Rural Housewife or Tech Entrepreneur? You Decide

The old Bandwidth is Like Water Explination

with 2 comments

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.


Rain Barrel by Bas van den Wijngaard

Written by Karlie

March 4th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

2 Responses to 'The old Bandwidth is Like Water Explination'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'The old Bandwidth is Like Water Explination'.

  1. The analogy to water doesn't quite work, because bits are insubstantial. They can never run out.

    The concept of limiting bandwidth is more an issue of supply and demand, like the value of diamonds. Diamonds are just worthless rocks, no more valuable than quartz. Through history, they were thrown away while looking for more valuable minerals. Then someone got the bright idea to create an artificial restriction in the availability, and the value went up.

    It's because bandwidth is restricted that it has value. There's no intrinsic value to bits per second or gigabytes per month. You can't buy a loaf of bread with a pocketful of bits. It's artificial value applied to an insubstantial resource.

    As the supply of bandwidth continually goes up, the value continually goes down. 15 years ago, connectivity at 50Kbps was fast and a gigabyte of transfer was huge. Within 15 years 1Gb/s connectivity and 250TB of transfer will be the norm. Across that 30 year span the price will continue to fall faster than the data rate increases.


    4 Mar 10 at 6:08 PM

  2. I think you missed the point, Mace.

    The analogy is to help the very new get a grip on what it is they're looking at when thinking about hosting packages.

    I know I didn't cover everything, but for those who have never put up a website or considered how web technologies work, the water in pipes and tanks helps clarify the concept.

    They usually know the information doesn't run dry if people keep asking for pages. But when it comes to comparing packages that list storage space and bandwidth limits, they need something to wrap their brain around.

    And again, it's not about the supply of bandwidth, but what caps the hosting package comes with. If you're not aware of what mb/sec or what a 5gb per month cap means, how can you possibly make a decision?

    There are still companies out there who set limits on storage space, speed and transfer. Knowing the concepts helps sort through the noise and make a better decision.

    Karlie Robinson

    5 Mar 10 at 9:04 AM

Leave a Reply