What is Bandwidth - Laptop Phone

What Does Bandwidth Mean?

Whenever the discussion turns to internet connections and their performance, it won’t be long before someone mentions bandwidth.

But exactly what does bandwidth mean? And why is it important? In simple terms, bandwidth is the quantity of data that can be transferred between two points in a given time. It’s sometimes referred to as data transfer rate and is measured in bits per second (bps). However, the latest fibre optic networks are capable of operating in megabits (Mbps) or gigabits (Gbps) per second.

Basically, then, it’s all about how your internet connection performs and how well it handles the volumes of data needed by your business.

Never mind the speed, feel the width

It’s easy to confuse the speed of a network connection with its transfer rate. In fact, these two things are not the same, although they are closely related. What determines bandwidth is how much of the line’s speed you are actually able to use; in other words, it’s about capacity rather than performance.

What is Bandwidth - Devices officeLet’s say you have a 10 Gbps Ethernet connection to the internet. You have 10 Gbps of speed and if one task is using the connection exclusively, it has 10 Gbps of bandwidth. However, if you have 10 users, their individual bandwidth would be only 1 Gbps. On the other hand, if you have two 10 Gbps connections, you have a total of 20 Gbps of bandwidth available.

In practice, various factors mean that you can’t actually use all of the bandwidth that is theoretically available. This is particularly true of wireless networks where the actual throughput may be as little as half of the rated capacity. In addition, in a conventional broadband connection, the link is asynchronous. That means there is less bandwidth available for uploading than there is for downloading.

What does Bandwidth mean? And how much do you need?

As well as asking what is bandwidth? it’s also important to understand how much you really need. Increasingly, businesses rely on the internet to use cloud storage, as-a-service software, VoIP calling and more. The greater their reliance on the web, the more bandwidth they are going to require. Make sure you understand the importance of cloud storage for businesses in the future.

If too many people are using the connection, or if one task is transferring very large amounts of data, then there will be less bandwidth available for each job. It’s analogous to the way in which the flow to the bathroom tap slows down when you run water into the kitchen sink.

So, how can you check bandwidth usage in your business? First of all look at the number of people who have internet access. Of course, not all internet access is equal in terms of how it uses data, but we’ll come to that.

You need to look at how much time employees spend online and what type of tasks they are performing. Tasks such as dealing with email or visiting websites use a relatively low amount of bandwidth. File downloads, VoIP use and streaming need more, and activities such as web conferencing and SaaS applications are the heaviest users of all. Leased Line have compiled an introductory guide on VoIP.

What is Bandwidth - multiple usesIt’s all about the amount of data being transferred. For example, opening an average website needs about 1 MB. A live video stream in HD will need about 15 MB per minute, but a two-way video call will need about 90 MB per minute. In determining the connection you require, it is therefore essential that you look at your most data-intensive applications. There are various online tools you can use to assess the speed of your connection and the amount of data that’s being transferred. Of course, requirements vary at different times of day, so it’s vital to test at different periods so that you can get an idea of your maximum and minimum requirements.

Bandwidth requirements are, essentially, defined by the importance of the information being transferred quickly, even if the volume is quite small. Point of sale terminals, for example, need a reliable, fast connection at all times if business isn’t to suffer. On the other hand, for everyday office tasks, a connection that can vary a little in speed depending on demand will be less troublesome.

Types of connections

Having determined your needs you can start to look at what type of connection will give you the best bandwidth. As noted, broadband doesn’t give you the same in both directions. Businesses that are heavy internet and cloud users may need to look at Ethernet links. These provide a dedicated link to the internet so that all of the bandwidth in both directions is available for your use. Explore all the latest options for leased line contracts.

Finally, remember that bandwidth needs are dynamic; they change all the time. When planning your immediate needs, try to take account of how the business might grow and how its internet usage patterns may change. This could be as a result of extra work or changes from in-house to cloud-based systems.

If you want to improve your bandwidth, or you aren’t sure how much bandwidth would be right for you, call our team on 0808 115 4281 or get in touch online today so our team can help find the best solution for you and your business.

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Rehan Patel