How much bandwidth do I need for my office? This is a good question to ask yourself before committing to a multi-year contract with your internet service provider. Companies rely on the their internet connection for just about every aspect of their organization. Think about your email, business applications, payment gateways, cloud based software, infrastructure, and even phone systems hosted in the cloud. With so much of our business being hosted in the “Cloud”, basically a remote data center, it’s crucial to have enough bandwidth to power these business functions.
There are a number of things to consider when evaluating how much bandwidth your office needs. The first thing to think about is how many employees in your office are using the internet, how often they are online, and what they are doing online. Think of it like this, you have 1 large pie to split between all of your team. The more people eating that pie the less there is for everyone else. Each activity online uses either download or upload. Think pushing and pulling data. Downloading activities may consist of downloading a large file from the internet or from your email, basically receiving data from outside your local area network. Uploading activities consist of sending information, or pushing data from your network. Think sending an email with a large file attachment, uploading data to a CRM, etc. A lot of internet traffic requires both, such as your email, most business software, and any real time applications, such as voice or videoconferencing. When you are on a videoconference, you are simultaneously using download to see and hear the other person and using upload to send them your images and voice.
Bandwidth is measured in Kbps (kilobits per second), Mbps (megabits per second), Gbps (gigabits per second), and Tbps (terabits per second). A bit is the smallest unit of measurement in a computer’s memory. So the above speeds refer to the transfer rate of a certain number of bits. Kbps = thousands of bits per second, Mbps = millions of bits per second, Gbps = billions of bits per second, Tbps = FAST!! Or 1,000X faster than 1 Gbps. Most companies offer bandwidth in a format such as 100Mb/100Mb or 50Mb/10Mb. The first number refers to your download speed and your second number refers to your upload.
Now that we have covered the basics of bandwidth, lets take a look at what exactly you are doing online. Activities that require a decent amount of bandwidth have to do with sending and receiving large chunks of data. Take a look at the size of the files that your team send and receive on a consistent basis, push to the cloud or download from websites. What applications are you using in your business and where are they hosted? Do you have technical drawings or medical images? These tend to be much larger files and require more bandwidth to be transferred quickly.
The simple answer to this question can be answered by finding out what each of your team members does online. Unfortunately, that is not so straightforward because we all do different work, at different times, with a different mix of users on the network at any given time. The best way to find out what you need is to take all these factors into consideration and speak with someone technical that can assess your needs. Which brings me back to my initial statement, what do you plan on doing in the next few years online? The trend for businesses to utilize cloud-based services is only growing. So, think about what portion of your business will be in the cloud within the next few years when making this decision.
Also, you may want to think about a backup internet connection if you don’t have one already. The more our business relies on the internet, the more mission critical it is to our daily operations. If you haven’t thought about setting up a backup connection for you office it may be time seriously take a look at it.
It’s a really tough question to answer without having a 2-way conversation about your bandwidth consumption habits, business goals, and budget. Deciding on the right amount of bandwidth is a critical decision for your company. Make sure you are thinking about all of the factors above, your customer’s experience, and your employee’s productivity when making this business decision.