The Need For Speed: How to Determine Internet Bandwidth Needs For Your Business

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How much bandwidth do you need for your business? It’s a question we’re asked all the time, and the answer is not necessarily as simple as you might think. Your bandwidth is a measurement of all data that you use for any application: normal internet browsing, the cloud, and any hosting that you might do.

So, what bandwidth is right for your business? Well, that depends on what you’re doing.

Basic Connectivity Questions

Before you look at anything else, the first thing to do is figure out how many people use your network, how often they’re online, and what kind of applications they use. It’s not going to be a fixed number that is consistent from hour to hour and month to month, it’s going to vary based on time of day and what is important at any given moment.

It’s also important to realize that data doesn’t just flow one way. Think about it like pushing and pulling. Uploading data to the internet is one channel (pushing the data upstream), while downloading a big file is pulling.

You need to be able to do both, but generally, your download speed is going to be higher than your upload speed. There isn’t actually a difference between the two in terms of architecture, but most people tend to download far more than they upload. This leads ISPs to prioritize pulling speed (downloading) much more than pushing speed (uploading). If your business needs something different due to your style of work, it’s vital that you prioritize upload speeds when you’re looking at connectivity options.

Running a Speed Test

Clearly, if you’re reading this article, you already have some sort of internet solution implemented for your business. How do you figure out where you currently stand, and if your setup could use some improvement? The first place to start is with a speed test.

Speed tests are generally broken down into three components: your ping, your upload speed, and your download speed. We covered upload and download speed earlier, but to reiterate, they tell you how quickly you can push something to the internet or pull something (like a big file) off it.

Your ping, on the other hand, is a measurement of responsivity. If your computer makes a request, how quickly do you get a response? Video games are all about ping times because they need to figure out how to determine if you actually hit your target when you pull the trigger. You can think of ping as power steering on your car— it’s not going to do much for your maximum speed, but it’s going to make a noticeable difference in your driving experience. Browsing the web will feel faster because everything is just a bit more responsive.

Finally, if you’re surprised by the results of your speed test, you should definitely run a few different ones to confirm it. Tests based in Flash often need to make adjustments that HTML tests don’t, which leads to a bigger margin of error. Like any other data, the more info you have, the more certain you’ll be.

The Growing Demand for Bandwidth

Small businesses increasingly need high bandwidth for basic day-to-day functions. As we start to rely on team members who increasingly work remotely, we depend on a strong connection to make collaboration tools like video conferencing, cloud storage, and VOIP work best.

It can be difficult to convince employees to embrace new tools, even if they can be a huge game changer in terms of getting things done faster and more efficiently. Any sort of hang up can leave someone feeling frustrated and like their time is wasted. Getting the rest of the technology set up correctly is hard enough—having enough bandwidth in place should be a no-brainer.

If you offer free WiFi for your customers (and you should), then it’s even more important that the connection feels fast and responsive, because it reflects on you. You also don’t want to end up in a situation where customers are wasting your employees’ time asking about why the internet is so slow.

Figuring Out How Much Bandwidth You Need

As you look to figure out how much bandwidth you need, start with some simple numbers. First of all, how many users are you working with? A connection is split among them, so when you’re looking at speed number like 100 Mbps, it means that with five users they each get a max of 20 Mbps if they’re all doing bandwidth-intensive things at once.

The other thing to keep in mind is what your users are doing with their connection. Simple surfing and email are going to need around 2 Mbps to feel fast, and uploading speed won’t be that important either. If you also want standard video streaming, then 3 Mbps is a good rule of thumb.

Lately, however, everything is in HD, and sometimes you need to stream video across multiple devices. Something like a video conference is going to be really demanding on your connection. You’re looking at closer to 10 Mbps for each user if you want that to work well. If your business does even more uploading, like massive coding or video editing projects, you’ll need to go even higher.

When you’re trying to figure out what level of a plan to go with, remember: these per-user speeds are just guidelines; it’s generally better to go faster. You want the room to grow, and there’s nothing wrong with having a faster connection in the meantime.

What You Can Do Right Now

The internet is a vital part of how we get things done, and that means figuring out your bandwidth needs and how to provide for them is more important than ever before. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Take a look at your current connection with a speed test. You can test your current speed here.
  • Figure out how many users you expect to have, and what their needs are.
  • Get a connection with room to grow, not one that barely meets your needs.
  • Learn more by visiting CoxBusiness.com

Martin Jones

Martin Jones is a Senior Marketing Manager with the corporate Cox Communications social media team where he assists in leading strategy, campaign ideation and marketing execution for Cox Business social media & content marketing. Today, over 1 million fans engage with Cox Communications content, campaigns and Customer Care on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube. LinkedIn and Google+.