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The Truth about Unlimited Bandwidth

Published on 3/5/2010 by

Web hosting is an extremely competitive market and catchy promotional advertisements attract more business. Companies offering “unlimited bandwidth” are a popular marketing ploy, and all consumers should know the facts.

Bandwidth is the amount of data to and from your website. There is no such thing as “unlimited bandwidth.” No data centers offer Internet connections of “unlimited megabytes per second.” How could a web hosting company do it? Computer services and backups would collapse if all customers used all of their bandwidth allowances to the max. Bandwidth costs money, and a company has to meet their costs. The more megabytes (or gigabytes or terabytes) a company gives, the less money they make, but many of these companies merely play the odds.

Let’s take an example of an airline that has 250 seats and sells tickets for 300 seats. Of course, that is overselling, but the airline bets that some passengers will not show up or cancel. Obviously 300 passengers could not fit on the plane at one time. The same risk is taken by some web hosts. They know that most customers will not use all of their bandwidth. If ABC company offers 2,000GB of space and 20,000GB of bandwidth, they are predicting that 90% of their customers will not use more than 20% so the company can accept more, and thus overselling. Often the number one reasons for costly site outages are companies that oversell their bandwidth and jeopardize server performance. Normally there are no refunds because a company can claim the website violated their “Acceptable Use Policy” or Terms of Service. Companies have the right to suspend any customer who abuses their resources. Always watch out for hidden charges if you surpass your limit, and make sure you study the fine print.

In order to figure out how much bandwidth one might need, the first few months will be very important. The sum of your files, the size and html per page; multiply with the number of visitors per month should give you a rough estimate:

  • How many visitors will access your site?
  • How many pages are you planning to create and use for access?
  • How large will graphics, html files?

One has to remember that large audio, video files and programs along with Flash websites, virtual reality, and audio/visual presentations typically use more bandwidth than normal websites. It’s always best to signup with a reputable company; you do get what you pay for, and if the offer seems too good to be true, it is very likely that your site will suffer. The competency of the company can make the difference, so why take a chance?