Internet Service Providers (ISPs) often describe the speed of their networks with language that is downright confusing to the average person. We all know we want internet that works smoothly when needed, and it seems fair to assume that a faster connection will support that better than a slower one. But how fast should the internet at my business be? What do things like “fiber” and “bandwidth” mean? And what in the WORLD is a “megabit”?
Understanding Internet “Speed”
Generally speaking, an internet connection will have two speeds. One for uploading (sending) and one for downloading (receiving), and they are both measured using “bits per second”. Bits are extremely tiny units of data, so we generally referred to in kilobits (Kbps), megabits (Mbps), or gigabits (Gbps) per second. Kilobits represent bits in the thousands, megabits in the millions, and gigabits in the billions. Upload speed is usually shown as the second number after download speed (ex. 4 Mbps/1 Mbps) and will often be smaller than your download bandwidth.
It’s important to point out that bits are not the same thing as bytes, which is the common unit we use to measure data storage. One byte equals 8 bits, so 1 megabyte (MB) equals 8 megabits (Mb). This means that if you have a 1Mbps (bit) internet connection, a 1MB (byte) file will take eight seconds to download. Yes, it’s a bit strange that they sound so similar, and are both used to measure digital information. Luckily, however, they are used in totally different contexts. Bytes for measuring data storage, and bits for data transfer speeds.
“Bandwidth” is also a term commonly used when talking about the transfer speeds, and especially dealing with the internet, because it refers to the maximum rate at which you can send or receive data on a given connection. So when discussing your internet, it will be used to refer to the top speed of your internet connection. People often use the analogy that it’s like the size of a hose. The larger a hose is, the more you can push or pull through it in a given amount of time. The greater your bandwidth, the greater your speed!
How much bandwidth do you really need?
The amount of bandwidth needed at your home or business depends on how the internet will be used. Your network will share all of the allotted bandwidth between all the devices connected to it, so it’s important to know how many devices you will have online and what they will be doing on the internet.
Most of the time, things like uploading or downloading large files, and high definition video streaming use the most bandwidth. Netflix requires a 25 Mbps connection for one 4k (ultra-hd) video stream, although you can reduce the quality of the video down to the lowest quality and make do using up as little as 3Mbps. So 3 simultaneous ultra-hd Netflix streams would require a 75Mbps download speed, and 3 of the lowest quality 9Mbps.
Upload speeds can also be very important to consider. In the age we live in, technology is producing increasingly complex ways for people to communicate, socialize and do business. Many of these developments already use and will continue to use high upload speeds. Right now, if you’re doing things like sending large files(especially for business), sending video to be stored or streamed online, or anything else that may require a higher upload bandwidth, it can be pretty difficult. The internet packages offered by many ISPs usually have a significantly lower upload speeds than download speeds.
It’s also important to point out that your connection speeds can be affected by many factors. Some are less avoidable, like inclement weather conditions and network demand. Factors that can contribute to high or low demand are things like many connections on the network utilizing a lot of bandwidth at a given time, your provider’s infrastructure quality, your own hardware, etc. Sometimes you can even get faster speeds than you signed up for if overall network demand is low.
Because there are so many factors that play into how much bandwidth you might need in a business, it’s important to have your situation evaluated by an expert. There are many IT professionals that will do free consultations, and also most internet companies will get you a pretty accurate estimate of what you’ll need. They generally don’t want to sell a customer service that is too slow, because it could cause complaints and cancellations. And that’s just bad business.
At PogoZone, we’re dedicated to getting our customers the speeds that are right for them. Curious to know what speeds are available to you? Contact us for a free quote.