Bandwidth is the capacity of any given internet connection to handle X amount of data flow in both directions. For example (and I’ll use the term “units” instead of megabits, megabytes, etc.) a typical business might have/pay for 1500 units of upload capacity (to send email, etc.) and 1500 units of download capacity (to view web pages, streaming video, and get email) When I stream a cam I use about 200 units of our available upload capacity to send the stream to a server. Think of the receiving server as being one person watching the cam, i.e. a continuous download of my upload video. In turn, this server is connected to the internet and can have, say, 200,000 units of upload and download capacity.
This server is where you and anyone in the world accesses the Starr Ranch cams, because EVERY viewer uses 200 units to see the cam on their computer So, in the example, the server that receives my single, 200 unit stream can handle 1,000 users at one time (200 X 1,000= 200,000). Remember that my capacity is 1500. If I tried to provide the stream directly, 8 users (200 X 8 = 1600) would quickly overload my capacity.
So if all the above makes sense, how does timing out the feed save bandwidth? Using a server like I described above is not free, but it is necessary in most cases because most situations (like us) don’t have their own servers and access to high capacity bandwidth . So we have to pay for bandwidth. Usually there are flat rates for X amount of capacity and then surcharges as you go over or “burst” to higher capacity use. Here’s an example. Audubon had a cam on an eagle nest in FL last year. It was getting some modest attention – maybe 100 viewers at a time – and cost about $1,500/ month for the server company to provide the capacity for this many users. THEN there was a media piece on the cam (maybe was TV spot) and the # of people accessing the cam skyrocketed. And so did the expense because more and more capacity (bandwidth) was needed. At one point the monthly bill went up to $15,000!!
So, if I don’t have the cam time out, what’s to keep any user from clicking on the barn owl cam and then walking away from their PC and coming back in an hour or two, or maybe just leaving it streaming 24/7? Nothing. But the problem is that every second that the page is open it is using bandwidth. And we have to pay for this bandwidth, whether users are watching or not. Put another way, it’s like leaving the lights on when you leave a room. Only difference is that we have to pay the light bill…