What is ‘hot linking’?

There are many ways in which resources can be tied up on your website, usually you would think that any resource usage would be caused by your actions on your website or usage by the internet resources required to run your website….sometimes resources such as bandwidth can actually be used up by the actions of a visitor or worse, by another website using your content. The action of a foreign website using a file or image (by linking to the content) from your own website can be referred to as ‘hot linking’, this is especially the case when the link to the content has a detrimental effect on the bandwidth of your website. If a foreign site was to use the full URL of your image on their website any visitor wishing to see the image would actually have to download the image from its orginal location i.e. your website. As the image has to be downloaded from your site this will use your bandwidth rather than the bandwidth of the foreign website!

If you have many attractive files on your website this can obviously become a big issue if other websites link to this content – and place a strain on your bandwidth as a result. The problem becomes worse with the size of the file being linked to – larger files will put more demand on your bandwidth when they are downloaded. To compound the problem its very difficult to quickly spot if someone is hot linking to the content on your website as the only outward sign would be a reduced performance taking place on your website (of course there are many other reasons for this…). The easiest way we have found involves using a Google search to try and search for your website images in other URL’s. This can be done by entering: –

inurl:yourwebsite.com -site:yourwebsite.com (replace ‘yourwebsite’ with the URL of your own website)

Entering the above into a Google search will display images associated with your URL but will take away your own URL leaving a list of images that have been ‘hot linked’ by another website.

Thankfully there is a way to protect yourself from this occuring through the use of ‘hot link protection’. Hot link protection is available to use via cPanel and can be easily activated using the following steps: – 

  1. Head to cPanel, scroll through the main menu until you come across ‘Hot Link Protection’
  2. Select ‘Hot Link Protection’
  3. You can now select which URL’s you wish to block from downloading linked content (‘block direct access for the following extensions’) and which URL’s you would like to allow (select ‘URL’s to allow access’)
  4. Use these menus to manage which URL’s you wish to allow to hot link
  5. To allow access to specific content via URL select ‘allow direct requests’ 
  6. When you have completed the process select ‘submit’

We would recommend that you complete this setup quite early on in the development of your site as it frees up as much bandwidth for you to use as possible (for your own activities).

If you encounter any difficulties whilst setting up your hot link protection please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by launching a support ticket (open a ticket) with our hosting department, we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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