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Choosing an Internet Speed that Works For Your Business and Your Budget

Man working on a computer

One of your business’s most critical expenses is likely your internet bill. Internet service may be a small monthly cost relative to some of your other expenses, but modern business relies on the internet for so many everyday operations that it’s an expense worth looking at a bit more closely. 

When it comes to choosing the right internet speed that supports your business’s specific uses, it’s all about speed. We want all our connections to be fast, providing instant access to vital information and services.

Here’s a guide on how to think about your internet needs. Take a look at how you use the internet in your business, how many users you have at once, and how your needs might change as your business grows.

Choosing the right internet speed

Good internet speed is relative to use. In order to know which speed is appropriate for your business, it helps to understand what “speed” really means.

If your business is comprised of only you and a small team of employees relying on the internet for sending and receiving emails, updating your business’s social media accounts, and managing billing, you may not need as fast of a speed as a business that has numerous connected devices, uses multiple cloud-based applications, and relies heavily on VoIP calling and video conferencing.

Think of internet service like the water main delivering water to a house. It needs to be powerful enough to get the water to all the necessary areas of the house, but not so powerful that the faucets explode under the pressure. In a home, water may be used in multiple rooms at once, so it’s important that the water main can simultaneously handle meeting the needs of the shower and washing machine without the water pressure dropping dramatically for either. Internet speed works similarly.

Of course, your internet provider won’t charge you based on your usage like the water company does; you pay for a level of internet service whether you make full use of it or not.

Broadband speed required for common business activities

Bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of data transmitted through an internet connection in a given period of time. The speed of that transmission is measured in Mbps (megabits per second) or Gbps (gigabits per second). The internet breaks up information into small packages, or bits, and sends it piece-by-piece. For example, a speed of 1 Mbps means 1 million pieces of data are sent per second. While any internet connection will let you download that huge file you need, an internet plan with a lower download speeds will take longer than a higher download speed plan.

The table below can help you determine the best download speed for your business.

1 - 5 Mbps

5 - 10 Mbps

10 - 25 Mbps

General browsing: 1 Mbps

File downloading: 10 Mbps

Streaming Ultra HD 4K video: 25 Mbps

Email: 1 Mbps

HD video conferencing: 6 Mbps

VoIP calls: 0.5 Mbps

Streaming SD video: 3 – 4 Mbps

Standard and HD video calling (one to one):1 – 1.5 Mbps

Streaming HD video: 5 – 8 Mbps

Social media: 1 Mbps

Streaming audio: 0.5 Mbps

Source: Federal Communications Commission

Each internet-based activity you perform uses a particular number of megabits per second, and performing several tasks at once or supporting several connected devices and activities at once requires more bandwidth. To estimate your needed bandwidth, determine the number of people in your business performing each of the tasks above at any given moment, and add those numbers up. 

For example, if you have one employee streaming an Ultra HD training video (25 Mbps), another downloading a large file (10 Mbps), two employees logged into an HD video conference (total of 12 Mbps) and three employees checking their email (total of 3 Mbps). Your office is using a minimum of 50 Mbps at that particular moment. This doesn’t take into account and internet connected devices running in the background also utilizing bandwidth.

Consider how many team members are conducting these activities simultaneously and at your busiest periods to determine how much bandwidth you need and the appropriate speed for your internet. Factor in for potential growth in the near future. The internet is your business’s lifeline, and you don’t want that lifeline falling short when you need it most.

The largest draw on bandwidth

If your typical business day involves several people with multiple devices performing several tasks online at the same time, you may experience a slowdown in some services. The biggest draw on bandwidth is large file downloads and video streaming and conferencing.

For photographers or videographers who may store images in the cloud, higher bandwidth may be necessary to handle the large download sizes that come with photos and videos.

Medical offices may have more telehealth appointments than ever before, placing a larger burden on their bandwidth. If you use internet-based training resources to ensure your employees work safely, you could have several employees completing online coursework, further utilizing your overall bandwidth.

Understand fluctuations in internet speeds

Think of internet speed as a limit as opposed to a consistent rate. A certain bandwidth can only allow so much data to move per second, so if a great amount of data is moving at once, the total data will move more slowly through the pipeline.

Most important, do your homework. Find out if the internet providers you’re considering impose data caps, though it’s rare in business-class internet. If they do, that could mean your speed would be cut dramatically if you exceed your data limit for the month, and that would definitely hurt your operations. If your provider does have data caps, choose a plan with the highest monthly cap at a price you can handle.

Testing your internet speed

Before you make any decisions about a new internet plan, use these tools to better understand your current speeds and how they’re serving you.

Can you go fiber-fast?

See what internet speeds are available in your area.

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