Lessons Learned: Decreasing Bandwidth Usage

I recently received a message that a site I manage for a library organization was about to exceed its bandwidth allotment. There is a small user group of webmasters within this organization and bandwidth limits on the wordpress .org sites occasionally make the email discussion lists.The typical suggestions are:

  • ensure you have a robots.txt file
  • install a wordpress plugin like WP Super Cache that caches pages
  • ask for more bandwidth

The first two suggestions were put in place ages ago and I did end up pursuing the third suggestion, an option I was grateful to have. However, I knew there had to be another way to reduce my sudden spike in usage since it was not attributed to more visitors.

In fact, my spike seemed to correlate to some pdf files that I put in a post.  I considered that action routine and almost trivial at the time, but, wordpress created a “preview” of each pdf that caused the entire file to download every time the page was opened. Considering some of these files displayed on the homepage, this greatly increased our bandwidth usage.

Lesson learned:

  • Host slides, large pdf’s, videos, and large photos elsewhere (the function is your friend)
  • Compress any file before uploading it to your site
  • Carefully consider whether to preview pdf files stored locally on your server

Here are some good explanations I found after coming to this realization:
Reduce Your Website’s Bandwidth and Storage Usage
10 Reasons why you should never host your own videos

Can you embed a list of publications on a website?

I was recently asked this question at a campus event and immediately wondered why I never asked that question before. The inquirer managed a website for a research network that has several pages containing a bunch of relevant publications to the research topic. They wanted to combine all the citations onto one page yet still allow for the different subject areas to be searchable. “Could a citation manager do this within the college’s website architecture?” I was asked.

The user was already familiar with Zotero so I chose to focus on possibly using this tool as the backend and dynamically displaying the results on a webpage…and there was success. Zotero lists plugins on its support pages including several designed for website integration.

I honed in on one called BibBase. It allows sorting by date, title, keyword (based on the tags in Zotero), and type (ie article, presentation, etc.). Updates made in Zotero are automatically updated on your website. Seeing potential, I added a couple Zotero entries into a test folder and proceeded to test this option. It was so easy! BibBase walks you through the steps and then displays 3 different snippets of code that you can add to your website; javascript, php, and iframe. Simply copy the code and paste it into your website. Done!

Described in text

Example of BibBase within institutional website.

Consequently, BibBase is my recommendation for anyone who is willing to use Zotero and may not know a lot about coding. Note: I didn’t look at integrating into WordPress or content management systems and would re-evaluate if those platforms were involved.

There were two other options that looked interesting and could be worth pursuing if you had the knowledge and/or patience to learn.

Zot_bib_web – Displays the publications and has a nifty search box. The catch for some is that it involves running python scripts and the script can only be updated once a day. The directions looks straight forward but if mentioning python scripts scares you, this probably isn’t the tool for you.

RefBase – This one also has potential and it has the sought after search box. However, I chose not to pursue it for this request because of the need to run php and create additional tables to a database. Doing this within the institutional website is just not an option at this time.