Internet providers advertise on road signs and radio everywhere. The claims they make about the speed of their networks can be confusing. Faster, one would probably be safe to assume, is better than slower. But what do all those numbers mean? Can you really expect to get the speed advertised on the sign? And how much speed does a small business actually need? Here’s a quick run-down of the basics.
Most Internet connections have two speeds—downloading and uploading. Downloading is receiving files—documents, songs, images and so on—while uploading is sending files. Both speeds are measured in “bits per second.” A single bit is a very small unit of data, so we’re usually talking about thousands (kilobits/kbps) or millions (megabits/mbps) of them per second. The more bits per second, the faster your connection. You can think of your Internet connection sort of like the water lines to your house—more water can get through a large pipe than a narrow one. On the Internet, the more “bandwidth” your connection has, the greater the amount of data that can move through it at one time. And that means less waiting time for you when you’re downloading or uploading.
Download vs Upload
An ISP might offer 50/1 which means you can get up to 50 megabit per second download but are only able to get 1 megabit upload speed. If all your doing is browsing the internet that’s probably fine but if you run a VoIP phone or upload images or other large data files to send to clients or vendors than that type of connection is not worth the cheap price point because it won’t get the job done. Some ISPs are offering fiber at 100 X the speed of copper and the right provider will give you dedicated speeds both up and down 100 mb x 100mb or even 1 Gigabit x 1 Gigabit. Fiber is more expensive but gives you much better bang for the buck. If you’ve bounced between ISPs and find yourself hating all of them it’s not really the ISP, it’s the service you bought. Those ads for 60mb or 100mb for less than $100 are best effort low grade services that will get any business owner frustrated. A solid connection of 100mb or more with dedicated speeds will run you from $200 a month on up but the difference in performance is worth every penny.
Fiber vs Copper & Wireless
Fiber optics offers the largest and most reliable pipe for Internet traffic. Next would be Copper cable and lastly wireless. But be careful, marketers have become proficient in confusing the non-technical customer. They will say things like Air Fiber which is really not fiber at all, its high speed wireless with better electronics. Some providers sell fiber solutions on a shared network where your speed is not guaranteed because the pipe is shared by other customers. Dedicated Fiber to your building where the strand of fiber is only carrying your company traffic directly to the ISP is what your after so make sure to clarify.
No matter what the speed of your connection today, you can be sure that the amount of speed you will need in the future is only going to increase. Even if your business isn’t growing, the way we work and use Internet is changing. Smart phones, tablets and VoIP means many of us are online with multiple, simultaneous connections all day. Files are getting bigger and cloud computing means that businesses are putting more and more of their functions, from billing to HR and even customer service, on the Internet. A high-speed fiber connection can affordably give your business the bandwidth it needs to do all those things as fast—or faster—than your competitors and make you an agile competitor in the marketplace.