What is Bandwidth?

The concept of bandwidth is kind of interesting (well, to us geeks anyway!).

It is easiest to think of it as the size or width of something that data is flowing through.

Many people use the analogy of a highway, a cable or a garden hose.

highway as analogy for bandwidth

Information (for example the contents of your web site pages) is stored in digital form on computers and when it is transferred from one computer to another it is moving from one place to another digitally.

The actual impact bandwidth will have on you is in terms of how fast your web page will load on the computer of others who want to view it. If there is enough and your page has been optimized for the web, then your page should load quickly. If not, page loading speed will suffer greatly.

For example, let's say your website is stored on a server (a special type of computer) in Atlanta, Georgia and someone in London, England wants to view it.

The person in London types in your domain name or clicks on a link and as a result a message is sent to the server in Atlanta with your web site stored on it to serve up your web page.

Your web page will need to travel along a digital pathway to get from Georgia to London.

The Highway Analogy

Pretend your web page is a car traveling along a highway. The number of lanes in the highway is the bandwidth.

If your web page is travelling along a highway and there are lots of other cars (other data) also travelling on it, it will matter a great deal how many lanes wide the highway is.

Only one lane and there will be slow movement of cars and a lot of congestion.

If there are many lanes, more cars can travel quickly and easily to get to their destination. A very wide highway with lots of lanes can even easily accomodate large cars, buses and semi-trucks. (symbolizing web pages that are heavy with data).

I hope this fun little analogy is starting to become clear.

The number of lanes in the highway is like the bandwidth. And the cars and other vehicles are the data travelling from where they are stored to their destination.

Fun hey? LOL

Cheaper Bandwidth

Bandwidth is becoming readily available, cheaper and is usually not such a big concern when you are first starting out. Besides that if you find you are needing more you can often upgrade within the same hosting company.

In fact many hosting companies offer "unlimited bandwidth" as a selling feature for their hosting plans. This term is actually a bit of a misnomer however,

And some companies use the word "bandwidth" interchangeably with the amount of "data transfer " which we will cover next.

As you can see, the speed of transfer of data is directly affected by the bandwidth.

Going back to our highway analogy, there are only certain parts of the highway that we can control.

The part of the highway we can control is at the server - by choosing our web hosting company well.

Choosing a company with modern, fast servers - and also one not overstuffed with data.

If your web hosting company has old inadequate slow servers or their servers are jammed full of data, the speed of loading of your web site by your customers will be affected.

Easy Way To Test

The easiest and the best way to test this is to visit the web site of the hosting company you are considering at various times of day, and experience yourself how long it takes for the pages to load. Refresh the pages and see how long it takes to reload. Visit various pages on the site to ensure that you are experiencing a true assessment of the speed of page loading.

Why does bandwidth matter?

Simply because it will be very annoying to your visitors if your page takes too long to load. Most people won't wait - they will go to another site instead!

Remember that some companies use the term bandwidth when really they may mean data transfer. It is important to understand the distinction.

We will cover data transfer next.

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