What are you paying for when you pay for hosting?
If you own a website, then you pay for hosting. However, businesses, in spite of paying this bill when it comes around, have only a sketchy idea of what they’re paying for. First, there is the server space these files take up on your web host. Then there is the bandwidth costs of transferring that data when you get visitors on your site. Finally, there’s how that space affects the loading speed of elements on your website. You can put a lot of information on one page, let it take up as many screens of space as you need, pay for all the hosting you want, but what happens when all that content on one page slows you down?
To cut through some of the confusion and help you make more informed decisions about your website, let me break down the difference between web space and bandwidth and look how the effect your hosting costs.
Web space: storage is cheap.
Hosting servers, like your computer hard drive, hold a certain amount of data. Fortunately, the space you buy to host this data is cheap and easy to manage. When you buy web space to host your site, you’re paying to digitally store on the server all the files (code, images, videos, emails, databases, etc.) that you use on your website. If you run out of space, you can easily delete files to free up more. They’re also easy to scale if you find you need more space.
And again: space is not a huge cost. In fact, you’ll notice that many services (Google accounts, for one) offer a certain amount of storage for free with an account, and that space increases rapidly with upgraded service. So while you don’t want to waste that space by storing lots of files unnecessarily on your web server, your primary hosting costs have to do with bandwidth.
Band width: data is expensive.
Far more important than the cost of your hosting space is that of your web traffic. If your website is in high demand, it means that your hosting server is receiving numerous requests for your files. When that transfer of data becomes too intense, it slows down or ceases completely. This is why small sites can sometimes go down when they receive a large amount of unexpected attention. They didn’t pay for a dedicated server, and all the traffic is like an unexpected online rush hour.
Web traffic requires the transfer of a lot of data between your server and the end user. The amount of data that goes back and forth is your bandwidth. When you pay for web hosting, you pay for a certain bandwidth package, and if you use up the amount you paid for you could incur expensive overage charges.
The hidden costs of a slow website.
One cost that many people overlook is that of speed. Not the price of bandwidth, but rather the loss of business caused by a slow or unresponsive website. The old rule of thumb which said your website needed to load in 3 seconds is now out of date. These days, you have under 1 second. This means that for every additional second it takes your website to load, you’re at risk of losing visitors you worked hard to attract. So, how do you keep your website loading efficiently so that you don’t lose visitors?
While file size doesn’t cost much in terms of web space, it does matter when it comes to loading speed on your website. If you have lots of very large files (such as audio or video files), they will impact the loading speed of your website. One way to adjust for this is to use lazy loading. This allows the most important files on your site to load first, and lower-priority files to follow after. In practice, it makes you website feel a lot faster than it actually is, because users can see the navigation, text, and images within the first second or two, and won’t notice that it takes another two or three seconds for the video to be ready to play.
Keeping image size down on your website.
Another common problem occurs when a website becomes bogged down by large image files. Some overly eager web owners use huge image files, under the impression that the higher resolution images will make their site look better. Little do they know that the high definition is lost on visitors, who are only viewing them within the boundaries of the web page and at the resolution of their individual monitors. As a rule of thumb, to save loading speed, keep your image files under 1MB. In fact, most of them should only take up a few KBs of space. If a lot of your image files are this size, re-save them as web-friendly versions. Then reload them into your CMS and delete your old, over-sized files to conserve server space.
How do you determine your hosting needs?
When calculating your bandwidth costs, you can come up with a reasonable estimate by looking at your average page size, average number of monthly visitors, and average number of page visits per visitor. Multiply these numbers together, and it should give you an idea of your expected monthly bandwidth needs.
If you have a particularly popular page that is larger than others, you will need to adjust for it in your calculations. Another consideration is if your website offers downloads. If these files are large and in demand, they will play a significant factor in your bandwidth and web storage needs. And, of course, you will want to add some buffer to your final estimate to account for possible traffic surges. If the goal of your website is to attract a following, your bandwidth costs will increase over time.
Do you need a new website?
Is your website old and slow? Do you need to expand it to accommodate new traffic? Contact us. We specialize in modern, functional web design that can keep your business on top and your visitors happy.