Bandwidth

If you run your online store through the Volusion platform, your hosting plan includes an allotted amount of data transfer, typically ranging from between 1 GB to 35 GB per month. Since an excessive use of data can result in bandwidth overages on your monthly statement, it’s a good idea to optimize various aspects of your site. A side note here - having a lot of bandwidth is a good problem to have! By following the tips below, you can maximize your data transfer usage and protect yourself from unnecessary fees.

Bandwidth Basics

What’s the difference between “Data Transfer” and “Bandwidth”? While it’s become the norm to use these terms interchangeably, it’s important to understand the difference. Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be transferred at one time, whereas Data Transfer is the actual amount of data being transferred.

Imagine bandwidth as a highway: the more lanes a highway has, the more cars can drive on it at once. In this scenario, the cars on the highway represent data being transferred in a given time period. The more bandwidth you have, the more data can be transferred without a traffic jam or a wreck (extra fees!). In this guide, we’ll be covering ways to limit the amount of data transfer used each month, so that your “cars” (data) don’t run out of room on the bandwidth “highway”.

Optimizing Images

Keeping your images appropriately sized will do wonders in terms of limiting data transfer. In this case, “image size” refers to the actual size of the image file, not the pixel dimensions of the image. Many standard image creation programs, such as Microsoft Paint, default to a .PNG file format when saving. This file type is excellent for very large, high resolution images and work well for photographers showcasing their work – but it isn’t necessary for most images on your storefront. If you’re simply uploading product photos or homepage slideshow images, converting your images to the .JPG file format can significantly reduce the file size.

If your homepage has a slideshow, it’s important to note that image size is just one piece of the data transfer pie. Whenever a visitor lands on your homepage, every single slideshow image is loaded – regardless of whether the visitor only got a chance to view one of the slide images before navigating away. For this reason, it’s a good idea to reduce the number of slides you use in your slideshow. The majority of shoppers don’t stay on a site’s homepage long enough to see all the images in a slideshow. Most visitors only stick around for a maximum of three to five images before losing interest. If you limit your number of slides to this range, you’ll still have the opportunity to showcase a seasonal sale, new products, and a specific category without unnecessarily using up your data transfer usage.

If the images on your homepage aren’t contained within a slideshow – for example, if they’re coded to appear in Article 2 or as part of your template – you can also reduce data transfer by hosting these images off-site. This method requires a basic knowledge of HTML, but the process is simple.

First, you’ll need to save the images to your computer, if they aren’t already. Next, decide where you want to host your images online. There are tons of free image hosting websites out there, such as imgur.com, postimage.org, and tinypic.com, to name just a few. Once you upload your images to one of these off-site hosts, you can adjust each image’s HTML reference to change where the image is called from. If your images are hosted locally, on your Volusion site, the HTML looks similar to this:

<img src=”/v/vspfiles/images/mainpromo.jpg”>

Adjust the code so that it looks like the example below, using the URL for the photo you uploaded offsite:

<img src=”www.imgur.com/mainpromo.jpg”>

Now, any time the homepage loads, the externally hosted images will transfer data from the off-site source to display it – not your store’s server. If you need any assistance locating the HTML code for certain images, our Technical Support team is happy to help.

Moderating API Usage

If you have a Pro, Premium, Gold or Platinum hosting plan, there’s a good chance that you use the Volusion API for various tasks and integrations. If used in excess, however, the API can contribute to more data transfer than is necessary. If you utilize a third-party service that connects to your store’s API, it’s a good idea to make sure this service isn’t calling the API too often.

Typically, third-party services will only request or push data through the API once a day, but you may occasionally see a particular integration ping the API continuously throughout the day. Anytime the API runs, it’s either exporting or importing a large amount of data to or from your store, which in turn uses data transfer. If you ever notice this happening, reach out to your third-party service and ask if it’s possible to limit the number of connections per day. Some integrations allow you to modify settings for this specific purpose, and doing so can significantly reduce the amount of data transfer being used by the API.

Dashboard

If you commonly expose a large number of columns in your store’s tables, you may be exposing your store to excessive data transfer usage. One great way to reduce data transfer is to ensure that any editable table fields are closed if you’re not currently using them. For example, if you expose the Settings menu on the Inventory > Products page of your Admin Area, you’ll see the option to customize the columns that display each time the page loads. From there, you can hover over each column to make it editable from the table list view, rather than having to click into a product to edit the value. Your editable columns might look something like this: Product table

The above example shows the following fields as editable: Product Name, Product Price, Sale Price, Categories, Taxable Product, Stock Status and Availability. While making fields editable is a great way to adjust multiple settings at once, it can result in additional data transfer each time the page loads. If you enable editing for these fields as a temporary measure, it’s a good practice to hover over each column name and click Disable Editing when you’re done.

You’ll want to get into this habit for any page that shows a list of items in a table format, including the Products, Categories, Options and Orders pages. We also recommend adjusting each table’s page results to show no more than 25 entries at a time, unless you need to view more entries at once for a short period of time. You can make this change in the Settings menu at the top of each table view page.

Tracking Store Data with SmarterStats and Google Analytics

Be sure to familiarize yourself with SmarterStats, a free analytics program that all Volusion store owners can use to view their store’s daily traffic and data transfer usage. Merchants who also use Google Analytics may notice that Google’s data for your store can vary from SmarterStats data. This is because there are two ways to track activity on your site: raw log analysis (used by SmarterStats) and script-based analysis (used by Google Analytics). Google collects store data using a piece of JavaScript that lives in your site’s template file, whereas SmarterStats has access to gather information directly from the server your store is hosted on.

When comparing data between these two programs, keep in mind that Google Analytics can’t see traffic from store administrators, or from any customers who use “no script” or Ad-block software. Therefore, the tools shouldn’t be viewed as conflicting, but should instead be used in conjunction with each other.

For further information, see our blog post on SmarterStats vs. Google Analytics. And if you ever need assistance interpreting the data shown in SmarterStats, just let our Support team know!

Too Much Traffic?

If you’ve tried all of the above and aren’t seeing a change in your bandwidth usage, it may be that your site is receiving more traffic than your hosting plan can support. Fortunately, you can upgrade your hosting plan at any time. We also understand that your store might receive more traffic during specific seasons, such as the winter holidays; you’re more than welcome to upgrade your monthly hosting plan for a few months, then downgrade at a later date. To upgrade your hosting plan, log in to your MyVolusion account. Visit the Plans/Orders section, then click Upgrade My Plan. If you ever need to return to a hosting plan with less bandwidth again, just contact Support and let us know.

From image optimization to API management, there are plenty of ways to make the best use of your data transfer allocation. Be proactive whenever you can! Remember - bandwidth usage effects site load times, and search engines give higher rankings to sites that load faster than those that don't.

If you find yourself nearing your monthly limit, or you aren’t sure where your bandwidth overages are coming from, feel free to reach out to us. We’re happy to help break things down and recommend the best steps for managing your store.