charly has more than 30 years experience in the IT industry ranging from hands-on technical, to high-level business management, Charly has installed and configured computing equipment and has managed business contracts in excess of $25 million dollars.

As a result, Charly identifies the best way to integrate solutions and technologies for the most cost effective way to achieve a businesses outcome.

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