Popularity comes with its perks. Remember high school? 👨‍🎓 Well, now that you’re a grownup store owner, popularity is still pretty great … except when all of the customers 👩👴👧👦 flocking to your site use up all of your precious bandwidth. 

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What is bandwidth?

Bandwidth is used any time someone or something visits a website - a customer, a search engine, a security scanning service, or anything else that can access a website.

Example

Let's say your store has been open for a month and averages five unique visits per day. Your storefront contains many detailed product images and graphic elements.

Every time a customer visits your store, their web browser downloads any product photo or image contained on the page they're viewing. This transfer of information uses bandwidth. The larger these image files are, the more bandwidth they consume when they're downloaded. If your store is fairly new and you don't have many visitors yet, you probably won't consume much bandwidth.

Six months later, after a successful advertising campaign, your site is doing a great deal of business - you have more than 2,000 customers and are averaging 500 unique hits per day.

Since your daily number of unique visitors has increased 100-fold within the past 6 months, the amount of bandwidth being used by customers is that much greater.

How does this apply to Volusion's Ecommerce Services?

As a Volusion merchant, you're allotted a certain amount of bandwidth for your store each 30-day billing cycle. Exceeding your bandwidth limit will result in additional usage fees. You can review your account usage information - including bandwidth overage charges - in my.volusion.com.

There are several ways you can maximize your bandwidth and control monthly usage.

Managing Image Sizes

When creating product images or other graphic elements, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Choosing the Right File Type

Saving images in the right format is important. Use image file types that allow file size compression to keep image sizes minimal without sacrificing quality. Common file types that support compression are .jpg and .gif.

Avoid using image file types such as .bmp or .tif as they tend to be very large in size.

Choose the Right File Size

Saving images in the right format is important. To keep image sizes minimal without sacrificing quality, use image file types that support file size compression, like .jpgs and .gifs. Avoid using image file types such as .bmp or .tif, as they tend to be very large.

Choosing the Right File Size

You want to have images that are clear and easy on the eyes but, for bandwidth’s sake, don’t make them too big. For example, a product image on the Featured Products page at 640x480 px resolution is too large, and will use up too much bandwidth.

Most image-editing software allows you to choose the quality:compression ratio when you save an image in formats such as .jpg. You don’t need to use the highest setting for images that will be viewed on the web. For example, in Adobe Photoshop, try a quality setting of 8 instead of 12.

Having too many high-resolution images on a web page will use bandwidth and cause the page to take longer to load, which can be frustrating for customers. 

♨️ HOT TIP: If you need to have a lot of images on one page, thumbnails can help. Thumbnails are small, lower-resolution versions of a larger image. They act as place holders or previews of images that visitors can click on if they want to view the image at full size. Their small size allows for quick downloads and minimal usage of bandwidth.

Your store will automatically generate thumbnails for your product images when you load the image into the Product table in your Admin Area. Or, if you have a huge number of products that you need thumbnails for, you can use the Volusion Product Image Generator.

Managing PDFs and Other Hosted Files

Adobe's PDF file type is very useful as a means of providing comprehensive data to store visitors in one easily downloadable file (e.g. size charts or charts with conversion rates for international customers). These files can be quite large and will use bandwidth any time they're downloaded from your store.

♨️ HOT TIP: Instead, you might opt to host the file from a free, third-party service. You can even link those files to web pages or other web-based services. This way, any bandwidth the file uses won’t draw from your monthly allotment. 

Flash Animations and Videos

Flash animation can make your storefront more interesting and appealing, but it can also use a great deal of bandwidth.

♨️ HOT TIP: Take advantage of free video  🎥  hosting services like YouTube or Google Video, and then embed the video into your storefront. Requests for the video itself will go through Volusion, but the bandwidth being used in this case will be provided by the third-party host.

Admin Area Management

Using your Admin Area as efficiently as possible will also help you conserve bandwidth. There are some things to keep in mind as you use your Admin Area to manage your store:

  • Product export functions can use considerable amounts of bandwidth if you export frequently and if the files exported from Volusion are large (e.g. the entire contents of the Products table containing 50,000 products could be several megabytes in size).
  • Exporting large amounts of data from your store using the Volusion API can also have a significant affect on bandwidth usage - again if this is done frequently and with large sets of data.
  • Displaying large amounts of data within the Admin Area's various table view pages can also use a significant amount of bandwidth, depending on the number of administrators accessing it and the number of products hosted within the site. Enabling a large number of product attribute columns to be editable (enabling the yellow, pencil icon at the top of each column) will consume even more bandwidth as all of these functions are resource-intensive.
  • Set table view pages to display a smaller number of elements at a time (e.g. 100 or 250) as well as only displaying the table elements that are absolutely necessary for site administrators to view (product name, product price, etc.). This will decrease overall load times for portions of the Admin Area.
  • If you need to edit data within the table view page for any database table, only enable columns that need to be edited. This will decrease overall load times for portions of the Admin Area. Note that any column within the table view that is marked as editable will request the Volusion system to check every element in the column for any changes made - even if that column wasn't edited at all.

Social Networking and Web 2.0 Services

Social Networking can be a great marketing tool, so it's important to leverage those resources efficiently and make them work for you - not against you.

Linking product information and images from a social networking site like Facebook means that every visitor to your Facebook page will be downloading those images and thus, using your store's bandwidth.

♨️ HOT TIP: Instead of creating links to products in your store, a better alternative is to copy these product images and host them directly on your Facebook page or through a free third-party service. You can also use the Volusion API to generate an export to integrate with a social networking site using that site’s API. This will allow you to host product info and images on your social networking page without sacrificing bandwidth. For more information, please view our API documentation.

What Else You Should Know

If you're concerned about your store's bandwidth usage, you can track and review all of your store's activity - including information of most viewed pages, most frequently downloaded files, and more - within the SmarterStats portion of your account at my.volusion.com. The Smarter Stats page is updated in real-time and contains information regarding web server activity in relation to your store.

To learn how to use SmarterStats to create reports regarding your store's bandwidth usage, see "How to Use SmarterStats".

Summary

While it’s great that your store is drawing more attention and traffic, it comes at the cost of using up your bandwidth. Luckily, there are a number of steps you can take to minimize your store’s bandwidth usage.

If you’ve already taken some of these steps and notice that you’re still blowing through your allotted bandwidth because of increased site visits, click-throughs and sales, it may be time to upgrade your account at my.volusion.com.

For more information on store plans, please visit our website or contact our sales department at sales@volusion.com or call 1-800-646-3517.

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