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How Do You Determine the Bandwidth Needs for Your Business?

Dec 13, 2018

As a business, your Internet connection is essential: you use it in your daily activities from email to coworkers, clients and potential customers to accessing cloud-based storage or collaboration tools. You may use it to purchase office supplies or inventory, and, on the flip side, to sell your own products or services. You may also hop onto your Kinetic Internet to research your competitors or even your customers. And then, of course, there’s digital marketing and advertising.

Sure, you’ll want your network to be secure and reliable, but you’ll also want bandwidth that will fit your business needs.

What is Internet Bandwidth?

What exactly is bandwidth? It’s usually used interchangeably with Internet speed, but more specifically, it is the measurement of how fast data can be sent over a wired or wireless connection. Larger bandwidth means more data can flow through at the same time at a faster rate.

And, while a larger bandwidth may sound appealing, you don’t want your business to be paying for more than it actually needs. On the other hand, you don’t want a slow connection that can bring operations to a halt.

So, how do you figure out how much bandwidth you need for your business?

Here are a few things to keep in mind from our Kinetic Business by Windstream team:

1. Number of Users

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly three-quarters of small businesses have fewer than 10 employees. (The federal government categorizes a small business as one that, among other things, has fewer than 500 employees.)

And, just like your home Internet, your bandwidth will be affected by the number of users connected to the network at once. Now, you’ll obviously count up all of your employees, but you’ll also want to factor in clients or customers who may also log onto your network.  

As a general rule of thumb, you’ll need about 10 to 15 Mb per employee.

2. Number of Connected Devices

The next thing to consider is the number of connected devices on your network. Let’s say you have a law firm with six employees and about four clients who come in at once. On the upper end, you’ll want 150 Mb of bandwidth.

Then factor in this stat: the average employee in the U.S. uses at least two devices per day for work, one study shows. So, your business bandwidth would then be spread over 10 people and 20 devices, using the same scenario above. That, too, will up the ante on getting the best internet speed for your business.

3. Online Activity

And the last big thing you’ll want to think about is everyone’s online activity. The good news is that your business won’t have to worry much about peak Internet usage because those hours typically fall in the evening between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. But, you’ll likely be running more rigorous applications depending on your industry.

It’s important to note that run-of-the-mill activities like email and web browsing won’t take up a lot of bandwidth, but more complex activities — like a voice over IP phone system, file sharing, backup services and cloud-based services — will require faster speeds.

Use the chart below to answer your questions about bandwidth consumption by activity, like how much bandwidth does video conferencing use.

If you aren’t sure you’re calculating correctly — or if what you’ve calculated doesn’t seem to be right — try classifying your business operations this way:

— The average small business — with 10 employees or fewer — that uses email and web browsing only can likely get by with 5 to 10 Mbps.

— The average small business using VoIP phone services and conferencing services can get by with at least 25 Mbps.

— The average small business that downloads large content, uses file sharing, cloud- or web-based applications or programs and backup services will need at least 50 Mbps.

If yours isn’t the average small business, our Kinetic Business by Windstream team would recommend doubling each amount for every 10 additional employees.

And know that bandwidth needs typically double every year, especially for web-based programs. So, if you’re planning for business growth in the foreseeable future, you might want to add some padding when determining your bandwidth.

What You Need to Get Going

To get things up and running, you’ll need to consider the basics of your business from a technology standpoint. If your activities are fairly basic, like checking inventory, overseeing payroll and maintaining a static website, you will probably be able to operate on a modest broadband service. For more elaborate visual needs like creating, editing, uploading and sharing high-resolution imagery, you’ll require a faster connection – especially if six or more employees will be using it. If your Internet will also support customer needs, such as Wi-Fi, you’ll need to take that into consideration as well. If you plan on offering free Wi-Fi to your customers, you’ll want to have a second connection so that your primary Internet access isn’t bogged down.

Real World Needs

The more users you have on your network, the more frequent the changes to (and inherent complexity of) your website, and the number of functions you use your Internet service to tackle, the more bandwidth you’ll need. If you’re a business with employees, suppliers and customers who are physically far away but need to engage in real time, you may need to use services such as VoIP (voice over Internet protocol). And the more users you have, the more bandwidth you’ll need.

If your business will use cloud services, like data backup or business applications, a more robust Internet connection will be necessary to support it.

What SMBs Are Buying Right Now

There is a lot of talk about faster speeds and we agree that speed matters. But you might be relieved to know that not every business needs a GIG, or even 100 Mg. A recent survey by IDC indicates that the sweet spot for most small businesses is between 10-50 Mbps. Business with more intensive tech needs, or that are inherently technology-based, find that they need between 50 to 75 Mbps to operate smoothly.

Ready to Get Started?

Starting to see how much bandwidth you need for your business? Connect with our team to learn about your Kinetic Internet options — business class, dedicated and the robust SD-WAN — and getting the speed you need today!