What’s the Difference Between Gigabit and Gigabyte?
A common source of confusion is between a gigabit and a gigabyte. Find out the difference and how it can influence your business.
Even people who spend much of their working lives around computers and information technology can struggle with all of the bits, bytes, kilos, megas, gigas and petas that are routinely thrown around. One of the most common sources of confusion is between gigabits and gigabytes. So, what’s the difference between gigabit and gigabyte? To understand that we need to go back to basics.
Just a bit…
The basic unit of computing is the bit. A bit is essentially a number – to be precise it’s a space that holds a number – and because computers work in binary that number is either zero or one, so a bit can only have either of these two values. With it so far? We’ll be asking questions later.
Zeroes and ones aren’t a great deal of use on their own, so in order to make them more useful they are combined into bytes. The pioneers of modern computing settled on eight bits to a byte, a number effectively standardised by the IBM System/360 machines of the 1960s. This allows sufficient combinations to represent 256 different values, from zero to 255. These values are then used to represent characters in the ASCII character set so that each letter you are reading on your screen now is made up of eight bits.
Things have moved on over the years, however, first to 16-bit, then 32 and now 64-bit architectures. Notice, however, that these are all multiples of eight, because this doesn’t change the basic character units – when you type an ‘a’ it’s still an eight-bit ASCII character – but having more bits allows processors to move information around more efficiently, perform more calculations each second, and more importantly to address larger amounts of memory. A 32-bit computer, for example, can only support a maximum of four gigabytes of memory, whereas a 64-bit system can address up to 192 gigabytes.
Okay, now we understand what a bit and a byte are we need to look at what happens when you start to deal with them in bulk. This is when we start to add prefixes like kilo, mega and giga to represent multiple quantities.
Kilo represents two to the power 10 or 1024, mega is two to the power 20 or 1,048,576, and giga is two to the power 30 or 1,073,741,824. We tend to express these as being equivalent to a thousand, a million and a billion just to make it easier for our brains to cope with. So, a gigabit is a billion bits and a gigabyte is a billion bytes. What’s the difference between gigabit and gigabyte then is that – because we know a byte has eight bits – a gigabyte is eight times larger, representing eight billion bits.
Size and speed
Now that we understand what’s the difference between gigabit and gigabyte, we can move on to how these terms are used. This is important because they are not entirely interchangeable. They are both measures of the size of data, but when you are talking about how much you have stored on a disk or in memory you use gigabytes – abbreviated to GB. Your PC may, therefore, have 16 GB of memory and a 500 GB disk.
A gigabit, as we have seen is smaller. One gigabit is 125 megabytes so you need eight of them to make a gigabyte. This is where confusion tends to arise because gigabits – abbreviated to Gb – are what is used to measure the bandwidth available on broadband connections in gigabits per second (Gbps).
If you have a one Gbps internet connection, therefore, you can transfer 125 megabytes of data per second not – as many people assume – a gigabyte, it will take you eight seconds to transfer one of those. Of course, most internet services are slower than this, with speeds in the megabits per second (Mbps) range.
When you’re using the internet at home, none of this is terribly important except on the odd occasions when you need to download a large program update. For businesses, however, the speed of their internet connection can make a vast difference to their productivity.
In order to get gigabit speeds, it’s necessary to switch from a broadband connection to a leased line, which gives you a direct fibre connection from your premises to the ISP, offering higher speeds.
The trouble is leased lines, although faster, are more expensive and that may lead some companies to question whether they are worth the extra investment. In order to encourage more enterprises to move to gigabit internet connections, therefore, the Government has introduced something called the Gigabit Voucher Scheme.
This is a £200 million scheme aimed at improving the fibre infrastructure across the country and increasing demand, as well as cutting the cost to users. Under the scheme, small or medium businesses can get a £3,000 grant towards the cost of getting a connection that is gigabit ready. In most cases, this will involve installing an Ethernet leased line.
In order to qualify for the Gigabit Voucher Scheme, your business must have less than 250 staff, a turnover under €50 million and have had less than £200,000 in government grants in the last three years.
Upgrading to a leased line under the scheme can allow you to make wider use of cloud services, including as-a-service software, and move to VoIP-based systems in order to reduce your calling costs. It can also help you scale up your business without any of the bottlenecks that can result from a slow connection.
Go online to compare leased line deals.
Leased Line work closely with the leading providers to be able to offer customers the very best deals, and even broker leased line with BT.Call Us On 0808 115 4281