Wasting Bandwidth?

Category: Networking , Quickies , Weather


A friend asked about downloading a file from a website and going to bed while the file downloads. If the download finishes and I'm still on that site without actively doing anything for hours, does this waste that site's bandwidth or ability to handle more users?


The lingo is confusing... but when you surf the Internet, you never really go anywhere. And you're never really "on" a website.

Here's an example to clarify. When you tell your browser to "visit" Yahoo, it sends a request to the Yahoo.com web server, which returns a copy of the Yahoo home page to your browser. Your browser then renders the page on your screen (making additional requests for any embedded images), and waits for you to click a link on that page, or type in some other web address.

So you're only using a website's bandwidth while your browser is downloading a web page or image from that site. Even if you access a website that requires you to login, you're still not really "there". The illusion of a persistent connection to a website is accomplished by smoke, mirrors and software. Further, a website can't tell when you "leave", only that you requested a certain page (or sequence of pages) and then nothing further.

The situation you mentioned where you are downloading a large file from a site is no different, except for the extra time required to complete the file transfer. When the download is complete, your connection to that site is severed, and you needn't worry about using any bandwidth or other resources.

This article was posted by on 26 Sep 2006

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Most recent comments on "Wasting Bandwidth?"

Posted by:

26 Sep 2006

This is the question I asked myself over and over again when I first started surfing. I turned into a real nut with myself sometimes with my clicking and pestering my server for more files. I took up page rendering in javascript and image placement production in scrapbook and e-mail. Once I got signed up with some e-mail subscriber places did I actually realize the on's and off's of the internet. Now, I just glitch it for the box since there is just so much stuff in there. My service provider person says once, "It might be dying". And after that I just follow the manuals. I'm a really good manual follower. If it's going to cost me money.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You just keepright on glitchin' it for the box, and read those manuals! :-)

Posted by:

28 Sep 2006

One other little detail (or 2) on this subject - Some ISP's "cache" popular web pages on their local servers. In other words, they save a copy of the most commonly requested pages and give you the copy instead. This reduces their bandwidth costs and serves the pages to clients faster, so its usually a win-win. Your browser itself also keeps a rather generous (if you let it) "cache" or copy of recent stuff on your computer - your surfing history.

However, if you are trying to use a web service where the information is continually updated, this technique can get you an old, out of date page. There's settings in your browser that can try to bypass and avoid this (in IE under Tools, Internet Options, Settings button.).

This is also the local cache you clear if theres a problem or you are using a public or shared computer for things like banking. Sometimes though you have to ask your ISP not to cache certain domains to avoid missing the latest. The web is moving away from static pages and into dynamic, interactve content - the new Web 2.0. Like this comment (laughs) -D

Posted by:

Marika vS
28 Sep 2006

Once the computer is done downloading, and I'm sleeping, is it vulnerable to access from the particular server that hosts the page now up in my browser? Would the server querie my computer to see if it's still there? Not that that's bad in itself but with all those malicious bots running around these days couldn't they get it on the act since I had allowed that connection in the first place?

Yup, I'm still confused - only a half step ahead of your friend.

EDITOR'S NOTE: No, a website cannot "push" content to you. Your browser must send a request to "pull" a document or image from a remote server.

Posted by:

Thomas Cranston
28 Sep 2006

I am on dialup. I live in the country. My isp is 30 miles away. I connect to them w/a local number, otherwise it would be a long distance call. The connection goes from my house to the phone companys switch in a small town 5 miles from me, and then 25 miles to my isp.

OK, I get that if I am not sending or downloading, I am not using bandwidth. I am wondering what phone line resources I am using while I am connected, but idle. It seems to me that the phone company's "switch" is some sort of solenoid affair, and that as long as I am connected, the "switch" is being energized to maintain that phone line connection.

About once a year I can't connect to my isp from my house because said phone company "switch" is on the fritz. It gets a lot of wear and tear from me. I can connect from the library, etc. At this point there is a big bruhaha between my isp and SBC, until a day or so later when said "switch" is fixed I do suspect that SBC is dragging their feet so that my isp will get a black eye. They are competitors for my business.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, if you're online via dialup, the phone line will have constant traffic on it. Just pick up the receiver and you'll hear the hisses and beeps.

Posted by:

Kevin Bayley
29 Sep 2006

If bandwidth is no longer measured once the page has rendered, then how can the Urchin Stats. for my website tell me the "Length of Visit: This report shows the duration that visitors spent on your site on average."? Thanks.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Urchin and other logfile analyzers can only tell you when the visitor arrived (the time of the first page request) and the time of the last page request. There is nothing in your logfile to indicate that the person ever "left" your site, unless it requires a specific action to logout, but most do not. So Urchin has to make some sort of guess as to how long the person spent looking at the last page before leaving. In the case where they only viewed one page, the guesswork gets a little more iffy.

Posted by:

01 Oct 2006

I'm confused. You said, "A website cannot push content to you. Your browser must send a request to pull a document or image from a remote server."

Then why do I need a firewall? If it's not a website sending unsolicited stuff to my computer, what is it?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Firewalls protect you from hackers using automated tools that try to exploit security holes in your operating system. Unless you mean unsolicited emails... those come from spammers using automated tools to fill your inbox with junk. But a firewall will not protect you from spam.

Posted by:

05 Sep 2007

This probably doesnt make sense. But, if i am sending a video file over the net , say SKYPE to a friend, then ISP cache server can store it for some time. How would I go about finding if it is really stored in the ISP cache server and if it is, how can i access those files again?? Thanks for your help. But i have just spent 2 days trying to find my answer!!

EDITOR'S NOTE: You can't directly access a file in your ISP's cache. But if the file is cached, and you request it, your ISP's server will decide whether to send the cached copy or fetch the original, depending on how long it's been since the last access, and possibly other factors.

Posted by:

27 Jan 2011

A good day Bob, I just want to ask about bandwidth limits, my website is with free hosting and it has a bandwidth limit of 1GB, the indicator in my control panel says i had already used 201MB. My question is, what will happen when i reach the 1GB limit? Do I have to buy more? Thank you.

EDITOR'S NOTE: That would depend on the specific terms of service set forth by your web hosting company.

Posted by:

01 Mar 2012

Could someone actually show me references and irrefutable technical proof of the answer and consequential discussion of this question, because i doubt it's validity.

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