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What Is Bandwidth?

Bandwidth is the rate at which data travels across a network. For example, your hosted website gets transmitted from your hosting provider’s server to the computer of a visitor over the Internet. The number of visitors your website can simultaneously support depends on the available bandwidth.

Obviously, you want to have access to as much bandwidth as possible to ensure everyone who wants to visit your website is able to do so quickly and efficiently.  Because most websites do not have cruishing, continuous traffic a single server is typically capable of supporting more than one website at the same time – sometimes a LOT more.

In shared hosting situations, tens of thousands of websites can be stored on a single server connection. This is why websites hosted on the servers of larger shared hosting providers (like GoDaddy) tend to serve web pages slightly (but significantly) slower than dedicated or cloud hosting platforms. Under certain circumstances, any hosting solution can reach a point where the demand for web pages exceeds the available bandwidth.

For example, when a hot news story breaks from a blogger hosting an independent news blog gets picked up by a large news aggregator like the Drudge Report, the amount of unexpected traffic can be so overwhelming that the server can’t respond fast enough and delivers time-out errors.

This is also the basic mechanism of a Distributed Denial of Service Attack (DDoS). During a DDoS attack, the attacker uses compromised computers around the world to send an overwhelming amount of fake page requests to a server. The server is so busy trying to send pages to the fake visitors that it is unable to serve its legitimate visitors. This effectively takes the website offline until the attack concludes or the hosting provider introduces mechanisms to mitigate the attack at an additional cost.