Tech Matters: The Need for Speed

Image courtesy of jonel hanopol's photostream

Image courtesy of jonel hanopol’s photostream

No other adage applies to business as much as “time is money.”  Everything is on a tight schedule and one mishap can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.  With this in mind many business neglect to make sure that their Internet is up to speed.

There is a fear in selecting the appropriate service and speed because many of us don’t know what those numbers mean but the tech matters. I will break down two important aspects that are related to each other, but they’re not the same: Internet speed and bandwidth.

The internet speed is provided by the service provider (i.e. Time Warner Cable, AT&T).  The best analogy is that of a highway and having a set speed limit.  So, if you see a sign that says “Speed Limit 75 MPH” you know that your maximum allowable speed will be 75 MPH, but that doesn’t mean everyone will travel at that speed.  Same thing with your internet.  Your provider can tell you that your speed is 15 Mbps (Megabytes per second), but that’s a theoretical speed.  You may achieve that speed as long as all the conditions are perfect (low traffic on the network, weather).  

That’s why your service may have different tiers of speed and varying prices for each tier.  The higher the speed and tier, the faster and more consistent your internet performance will be.  When you select a tier many times you will see two speeds: an upload speed and a download speed.  The download speed is what is always in advertisements and that makes sense.  From a residential standpoint we like to download photos, music and movies.  But, from the business owner standpoint the upload speed is critical.  Why?  Because many times we are sending more information out to our customers than what we are bringing in. For a more consistent experience you want to have an upload speed that is similar to your download speed.  If available you would want 15 Mbps down and at least 10 Mbps up.  If you want to test your speed we recommend using the site www.speedtest.net.   This will present a fairly accurate look at what you are getting out of your service provider.

The second part of the equation is bandwidth.  So, what is bandwidth anyway? It’s the total amount of data that can pass through a circuit.  What does that mean?  Going back to our highway analogy it would be wonderful if all highways had a 75 MPH limit that allows to get anywhere quickly.  But imagine trying to travel a highway at 75 MPH and it only had one lane?  Yikes!  You want your data to be able to travel freely.  Increasing the bandwidth is like adding lanes to a highway for cars to move freely and more efficiently.  Keep this in mind with your office setup; especially if you have a lot of employees and users.  Your router needs to be able to handle the traffic that comes in and out for everyone.  Even the fastest internet speed can be hindered by routers and switches that don’t provide adequate bandwidth.

So there you have it!  Hopefully this provides some clarity on how to select adequate speed for your home office.  Remember that your business is only as strong as its weakest link. Don’t let your weakest link be your computer and Internet connection!  That’s a recipe for disaster.

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