the dark side of traffic

For someone with a web site, traffic is a double-edged sword. At first, you like to increase your traffic and are ecstatic when people visit your site. You write a witty essay or create a funny movie and visitors begin to come. It makes you feel like you’ve been able to give something back to the internet and you are happy. But they keep coming. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people visit the site to admire your handiwork and you get emails from people saying how much they liked what you did. It’s roses and sunshine until you get the bill from your webhosting service. Like throwing a party and having the cops come, you’re all alone when you have to explain how your neighbor’s car ended up in your swimming pool. Webmasters who suddenly become popular often turn into pan handlers to help pay the bills.

The traffic is usually transient, because a new meme will soon rise to the top of the charts and the cycle will begin again. By the time you realize you have exceeded your bandwidth allowance, the traffic burst has passed and the damage is done and unless you normally get a lot of traffic, a donation button is not likely to cover the costs.

So, before you put up that hilarious 15MB movie, you might want to consider the potential consequences. To avoid the bill, you can put the file on a free server, like tripod or geocities, where you don’t have to pay for the bandwidth. You can also check with your web host to see what they do if you go over the limit and act accordingly.

Most people like to get traffic to their site, but too much of a good thing can leave you in the poor house.


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  1. Are you speaking from experience? (other than the thieves using your pics)

    Comment by Renee on April 10, 2003 @ 8:57 am
  2. Nope. My web hosting service doesn’t have a limit on bandwidth, for which I’m grateful. A year or so ago was mentioned on CNN, resulting in 20,000 visitors. This site recently got 10,000 visitors to the javascript guessing game from a college humor site. I’ve reduced bandwidth usage by removing images, but that’s because I want the page to load quickly, not because I have to pay extra for it.

    The reason for the post is that I’ve seen sites become popular and then ask for help when they see the bill. It can be an unpleasant experience that most would rather avoid. Here are a few I’ve seen. (she removed the archive)
    Glenn Fleishman (more)

    Comment by dan on April 10, 2003 @ 10:18 am
  3. I have a bandwidth limit on and out of curiosity I sent off an email to the admin to ask how they handle bandwidth problems such as this. He told me that they charge $3.xx per GB over your limit. They also offer throttling to prevent it. To activate throttling after the fact would be “day late and many dollars short”, but I would like to think that I could catch the issue before it got out of control.

    Comment by jason on April 10, 2003 @ 11:01 am
  4. If you get mentioned on slashdot with a sizeable media file on your site, you’re screwed. I don’t think there’s any way to catch that issue before it kills you. :)

    Comment by Levi on April 10, 2003 @ 11:49 am
  5. You must have a very kind webhosting service. Or maybe no one’s had something on there site that gave them pause to reconsider.

    I visited after a friend linked to it. After browsing around, I never had an interest in returning. But I have to say the legions of commentors were amusing. I haven’t witnessed that much gushing and worshipping by admirers since Limbaugh was in his prime during the Clinton years. Can you say mega-dittos?

    But back to the topic at hand, I use the free blogger service on blogspot. I suppose on the free services, they just block access if you reach the limit. And I’m only marginally witty so I doubt I’ll ever generate much traffic. LOL :)

    Comment by Renee on April 10, 2003 @ 12:11 pm
  6. It’s not really out of kindness, it’s because in most cases of longterm high-bandwidth use, the material is either illegal or contains adult content, and your account gets disabled. Also, they have tens of thousands of customers (maybe even more), so a spike in a traffic on one site won’t affect the overall network usage.

    I used to work there myself and when I changed jobs, I was willing to pay to keep the server, partly because I have friends that still work there, but also because there’s no bandwidth cap. I resell space on the server to help defray costs, because it’s not cheap.

    Comment by dan on April 10, 2003 @ 1:25 pm
  7. Oh and I agree with you on the comments that lavish praise and worship on Heather. If you want to see some more, take a look at who has at times told them to quit it, but they keep coming back.

    Comment by dan on April 10, 2003 @ 1:34 pm
  8. Great, so if I decide to pay for a website someday you can host? :^D Will you install moveable type for me?

    Comment by Renee on April 10, 2003 @ 2:32 pm
  9. Sure. I already installed it for Levi and keep it up-to-date when I update mine. In fact, I even configured AWStats. The main limitation I impose is disk space, because that’s the limited resource.

    Comment by dan on April 10, 2003 @ 2:57 pm

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