In January of 2011, the third full month after putting this site online, there were roughly 450,000 page views requiring 27GB of bandwidth (i.e., mostly data provided by the server to users). In April of 2011, there were also 450,000 page views, but only 14GB of bandwidth. That’s a dramatic difference: half the bandwidth for virtually the same amount of traffic! This wasn’t a goal of mine (my hosting plan allows for up to 1TB of bandwidth per month), but happens to be a great side benefit of three steps I took, primarily with the aim of improving the site’s performance (i.e., how quickly pages load for visitors). Here’s the full scoop…
In the Fall of 2010, I was finally able to purchase my name as a domain, allowing me to switch from using my company’s domain name (www.DMCInsights.com) to this domain for all my work stuff (the company is just me and no one cares about the company). In the process, I went from a custom site to using a WordPress-based one. The custom site primarily used PHP to handle the templates, but it also pulled some content, such as book errors, out of a database, and ran the newsletter system. Part of the justification for moving to WordPress was that I had previously (and finally) created a blog on a subdomain of my company’s site, and consequently the blog had the most frequent updates (by far). The “main” pages of my old site were not being updated with any frequency, making the site erroneously seem inactive, so the blog needed to be moved to the forefront. Another part of the justification was that by using WordPress, I would easily get a search engine for my entire site, something I had never gotten around to adding to the old site. In the process of switching, I also created a new template, based upon the Carrington Theme. The transition from the old site to this new one wasn’t perfect, but overall I think it went well enough. I’ve had to spend some time putting out little fires (there was an issue with redirects and I have to occasionally debug conflicts between the Flash widget and the navigation menus), but just by creating the new site, I was able to revisit and update all of the site’s content, which is something I should have done long ago.
If you run the numbers, in April I used 13GB less bandwidth than in January. Assuming that the incoming bandwidth is inconsequential, after deducting the 8GB served by Amazon’s Cloudfront, there’s still another 5GB of data that’s no longer being provided by my server. Much of that was by eliminating the amount of data to be downloaded (i.e., step one), but I suspect another key change, made in March, was the switch to new forum software. Again, the intent here was not to change the bandwidth, or really even to improve the performance, but rather upgrade an important and sorely outdated aspect of my site. The forum probably gets as much traffic as the main site and I strongly suspect that the new forum software is optimized more thoroughly than the open-source alternative I had previously been using.
As I said, I’m not even closing to hitting the bandwidth limitations on my hosting account, but less bandwidth used (for the same amount of traffic) is a good thing. Not only does it imply better performance for my site’s visitors, but it also means that it’ll be that much longer before I need to spend the extra money on bigger or more servers. But perhaps the more important lesson I learned is how useful it is to do thorough examinations of your Web sites, especially after the’ve been up for a while. A Web site is a dynamic thing that needs to be maintained and updated, not posted once and forgotten.