Avoid the ‘Bandwidth tax’

Bandwidth is a crucial resource for anyone running a website. A growing online business, or any storefront who needs a web presence, will at one point hit a bandwidth limit on their dedicated server, which can slow down their website or become a heavy tax on your budget.

These tips will help you reduce unexpected bandwidth costs associated with your website and dedicated server.

External Rich Media Storage

Unless your website is a mess of text and code, images and video will be the largest mass of data coming through your bandwidth ports. Even fairly light websites will see this happening. In an ideal environment, no rich media should be served from the server at all, and should be delivered through outsourced media distribution services, or on a dedicated media server.

By utilizing external file delivery for your rich media, you reduce the burden on your server’s bandwidth and push the weight onto external servers. If you can avoid upgrading your bandwidth limit to accommodate large media files, you will obviously benefit financially. Your website should loading faster is also a big plus.

Some options to consider when deciding on an external delivery service may include the following:

  • Third Party Image Hosting Service: If you have a simplified website, a third party image service could be enough to reduce your bandwidth usage. Providers such as Flickr and Photobucket provide this service for free, and are a good resource until you outgrow the need for small provisions. As you grow, you can consider more robust solutions such as a dedicated server or CDN (Content Delivery Network).
  • Third Party Video Streaming Service: Hosting videos on the same server as your website can drain your bandwidth relatively fast, and you may want to consider offloading your media onto a third party service. You can take advantage of free providers such as Youtube or Vimeo until you feel a dedicated server would be more suitable for your needs.
  • Dedicated Server: When you’ve outgrown the need for a third party delivery service, or if your deployment is too complex to rely on a simple solution, you’ll want to consider a robust integrated system or one that can be suited for integration long term.

Image & HTTP Compression

Compression is a tactic used by many websites to conserve bandwidth and increase delivery speeds throughout their networks. This also reduces the size of your website(s), which also benefits other aspects of your server such as reduced backup space and disk usage. Though at the expense of more CPU, reduction of your file delivery sizes will reduce your bandwidth use overall and give your visitors a faster browsing experience.

If you’re using cPanel, compression can be easily configured through your account. Just go to Optimize Website within cPanel and enable the file types you wish to compress for the specific website. cPanel will do the rest for you. WHM has many other built in tools to further enhance this type of feature, and a fully managed dedicated server optimized by our level 3 techs will help you get on track for reducing bandwidth usage.

For image compression, the script your website utilizes is probably already doing this for you, but this could vary depending on your environment. Some scripts can’t work without certain PHP modules. Read through your script’s documentation and make sure your server meets the requirements for image compression. When your website doesn’t compress images, you can counteract this disadvantage by pre-compressing your images through third party compressors, or by doing so yourself with file compression software.

Make sure as to not compress the file too much as you will reduce overall quality. Most images can be reduced in size by about 80% depending on the format.

You should always use HTTP compression. If you’re not sure your files are being compressed, your browser contains many tools that will help you debug this issue.

JavaScript & CSS Tips

When you’ve exhausted all your options for image optimization and offloading video streaming, you can further reduce your bandwidth usage by adopting good standards with your JavaScript and CSS. Such optimizations won’t make much of a difference early in your deployment, but you’ll see a difference when you’re serving a website with 10,000 visitors daily! These tips can push an additional 1,000 visitors through your network without having to worry about over utilizing your bandwidth.

Combine your CSS into one global style.css file, and reduce comments and white space. Why is this valuable? Each character and white space amounts to less than a few bytes of data, but if you have dozens of CSS pages loaded up on every page refresh, you’ll easily save a few kilobytes of data transfer when a visitor hits your page. That data adds up over time, and if you combine all your CSS files into one page, you’ll reduce the amount of requests generated on a page load which will result in a faster browsing experience.

As mentioned above, the same can be applied to JavaScript files. Try to reduce white space and comments in every JavaScript file you serve. There are drawbacks however if not properly utilized. For example, you don’t want to call “search.js” on every single page that doesn’t have a search feature. That would counter the purpose of combining your JavaScript files. Use good judgement and have specific files called only when needed on the pages that require these files.

Simple solution: An external server

Not sure how to perform the tips above or don’t have the time? Offload the files on a remote server.

Common JavaScript files developed by a third party are probably already hosted in another location. Google typically hosts these types of files, and many companies currently take advantage of Google’s network. The same can be said for .CSS files, but these types of files only pertain to your website, so consider offloading these to an external server. Since you usually write these files yourself, third parties won’t have them hosted.

Consider the best of both worlds and combine your CSS and JavaScript, and offload them on an external server anyway to speed up delivery and reduce bandwidth usage. Both combined will reduce bandwidth usage onsite as well as offsite servers.

The Power of Syndication

Possibly one of the best tools for bandwidth reduction: RSS feeds. Your script may have this built in, or you can rely on third parties to deliver this content.

What is an RSS feed? In layman’s terms, it’s a method in which content is delivered in plain text to your visitors. This technology is free, and many providers will be happy to syndicate your content in exchange for displaying advertisements nearby. You can use a third party to syndicate your content, or deliver it yourself if your script/website is capable of producing RSS feeds. Popular scripts such as WordPress and Drupal have this built in, and usually come with it enabled by default.

Syndicating content yourself will allow your visitors to view your news and articles without having to visit your website. You can have an excerpt sent to them, or the entire article. Depending on your situation, you can customize it to suit your needs. If your objective is to just get the content to your viewers, then they may not need to visit your website. If you want them to visit your website, you could have small excerpts sent to your visitors, and they’ll visit the pages that interest them the most rather than browsing through your website and draining your bandwidth.

If your website is not capable of syndication, a third party RSS provider may be of interest. You can provide the articles to them with a link to your website, and visitors will visit the pages if they find your content interesting. In addition to having a syndication provider, you’ll reduce the RSS subscription bandwidth usage when they subscribe to the third party’s RSS feed. They’ll be updated whenever you update your feed, and this will reduce your bandwidth in the long term since they’ll only have to visit your website when you provide an update.

Cleanup & Final Touches

The tips above will reduce your bandwidth usage by 80% in most environments, and could result in many additional benefits such as faster browsing speeds for your visitors, and fewer page requests considerably reducing the load on your server. Beyond that, there’re a few additional bandwidth saving tips you should follow after you’ve optimized your environment for bandwidth conservation.

  • Fix all missing images as that would increase the load times of your website, and on some JavaScript based pages actually increase bandwidth usage.
  • Make sure your server is running some form of compression software such as gzip for file delivery.
  • If your script has caching, enable it which will drastically reduce server resource use, as well as bandwidth usage.

Bandwidth Usage Conservation In a Nutshell

  • Consider a dedicated rich media server or third party media delivery service.
  • Enable HTTP and image compression on your server.
  • Combine and compress your JavaScript and CSS files.
  • Syndicate content when the situation is advantageous.
  • Find and replace any missing images.
  • Enable page caching if your script allows.

With these changes, you should enjoy faster delivery speeds and your ultimate goal of reduction in bandwidth use.

If you need help applying these tips, we offer dedicated server management with trained support techs who can get you setup right away.