How Much Bandwidth is Enough?

Do you hear office grumbling about slow internet?  Bandwidth can seriously impact productivity. At some point we’ve all had the feeling of “taking forever” as we wait for a large file to download.

You may have also experienced latency — when the media file you are watching on line stops or stutters repeatedly. These interruptions waste valuable time and can lead to unhappy customers who have to wait because “the system is slow today.”   If you have a voice over IP phone system that uses your internet connection, latency can lead to poor call quality and that does not reflect well on your business.

What is using my bandwidth?

There are a lot of factors that impact your bandwidth utilization.

·         Number of people using the circuit:  The more people using your circuit, the more bandwidth you need to ensure a good user experience. 

·         Number of devices connected to the network: If your office is anything like ours, everyone has a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone using WiFi in the office.  All of these devices download and update apps in the background, even when you don’t think they are in use. Printers and scanners are connected and using bandwidth for updates and print jobs.  

·         Applications:  Streaming media and real-time audio and video are bandwidth intensive.   Desktop sharing, downloading or uploading large files, like graphics files and videos, also takes more bandwidth than simple email or Web surfing. These applications add up, and start to impact productivity.

·         Equipment:  Older equipment can impact your user experience.  It isn't always your connection. We have had people call in to upgrade their bandwidth and when we delve in to troubleshoot, we find that the major bottleneck is their outdated equipment and no additional monthly expense is required.

How much bandwidth do we need?

Speed depends on how many people are using your Internet connection, how many devices are connected and what applications you use. 

One rule of thumb we have seen used is to start with 5 Mbps and allow 0.5 Mbps bandwidth per employee after that. This should be adequate if you are primarily using your connection for email and web browsing.  However, it does not take into account today’s heavier demands, such as VoIP, cloud based business applications, online file sharing, HD video streaming, video conferencing and multiple devices per person and office.  More and more company employees have FIOS or other high speed bandwidth at home, so just allotting the minimum bandwidth does not deliver the experience that they are used to and can contribute to your users getting frustrated.  

There are more demands placed on your bandwidth today and those will grow. Websites are hugely more bandwidth intensive than the old html sites in the past. We do more sharing and moving around of files. VoIP phones, online meeting and video conferencing are widespread. Video has turned into HD video and soon will be at 4K resolution, placing even more demands. And, given the experience that many of us have at home, we expect faster times than we did five years ago.

The real question to ask yourself about bandwidth is: do you have what you need for your company to operate at the efficiently? If not, you may want to look at the different high-speed Internet options that are available in your area.

Bandwidth pricing is compressing and ARG can often drastically increase bandwidth for our clients with little or no price increase.   A massive uplift in bandwidth does not impact the price significantly, since the cost per Mbps goes down as speeds increase.  ARG has resources like fiber maps and our lightlist of all the lit buildings in the area and what providers are in them that can help you find the best option for your organization.

There are a number of options for architecting bandwidth.  Sometimes the most cost effective method isn’t a high speed circuit from your office to the internet.  Bandwidth in data centers is inexpensive and often we find that a point to point to a data center enables huge economies of scale along with a more redundant network topology.  We might also bundle together multiple provider connections with automatic failover between the circuits.  ARG would love to explore your requirements and survey all of your connectivity options to find the right amount of bandwidth and the best network architecture for you.

To find out what your options are, email or call us at 866-521-5121 to set up a time to discuss your needs with a consultant.