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Hotlinking – Bad For You and Your Website

Hotlinking

For many website owners, monthly bandwidth is a premium. While a large number of web hosting providers are giving their customers unlimited bandwidth amounts, this is not the case for all. Even those with unlimited bandwidth can be tagged for excessive usage if their amounts per month are well over the normal monthly rates for similar customers. One culprit of excessive bandwidth usage is hotlinking.

What is Hotlinking?

Hotlinking (also called remote linking or inline linking) is the process of taking images or other files and embedding them directly into another website. For example, Joe Smith has an image of an orange on his website that is liked by Jane Doe. Jane decides to copy the link to that image as it is placed within Joe’s website and place this image source link into one of her own pages. In the simplest of terms, this is a file not saved on the linking person’s own web server.

One item to note here is that linking to a web site or web page is not considered hotlinking.

Why is Hotlinking bad?

While one hotlinked image or file may not make much of a difference, image several hundred places with the same hotlinked image or file. Each time a visitor hits one of these other websites, the original website gets a hit as well. If there are several hundred hits to these various websites, the original website suffers an enormous amount of data transfer or bandwidth. The original website owner can face extra monthly charges or, in severe cases, complete shutdown of his or her website.

What can be done to Prevent Hotlinking?

There are several ways one can prevent hotlinking. If it has been discovered that hotlinking has already occurred, one can rename the file to cause the culprit to have a broken file listed on their website or the file can be entirely replaced. Some website owners have replaced the original file or image with a notification that hotlinking is not appreciated as well as a quick advertisement to their own website. Alternatively, it may work best to contact the web hosting provider of the culprit and notify them of the hotlinking violation. Even a quick e-mail to the culprit can do the job – some novice website owners may not be aware of their violation and will quickly remedy the problem often with little to no fuss.

A few web hosting providers provide what is known as “hotlinking protection” – Bluehost and HostGator are two hosting companies that provide this service free of charge to their customers. This service automatically prevents outside websites from directly linking to one’s files and pictures, saving website owners time, hassle, and bandwidth.

Conclusion

Keep in mind, hotlinking can be prevented. Those wishing to utilize a file or image can download these items to their own web servers (with permission of the original owner). Hotlinking can cause quite a bit of hassle and cost quite a bit of money.

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