Bandwidth is one of the most discussed and ambiguous terms on the Internet. Check out this article to find out what exactly bandwidth refers to and what is the difference between bandwidth and traffic.
What is bandwidth?
The information found on the web can reach our computers or other Internet-enabled devices in two basic ways - when we open a website and browse through its pages or when we download files (MP3s, PDFs, flash files, etc.) for personal or office use. Whatever the case, the requested information has to go a long way before reaching our computers. Thanks to the advanced communication technologies in use today, when you open a website or download a file, the contained data is transferred at the speed of light from the data center it is located in to the ISP that ensures your Internet access and then to your computer.
However, in reality we do not always open the requested page or download the file we need as quickly as theoretically possible. This is explained by the technical possibility for Internet Service Providers to ensure different bandwidth quota to consumers. The bandwidth represents the 'width' of the wire that conducts information to your computer. The wider the route/path the transferred data passes through, the more packets of information (parts of the web page you want to view or the file you download) will be transmitted to the consumers' Internet enabled devices. So the bandwidth is generally responsible for the Internet connection speed. The bigger the bandwidth quota is, the higher the connection speed will be and hence the quicker it will be for you to view web pages or download stuff from the web.
How is bandwidth measured?
Since bandwidth generally refers to a capacity of a communication line i.e. the amount of information that can be transferred from one point to another, its measurement units are the same as those of disk space and monthly traffic - bits, bytes, kilobytes (Kbps), megabytes (Mbps) and gigabytes (Gbps). The standard bandwidth period is considered to be a second, so when we refer to a bandwidth quota we say such and such kilobytes per second.
Bandwidth and ISPs
As a medium between the global network and your computer, the ISP is connected to the Internet at a much higher speed than the speed you get as an Internet subscriber. Its main function is to rent portions of the expensive high-speed connection to you and thus ensure the Internet access that you need at an affordable price.
The various Internet access technologies currently offered have different bandwidth standards. For instance, the dial-up Internet provides a very narrow bandwidth limit of about 50 Kbps per second, while the broadband connection ensured by the DSL or the LAN Internet allows data transfer at a much higher speed, ranging from 128 Kbps to 2,000 Kbps. So this means you can browse through the web and download stuff must faster if you have broadband Internet connection at home or in the office than if you use dial-up.
Bandwidth and web hosting
The bandwidth is also a factor you should consider when selecting your web hosting provider. If you intend to run your own website, you will need to search for a host that provides the best combination of resources for keeping your site online. While most of the features included in a hosting offer represent server resources, the bandwidth refers to the Internet connection between the servers in the data center where you site is hosted and the data center's ISP.
Difference between bandwidth and traffic
In the field of web hosting, the term 'bandwidth' is often incorrectly considered as a synonym of 'data transfer'. Web hosting providers often use it designate the maximum amount of data transferred between a website and a user's computer over a certain period of time, most often a month. However, from a technical point of view, considering the fact that the bandwidth refers to the speed at which data is transferred, not the data amount itself, this use is not appropriate and the correct term to apply should be data transfer (or monthly traffic, etc.)