Bandwidth Throttling

In our 3/13/2006 podcast, we answered a listener’s question about bandwidth throttling. This is an issue that is pervasive throughout the hosting industry. This in-depth look should explain how throttling is used and why hosting companies utilize this technology.

When you sign a hosting agreement, you will typically expect to receive a set amount of bandwidth per month. For this example, we will use 60 gigs per month. However, before you purchase your plan, you need to take a look at the hosting company’s terms of use agreement, or their user policies. These documents will give you a better idea of how the hosting company operates when it comes to bandwidth.

Here is an example of a terms of use agreement that includes a provision on bandwidth throttling. Please keep in mind that each hosting company may have different policies, or they may word their provisions differently. This is meant only as an example.

[i]Any account using 15% or more of the server CPU or memory can be suspended and/or terminated. Any account that uses excessive amounts of bandwidth can and will be subjected to bandwidth throttling. [/i]

As you can see, this company comes right out and admits that they do use a throttling process. However, this process affects more than just your site’s bandwidth allotment. This particular hosting company also uses a resource throttle to ensure that the other sites on the shared servers will not have any issues if your site begins to use too many resources at one time.

In plain English, this basically means that if your site sees a sudden spike in data transfer amounts, or even if you have a mailing list program with a large amount of recipients, your site will be disabled to ensure that other sites don’t have a reduction in their service. Even if you are allowed 60 gigs of data transfer a month, this type of agreement may result in your site being disabled if you have one day where you use a large or medium sized portion of this allotment.

Throttles are basically limits that are programmed into a shared or even a dedicated server. When one site reaches this set limit, it is disabled. The process for throttling is automatic and does not require any additional assistance from your hosting company.

Now that you understand how throttling works, let’s get into why hosting companies use this method to control their resources. Many people mistakenly believe that bandwidth is a nebulous thing that really doesn’t have any limits. However, each hosting company’s data center can only serve as much bandwidth as they are capable of. If they go over their limits, they can run into problems with their carriers. This is why even dedicated hosting plans may have bandwidth throttles. On the other side of the equation, when hosting companies cram hundreds of sites onto one server, the need to ensure that system resources are evenly distributed becomes paramount.

In a shared environment, the hosting company is speculating that 99.9% of the sites on that server will never see enough traffic or use enough resources to make a real dent. However, when your site happens to fall into that .1%, you can begin to have problems. When one site is taking the resources that are meant for hundreds of other sites, the hosting company runs into problems with downtime, customer complaints and an overall slowdown of the server.

As a side note, many hosting companies use excessive throttling to pick out sites that they can target for upgrades. For example, your site may be disabled if you use too many resources, but the hosting company will offer you the ability to immediately upgrade your hosting plan and they will restore it. You are literally over a barrel at this point, and most customers will gladly pay the extra fee to ensure that their site comes back up. If you question your hosting company’s motives, or if your own site data doesn’t back up their claims, you would be well served to find a different hosting company.

Related Posts:
03/13/2006 Web Hosting Information Podcast
The Truth About Unlimited Bandwidth Offers
Understanding Hosting Terms of Service: Part Three

Posted on 03/13/06 1:55 AM

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