You might have noticed this website went down for four days this week. That was because of a sudden jump in the bandwidth usage. Normally, I use around 100MB of bandwidth per month. Its not much, because this website's not that popular (yet). But, from the 5th of April, the website started eating 100MB of bandwidth per day. That meant within 5 days, I'd used 100% of my 500MB per month bandwidth quota.

Sure, I wouldn't mind at all if this website became popular and everyone started reading my blog, but unfortunately, developing 25 times more readers overnight was really too good to be true.

I investigated, using the statistics program that comes with cPanel as part of my hosting. Apparently, a lot of people were accessing the wallpapers section. It didn't seem to be any sort of malicious activity, since no single IP was repeatedly attacking any particular file.

I didn't have much time, what with uni work, so the site lay fallow with a "Bandwidth Exceeded" error message for four days. When I got some time, I took down the wallpapers page and gave myself some more bandwidth. (I own the hosting that is on, so I can do things like that.)

I went back to the statistics the next day, to see whether my situation had improved now that the wallpapers section had been taken down. According to the stats, the Yuna wallpaper had received 214 hits hitting a 404 File Not Found error in a single day. The stats also revealed the culprit. (Note the empty space on the page where my wallpaper, hotlinked directly from my site, had lain).

I had never really understood why some websites got really pissed off when people hotlinked their images, until now. For example, there was one time I tried to post on The Forums (a private forum that my old high school friends and I use to keep in contact) a funny image. I couldn't be bothered downloading it and uploading it to a free image provider like ImageShack, so I hotlinked it directly. It looked okay in my browser because my browser had the actual image cached. But everyone else saw something... very different (the link is to the Wikipedia article, not the actual image, I'm not cruel). Naturally, my friends were... upset.

It is simply amazing the amount of bandwidth a few hundred people downloading a 1MB wallpaper can use. It really illustrates the power, and the cost, of the web. It makes me wonder how hosting sites like ImageShack can exist. Advertising must really be lucrative.

My plan of action is to set up a hotlink blocker that redirects any website that hotlinks my wallpapers to a temporary image that politely asks them to sod off. You'll see the wallpaper section come back when that happens. Don't hold your breath, though.