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What is Bandwidth? Bandwidth vs. Transfer Explained

This article was contributed by Dustin B. Cisneros of RackNerd. If you are looking for a VPS or web hosting service – be sure to check out RackNerd!

For those who are new to the LowEndBox website community – welcome! LowEndBox is a website that was founded with the mission to help people find cheap hosting services, in addition to tutorials, news, and more related to the hosting industry.

While this is a topic that most members of the community may already be greatly familiar with – for our newer users, or those who are just starting to venture into the hosting/VPS scene, you may be asking yourself, what is bandwidth? This term is typically listed after the storage space when you’re looking at potential hosting plans, but what does bandwidth really mean?

Simply put:

Bandwidth is the amount of data a server can deliver to its users simultaneously. The TRANSFER limit (amount of bandwidth you can use), for most hosting providers, is usually reset on a monthly basis.

To provide you with an illustration with a real-world example – picture a highly congested freeway that has more cars than it has road space (freeway lanes) available. This results in a saturated freeway (and as such, causing slow-downs and delays for people to reach their destination). The same thing goes in the world of web hosting servers — if your server only has a 100Mbps bandwidth port for example, but your website/applications demand more bandwidth/speeds than that at a given time, you may face slow-downs on your server/website at times whenever the bandwidth is being maxed out. To help combat this potential issue, choose a web hosting provider who provides a healthy amount of bandwidth port speed (such as 1Gbps and higher).

Transfer vs. Bandwidth

These two terms are very related. Sometimes, to simplify things for end-users from a marketing perspective, some hosting providers will even use the bandwidth to describe transfer. For example, 2000 GB Bandwidth – so don’t get confused!

The proper definition of “bandwidth” is the port speed (internet speed of the server), whereas the proper definition of “transfer” is the amount of data you are able to push in a given period (usually, the meter is reset every month).

The transfer amount is usually described by gigabytes, or by terabytes (1TB = ~1000GB for example). 

When purchasing a VPS service, always be sure to check for the bandwidth and transfer amount. For example, is the host providing you with 100Mbps bandwidth port or a 1000Mbps bandwidth port? In 2020 (the time this article is being written), 1Gbps is pretty common and industry standard, so this should be something that you seek for in a VPS server if you are looking for consistent network performance.

How much transfer do I need?

If you are running a Plex media server on your VPS for example and you are streaming a lot of content, you may need a VPS with a high transfer limit.

Whereas if you’re just hosting a few simple websites, or if you are just looking for a server to serve as a development sandbox, a server plan with a lower amount of bandwidth allotment would be perfectly suitable for your needs.

At the end of the day, it all depends on what you are looking to do with your server and the type of content that is going to be served from your server. If in doubt, inquire with your provider as to how much they would charge for additional transfer down the road, should you ever need to upgrade.

How much bandwidth and transfer do you deploy your servers with? Need help determining how much bandwidth/transfer you need? Leave your questions, thoughts, comments or feedback in the comments section below!

I'm Jon Biloh and I own LowEndBox and LowEndTalk. I've spent my nearly 20 year career in IT building companies and now I'm excited to focus on building and enhancing the community at LowEndBox and LowEndTalk.

3 Comments

  1. Thanks Dustin for the submission!

    June 29, 2020 @ 9:33 am | Reply
    • Hi Jon, thanks for sharing the article!

      If anyone has questions – please be sure to ask, here to help any way I can.

      June 29, 2020 @ 3:12 pm | Reply
  2. To the readers looking for a KVM VPS with a decent amount of transfer, along with an awesome price, be sure to check out this deal https://my.racknerd.com/cart.php?a=add&pid=57

    June 29, 2020 @ 3:14 pm | Reply

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