I had a phone message come in from the SCORE office on Tuesday from a small business owner who has questions about expanding her business onto the internet.
While it may have sounded better to say that she “had” questions, I know that no matter how good I get with explaining the guts of eCommerce websites, there’s always more to know and thus, more questions to be asked.
One topic I always need to cover is the basics of hosting – specifically storage and bandwidth since those two factors effect the cost more than just about anything. The idea is to get the right package. One where you’re not paying for more than what you need or getting hit with overages every month – or worse, getting a limited number of visitors to the site. (better to get a big bill than have your reputation tarnished by poor site performance)
I’ve found that the easiest way to explain storage and bandwidth is to think about the data as if it were water. Most people can quantify and understand this analogy even if they’re not plumbing experts.
So in this analogy bandwidth is the pipes or hoses and storage is the tank.
To determine how much storage one would need for a website, we need to think about the content the site will be providing so that we can get a general idea of what we’ll be dealing with.
A full page of HTML coded text – without any images or fancy script functions (like Java Mouse over effects) would be a drop.
Add some graphical layout elements like small images to soften the corners of tables or a tiled background image you’ll bring your data up to 1/4 teaspoon.
A large header image adds another 1/4 teaspoon to the size of the page.
Of course you can rack up the file sizes pretty quickly with high resolution graphics (1 cup) and even need more space with HD Video (1 liter per minute)
So depending on what content you are thinking about I would hope you can begin wrapping your head around the data storage needs. At least in a Small, Medium, Large, sort of way.
Next we need to think about bandwidth allotments so that your visitors can view your content. While we commonly say that someone is visiting a website, the truth is, the content is being sent to their machine. So each time someone requests information the tap is running.
Bandwidth is measured by each byte of data that comes and goes and how many of them can move per second. Just as you can measure how much water your family uses, you can also measure the bytes coming in with requests and bytes going out with content.
When your hosting agreement comes with a transfer cap, think of it as being limited to a certain number of liters/gallons. So while this doesn’t provide a definitive number, it does help if you keep in mind a small number of people requesting a large file will have the same effect on your bandwidth cap as a large number of people requesting small files.
The bytes per second number will be a factor in how fast the data can be sent from your server. Will your users be trying to get a gallon of information through a drinking straw? Hopefully not.
Now I’m sure you’ll have more questions. If so, leave them in the comments below.