When you’re starting a website, there are a lot of things that you have to consider, like a good hosting company, a great performance-oriented hosting type, cool designs for the website, intuitive layouts, and a few other things.
However, bandwidth may not be one of the things that you seek out immediately. But the bandwidth of your website is very important and can dictate the speed at which your website works.
What is bandwidth?
The term ‘bandwidth’ is a combination of two factors — speed and time. Speed is measured in bits, bytes, megabytes, terabytes, and so on. Speed, of course, is measured in seconds.
Bandwidth is the amount of data (in bits and bytes) that a computer can transfer in any given amount of time. In hosting, it’s usually measured in seconds.
So, a bandwidth of, say, 50Mbps essentially means that the computer can transfer 50 megabits of data in one second. As you might have guessed, higher bandwidth is better.
What is Bandwidth in Web Hosting?
When someone accesses your website, they’re requesting data. The data itself is stored in your server, and when there’s a request to access that data, your server sends it through to the viewer’s browser. While this is a bit of an oversimplification, it suffices to know this much to understand bandwidth.
Bandwidth in hosting is the data that your server transfers whenever someone accesses it. So, a 50 Mbps bandwidth for your website means that your server will transfer 50 megabits per second.
It stands to reason that if more people are accessing your website, you’ll need higher bandwidth.
Additionally, in web hosting, your overall transfers are monitored too. This is where the concepts of metered, unmetered, and unlimited bandwidth come into the picture. For this article, we’ll consider that your website has a bandwidth of 50Mbps.
In a metered bandwidth plan, the overall bandwidth you use is monitored, and you are charged for that amount. Let’s say that your plan allows for 100GB data transfer. Your bandwidth is 50Mbps.
For every second of data transfer, you’re using 50Mb out of your 100GB plan. Though it isn’t an honest comparison, think of a metered connection as you would about your home broadband plan. The overall data cap is at 100 GB, and the speed you’re getting is 50Mbps. As you use the internet, the overall number of GBs available to you will go down.
Metered connection works in the same way. The only difference here is that it is your server that’s being monitored. Like using the internet, you will need more data if your server is transferring images or videos.
When you exhaust all the data, one of two things will happen – either your website will stop working, or you will be charged extra for the additional data that you use. This depends on the hosting company.
Metered connections aren’t a great idea if yours is going to be a business website or a content-heavy website. If you have a personal website that only a few hundred people access every month, a metered connection makes sense. For anything more than that, metered bandwidth plans fall short.
The first thing to know about unlimited bandwidth is that it isn’t unlimited. There’s always a limiting factor. For one, speed is limited. So, you don’t get ‘unlimited’ speed – there is no such thing. So, speed is limited to whatever plan you choose.
But then again, companies are upfront about this. The ‘unlimited’ part is the cap on the transfer, or at least it’s supposed to be. More often than not, unlimited bandwidth plans are metered bandwidth plans with a higher ceiling for the amount of data you can transfer.
So, with a metered connection, if you have a data cap of 100GB, the unlimited bandwidth probably has a cap of 500GB. It’s just that companies don’t bother telling that right away. Instead, they sort of bet on the fact that you won’t ever use 500GB, which of course, may not be the case at all. So, with unlimited bandwidth plans, always take a look at the fine print. You’re bound to find the real data cap there.
Unmetered bandwidth is what unlimited bandwidth wants to be. Here, as the name indicates, the amount of data transfer isn’t monitored. So, if you have a 50Mbps unmetered bandwidth plan, your speed is limited at 50Mbps, and that’s about it.
You can transfer data at 50Mbps, and there is no cap on how much data you transfer. It just isn’t metered. It’s a bit like getting a broadband plan with no data cap. If you choose a 50Mbps plan, you can use it all day long, and there are no extra charges for it.
That is at the heart of an unmetered plan — a simple flat price for a given speed. You don’t have to worry about how much data your servers transfer.
Metered vs Unmetered vs Unlimited: Which one is best for you?
|Bandwidth Tracking||Overall bandwidth usage is monitored, and the user is charged based on the amount of bandwidth used.||Overall bandwidth usage isn’t monitored at all, and the user only has a base bandwidth speed allotted.||Unlimited bandwidth technically implies no upper ceiling of usage; however, the usage is still tracked.|
|What if you exhaust the allotted data?||The website stops working, or you have to purchase additional bandwidth.||There is no upper limit, so no chance of exhausting the data.||Unlimited bandwidth is a myth, and they generally have a high ceiling. If you do exhaust it, you will have to buy additional bandwidth.|
|Pricing||The pricing depends on the bandwidth and the total data transfer. If you exhaust the data, you will have to pay for more.||A flat price is charged only for the speed, which is generally higher than metered bandwidth. However, you do not have to worry about data exhausting.||As already mentioned, unlimited bandwidth isn’t really unlimited. You are charged for a high ceiling of data transfer, which is costlier than metered but cheaper than unmetered plans.|
|Who should opt for it?||A small or beginner website with low bandwidth requirements can opt for this.||All data-heavy or media-heavy or high-traffic websites should opt for unmetered bandwidth.||Always be careful about reading the fine print with unlimited bandwidth to understand the uppermost limits. Mid-level websites that need higher bandwidths can go for this.|
The whole bandwidth business is complicated by the fact that different companies use different terms in marketing material. Some companies mean unlimited when they say unmetered and vice versa.
As mentioned earlier, a metered connection simply doesn’t make a lot of sense if you expect any reasonable traffic for your website. So, it comes down to unlimited bandwidth or unmetered bandwidth. Within this, unmetered bandwidth makes more sense given that there are no caps on the amount of data used. As your website grows, the amount of data transfer will go up, and you will breach that ambiguous ceiling of unlimited bandwidth plans.
The top web hosting companies usually make this distinction clear and get their terminology right as well. Unmetered means unlimited, and unlimited means higher data cap, but metered connection. Whatever plan you end up choosing, make sure that you enquire about bandwidth in detail.
At HostGator, we offer unmetered bandwidth with all our Shared Hosting plans. Be it a new business website or an image-heavy photography blog, ensure uninterrupted access to your site with unmetered bandwidth. For any queries related to our Shared Hosting plans or the bandwidth usage guidelines, contact us or leave a comment below.
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