How much bandwidth do you need for your business?
It’s a common question but the answer is not all that simple. 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 consist of 3 primary three components: ping, upload speed, and 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.
Ping, on the other hand, is a measurement of responsivity. If a computer makes a request, how quickly does it receive 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. 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.
If you’re surprised by the results of your speed test, run a few different ones to confirm it. Tests based in Flash often need to make adjustments that HTML tests don’t. That can lead 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 phone systems 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 the speed number is, for example, 100 Mbps, it means that five users each get a max of 20 Mbps if everyone is 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 trying to figure out what level of a plan to go with, remember: 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 business done. These days that means figuring out your bandwidth needs and how to provide for them. Here’s what you need to do: