Ah, that magic word — bandwidth! In our mega-connected world, businesses and users need it, crave it, shop for the best offerings of it, even while most misunderstand it. More is the catchword. We need more bandwidth to grow our operations! We need more bandwidth to improve the consumer experience! We need more bandwidth to process transactions faster than our competitors! Do you — really?
What Exactly Is Bandwidth?
Bandwidth is the capacity of your network to transmit data. Contrary to popular opinion, bandwidth isn’t necessarily about speed. The simplest and most common illustration of bandwidth is water flowing through a pipe. How much water can pass through the pipe over a given amount of time can be likened to bandwidth.
The maximum amount of water possible is like the maximum possible data transfer rate of your network. In this way, bandwidth is synonymous with capacity. Therefore, if you need more water, install a larger pipe. If you need more data transfer capacity, raise your available bandwidth. As such bandwidth is measured in bits of data transferred per second, or BPS (usually written in lower case, as in 45 bps). A typical business-level bandwidth rate is 50 Mbps, or 50 million bits (megabits) of data per second.
What Can Affect My Bandwidth?
Of course, the size of your pipe, or network, is only a single factor that affects bandwidth. Just as a partial clog in a pipe slows the flow of water, other factors can deter your bandwidth. Some of the most common include:
If your network is inadequate for the number of users or the amount of data it is called upon to handle, your bandwidth will naturally suffer. Old equipment or cables can also not be up to recent specifications for handling large amounts of data. Malware and viruses can devour critical resources and slow performance. All this means long wait times for data transfers, slow productivity, and frequent breakdowns.
This is otherwise known as “Noisy neighbor syndrome.” If you have a “best effort” Internet service, you share your connection with other nearby clients. As they hog more of the resources from your provider to your area, you get less. So, a neighboring business that requires lots of data transfer capacity can leave you waiting with frustration.
Multiple Network Bottlenecks
Your network connection is not the only factor in play. Your network path can link together with others that may not be as savvy as yours. An older network may not be able to handle the amount of bandwidth that yours can. Latency, packet loss, and jitter in other connected networks can all slow performance. It’s the old “weakest link” analogy — your bandwidth is only as good as the weakest network link in the chain.
How Can I Calculate My Bandwidth Needs?
Of course, when shopping for an adequate business Internet provider that can provide the bandwidth you need, it helps to know just how much you truly need. This largely depends on the amount of data you transfer back and forth to your clients or other stakeholders on a regular basis.
If your business primarily sends smaller document files several times a day and receives the same via email, your bandwidth needs are not great. However, if your company requires teams and team members to communicate via video conferencing pretty often, or even daily, you will likely be at the high end of the bandwidth need spectrum.
Other factors can include if you have multiple locations that must be networked together and how much data these locations regularly share. How much cloud computing is performed? Do you host your own website? How much traffic does your website enjoy? Do you handle online sales and other important data transfers on a regular basis? All these can significantly raise your need for bandwidth.
You can organize the devices used in your business based on the categories below, then add up your approximate bandwidth requirements.
- Low: 20 Mbps or less: Few users, with connected laptops, desktops, E-fax machines, VoIP phones; email and web research are most of your active usage.
- Medium: 50-500 Mbps: Few users, but with more intensive web browsing, research, streaming, emailing, and downloading larger files.
- High: 100-200 Mbps: A number of users that take regular advantage of cloud-based platforms and software programs (CRS, PoS, ERP, etc.). High flow of email and downloads.
- Intense: 200-500 Mbps and higher: A number of users that regularly employ HD video conference devices and platforms, large data transfers, constant flow of data between branch locations.
This is a rough guide, but it can help you get started with the basic calculations for how much bandwidth you will need.
MHO Download Simulator
If you have a basic idea of your needs, or even if you don’t, MHO has developed a handy tool to help you decide how much bandwidth you need. Our Download Simulator illustrates how long it would take to download a variety of files on different bandwidth speeds per employee. Check it out now and view the different variables available.
Then, give our team a call at 877 WANT-MHO to discuss your specific questions and business Internet networking needs.