How much bandwidth do I need? Minimum data transfer for your website

How much bandwidth do I need? Minimum data transfer for your website

This article is intended for:

  • Beginners launching their first website
  • Intermediate users with websites that receive a few hundred to a few thousand visitors per day

Let’s dive in!

Quick and dirty answer: should you worry about bandwidth usage?

If you are just starting out and planning to launch your first website or two, then definitely not.

All hosting companies, including budget ones, offer enough bandwidth that you don’t have to worry about it for at least a year or two. By then, you will know enough about your site to be able to easily tell how much bandwidth you need.

In that case, forget about bandwidth and just choose a host based on price, extra features, performance, and a verified money-back guarantee. My hosting reviews are a great place to get started.

However, if your website already receives at least a few hundred visitors per day or you expect this to be the case soon, please keep reading.

1. What is a bandwidth limit, anyway?

In the context of hosting, a bandwidth (a.k.a. data transfer) limit refers to the amount of data that can be transferred between your website and its visitors.

For example, if you have a WordPress page that includes:

  • 500 KB worth of images
  • 400 KB worth of text and other elements (menus, logo, etc.)

The total size of that page is 500 + 400 = 900 KB.

When someone tries to load this particular page in their browser, your hosting server must send all of this data to the visitor’s computer or smartphone so that it can be displayed.

After the server has finished the job, you will have used up 900 KB of bandwidth. 

Hopefully, that’s simple enough.

2. What factors influence how much bandwidth my website uses?

There are three primary factors involved:

2.1 The average size of your website’s pages

The larger your pages, the more data your visitors must download from your server to display these pages.

As a result, your bandwidth usage will increase.

A big contributor to bloated page size is excessive use of high-quality images.

2.2 How many users you get

For instance, if a page on your website is 1 MB in size and 100 visitors visit that page, you would use 100 MB of bandwidth.

But if instead of 100 users the page was viewed by 500 users, you would use 500 MB of bandwidth.

Having more people visit your website is a wonderful thing, of course! Just be aware that your bandwidth usage will increase along with your website’s popularity.

2.3 The average number of pages your visitors browse per visiting session

Generally, the more attractive and engaging your website, the more pages your visitors will tend to browse once they land on it.

I’ll illustrate with an example:

Suppose that your website has dozens of pages and that each page is, on average, 1 MB in size. Then:

  • If 100 users visit your website and each user browses just one page, you’ll use 100 * 1 MB = 100 MB of bandwidth.
  • However, if those same 100 people are so engaged with your website that each of them ends up browsing four different pages, you’ll use 100 * 1 MB * 4 = 400 MB of bandwidth instead.

As you can see, the impact on bandwidth usage can be enormous.

3. Okay, so how much bandwidth will your website use?

Because data transfer usage depends so heavily on the size of your pages, how much traffic you get, and the average number of pages your visitors load, it’s impossible to predict in advance how much bandwidth your particular website will require.

The best I can do is offer an educated guess based on my experience analyzing hundreds of websites:

  • I’ve found that the average page size on many blogs is often around 2 MB per page.
  • The average visitor of a reasonably engaging website will browse around three pages during a single visit.

With three page views per visitor and 2 MB per page, this gives us 3 * 2 = 6 MB of bandwidth per visitor.

That’s about as good of an estimate as anyone can give without knowing more specifics about your website.

Based on the above:

  • If a blog gets 1,000 visitors per month (~33 per day), you can reasonably expect it to use 6 GB of bandwidth per month
  • For a blog that gets 10,000 visitors per month (~330 per day), we expect 60 GB of bandwidth usage

Just keep in mind that this is a very rough estimate. In reality, a new blog will probably get fewer than three page views per visitor, and your average page size could be much smaller than 2 MB if you don’t upload a lot of images or use advanced WordPress plugins.

4. How can I check the size of a page on my website?

You can do so quickly using the free Pingdom Website Speed Test tool.

To check any page’s size using this tool:

Step #1: Enter the full address of the page into the URL field and click the START TEST button:

Pingdom page size test step 1

Step #2: wait 10-20 seconds for the results, then look at the Page size field (ignore all other fields):

Pingdom page size results

In this example, the size of the front page of my website is 987.6 KB – a bit shy of 1 MB.

You can test as many different pages for free as you’d like, just keep in mind you’ll need to test them one at a time.

5. How much bandwidth do website hosts offer?

In terms of bandwidth restrictions, hosting providers fall into one of three camps:

5.1 Hosts that offer unlimited bandwidth

Definitely a good choice for beginners, most of whom use very little bandwidth during their first year or two of running a website. However, unlimited-bandwidth hosting plans have multiple disadvantages – see my recent article on the pitfalls of unlimited hosting resources for more.

Examples of hosts in this camp include:

5.2 Hosts that impose a strict limit on bandwidth

Examples of hosting companies that limit bandwidth include:

In such cases, bandwidth limits are often in the 50 GB to 500 GB range, depending on the hosting plan you choose.

5.3 Hosts that limit the number of visitors your website can get

Not a lot of providers do this, but I find it’s a more transparent practice than limiting data transfer.

A great example of hosts in this camp happens to be one of my all-time favorites – SiteGround. They limit the number of unique monthly visits to between 10,000 and 100,000, depending on the plan.

6.  What can I do to reduce my bandwidth usage (intermediate users)?

If you are worried that your website might exceed your host’s bandwidth limit, follow these four best practices:

6.1 Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network)

This is by far the most impactful step you can take right now to reduce bandwidth usage.

CloudFlare is a popular and free CDN that’s easy to set up.

After activating the service, the contents of your website are distributed across multiple secure CloudFlare servers around the globe.

From now on, when a visitor attempts to load your website, the pages are served to them from these CloudFlare servers, instead of being served directly from your host’s server.

Because of this, data transfer between your hosting server and website visitors is significantly reduced, resulting in less bandwidth usage.

6.2 Upload images in .jpg format only

JPG images are usually significantly smaller than images saved in other formats, including .PNG

If all images you upload to your website are in JPG format, your pages will have a significantly smaller size and will require less bandwidth to download by visitors.

6.3 Leverage browser caching

You can lever your visitors’ browser caching ability to prevent them from downloading the same content (images and scripts, mostly) more than once.

As a result, you’ll save some bandwidth when you get return visitors or when a user loads more than one page during a visiting session.

Chances are your hosting server is already configured to leverage browser caching. To make sure, contact your host’s tech support or consult this article.

6.4 Install a JavaScript minifying plugin

As mentioned earlier, a big contributor to a bloated web page size (and, therefore, a contributor to increased bandwidth use) is excessive JavaScript code.

If your pages load a lot of locally-stored JavaScript and you are using WordPress, consider installing the Merge + Minify + Refresh plugin.

This will merge your JavaScript scripts into a single file and minify the code. As a result, downloading your JS files will require less bandwidth.

7. My closing recommendations

Beginner webmasters launching their first website: any hosting plan with “unlimited” bandwidth or at least 50 GB of bandwidth will do fine for your first few years of activity. Chances are very high that bandwidth limits will never become an issue for you, so try not to spend too much time on the topic right now. Focus on affordability, safety, and performance above all else.

Webmasters with established websites: if you are already receiving at least a few hundred visitors per day and are considering moving your website to a new host with a bandwidth limit, you should:

  • Use your website analytics (Google Analytics or Matomo) to determine the average number of monthly page views (not visitors – page views specifically)
  • Use Pingdom’s test tool (as explained above) to check the size of your most popular pages, then use that information to calculate your average page size.
  • Estimate your minimum monthly bandwidth requirements by multiplying your monthly page views by the average page size.
  • Add 30% to the figure above to be on the safe side and to account for potential traffic growth in the near future

Keep in mind that if you use a CDN (as I describe in section 6 of this article), your bandwidth usage will be significantly reduced.

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