Drop Shadow


The web server has a quota system set up that restricts the total size of all files that you upload to your site. We do this for three reasons.

  1. as an early warning system for accidentally uploading private data or originals;
  2. to ensure a smooth user experience, by warning us that the site contains images that are much larger (and thus much slower to download) than they need to be, because they haven’t been optimized for the web;
  3. to ensure an accessible site; often, files are too large because text has been uploaded as images; these files are unreadable in alternative browsers such as browsers for the blind;
  4. to ensure a valid user experience, by warning us when a site contains outdated files that haven’t been removed even though newer files have been uploaded;
  5. to keep the filesystem from filling up;

We’re pretty strict about requiring optimized web files, because larger files reduce the end-user experience, both immediately (by increasing download times for that file), but also because larger files tie up web processes for longer times, potentially affecting all sites on the server. The main server is optimized for displaying web pages, not large media files.

We have a separate server for streaming media files and a separate server for large files and podcasts.

Private data and originals

You should generally only keep public files on the web server. “Originals,” such as the Photoshop file that a jpg is based on, should not be uploaded to the server.

You also do not want to store private data on the server. This is a shared server, and anybody who has access to the server can view your data with little effort. If you’ve uploaded it into one of your “Sites” folders, they probably don’t even need access to the server.

Office documents

You usually do not want to upload “Office” files—such as your Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, or PowerPoint files.

  • They do not contain the information that the person downloading it needs—fonts, for example. If you need the document to look the same on the viewer’s end as it does on yours, save it as a PDF.
  • They are a vector for computer viruses.
  • They can contain private information.
  • They are much harder to make accessible for ADA compliancy.

If you do choose to upload Office files, consider zipping them to make them download faster.

Optimizing filesizes

The smaller you can make a file, the faster it downloads. Most of the editors you work with don’t care about optimizing files for speed unless you tell them to do so.


Your image files should almost always be either GIF or PNG for cartoon images, and JPEG files for photographs or photographic-quality files.

When you save a photograph as JPEG for the web, adjust the quality vs. file size appropriately.

Text should never be saved as images. This makes the text impossible for alternative browsers (such as browsers for the blind) to read. Instead, save text documents as PDF if they must maintain print-level control.

When your images are from a vector source such as Illustrator, consider saving them as PDFs instead of as bitmap image files. They’ll be much higher quality and have much smaller filesizes.

PDF Files

You can optimize PDF files using Adobe Acrobat Professional. Under the “File” menu is “Reduce File Size”. This can reduce the file’s size considerably—making it three to fifty times faster to download in my experience—without adversely affecting document quality. (Optimize PDF Files)

Out of date files

You should also ensure that out-of-date data is not stored on the web server. This can result in confusion when people browse the out-of-date page or document via a search engine result.

Usually, you’ll want to avoid putting dates or years in your filenames. When the filename contains a year, so do the links to that file, which means that other people (such as search engines) who link to the file will continue linking to the file after it becomes out of date.

Inaccessible files

Never print a document and then scan it in to put it online as a PDF. Save it directly from the word processor or layout software as a PDF. This will allow for better optimization and will make the resulting PDF more accessible.

You should never upload a text document as an image. Images are mostly unreadable.

If you use Mac OS X, you can “print” any document to PDF, and then use Preview to optimize the PDF. On Windows, many software packages now have the ability to “save as” PDF. (Optimize PDF Files)

Watching your quota

If you log in to Account Information using your web site’s account, it will display the latest quota usage for your account. This is updated once per day, and can be a guide to how much you can add to your account before reaching the account’s quota limit.

If you’ll need more, you will want to first ensure that all of the files in your account are optimized (and appropriate) for the web; you can then contact the webmaster ahead of time to increase your quota.

Increasing your quota

The default quota for a web site account is 20 megabytes. That’s far more than enough for most uses—20 megabytes would take a long, long time to download over modem lines. You can store thousands of pages and images, and even several short movies, in a twenty-megabyte web site.

If you think you’ll need more than 20 megabytes, you’ll want to talk to the webmaster about it before you start uploading those files.

When you reach your quota, the system warns the webmaster. The webmaster will analyze your site to see if you have files that will benefit from better optimization, or if your site appears to contain a lot of files that it isn’t using. Most of the time, all that is needed to bring your account back under its quota is to optimize the files on it to make them appropriate for the web.

If it appears that your site is optimized and still needs more space, most of the time your quota will be increased automatically. If there are questions about the site, the webmaster will contact your authorized contacts and work with them in optimizing your site and/or increasing the account’s quota.