High speed internet has become a regular feature of offices and businesses across the country. Cable DSL technology has made faster internet speeds and more reliable connectivity commonplace. It has brought the world closer to our fingertips, making the exchange of information easier than ever before. With the increase reliance on networking and internet usage, businesses have come to demand higher bandwidth allowances. Greater bandwidth means more than simply better internet service, it also means greater productivity, better internet security, and more potential for success.
Understanding Bandwidth Allocation
When discussing bandwidth allocation, it is important to first understand the difference between upstream and downstream usages. The majority of information traffic occurs downstream through the loading of web pages, streaming of audio or video, retrieval of emails and the downloading of files. Generally speaking, information traffic on the upstream is limited to page requests, the sending of emails and the occasional upload. Consequently, internet service providers offer their subscribers packages with greater download capacity than upload capacity. For example, an average subscription may offer a download capacity of 10 Megabytes per second(Mbps), and an upload capacity of 1 Mbps. Initially these metrics may look skewed or top heavy, but it is common for service providers to offer 1/10th of the download capacity in available upload bandwidth, as the upstream usage is always relatively minimal in comparison to a users downstream traffic.
A bandwidth allocation of 5 – 10 Mbps works well for the average small business, who may employ a network of no more than two to three computers. The limited amount of information traffic, even with audio and video streaming, allows for a fair amount of available bandwidth at any given time. This model is suitable for businesses with only a handful of employees accessing the internet at any given time, or those businesses who mainly rely on their internet for VoIP telephone services and light networking capabilities. But for larger businesses, with multiple employees constantly accessing both their company’s network and the internet throughout the work day, these numbers simply can not meet requirements.
Larger Businesses Demand Larger Bandwidth
An ISP subscription offering 8 – 10 Mbps of downloading capacity may statistically seem to be sufficient for an office with upwards of 50 employees. An email or page request traveling upstream uses only a fraction of a kilobyte(Kbs), and any subsequent traffic reply requires only a small portion of downstream bandwidth. Under these conditions, 8 – 10 Mbps would seem to be more than enough. However, office managers must consider that most of their employees are accessing the internet simultaneously, creating a greater draw on the available bandwidth. As anyone who has ever worked in an office knows, emails, conference calls and downloads simply don’t happen to schedule. While there are always times during the office day when the internet pull is light, there will equally be times when a flurry of web activity creates bursts of bandwidth usage. This bursting can put a strain on a more limited bandwidth allowance, leading to slower response times, upload and download failures and ultimately a loss of efficiency in the office.
Balancing Cost With Productivity
Offices with many employees accessing the internet simultaneously will obviously need to balance their bandwidth needs against cost. But generally speaking, businesses with 50 to 100 employees will need to consider a bandwidth capacity of at least 15 Mbps. Larger companies, with hundreds of employees online will need bandwidths of upwards of 30 Mbps and more using fiber ethernet. These may seem like excessive amounts, and there will be times during the workday when their will be a surplus of available bandwidth. However, during peak hours, the higher bandwidth ceiling will allow for greater online mobility, and any downtime or internet sluggishness will be minimized thereby increasing the office’s productivity. These higher bandwidth limits will also keep the business prepared for any bursting that occurs during the workday, when internet traffic swells beyond normal usage. For companies and offices reliant on the steady flow of informational traffic these higher bandwidths are an absolute necessity.
Businesses with high internet traffic will find that a detailed cost/benefit analysis will demonstrate the need for, and the rewards inherent in, a greater bandwidth capacity. Online research, communication operations, contract negotiations and billing services will run much more smoothly. Where efficiency is the goal, choosing the correct level of bandwidth capacity becomes the means to realize that goal.