If there’s one thing we know about business internet, it’s this: The more reliable your internet, the more efficiently you can get things done. 

Since so much of running a business requires a solid connection—employee communication, document access, transactions, marketing, and more—making sure you’ve got enough bandwidth is key. 

But how the heck are you supposed to know what internet speed or bandwidth level is "enough" for your business?

A bunch of factors influence how much bandwidth you should purchase for your business. It’s time to pull out the magnifying glass and do a bit of investigative work. But don’t worry, we’ll walk you through the clues you should be looking for. 

Let’s dive in.

How Internet Is Measured

Before we get into how to determine the internet bandwidth your business needs, let’s start with how internet is measured and purchased.

You may at some point have seen or heard the acronyms Kbps, Mbps and Gbps. These stand for kilobits per second, megabits per second, and gigabits per second, respectively. A “bit” is a unit of data and these “bits-per-second” measurements show how fast data moves on the internet.

Here’s how they look in their expanded form:

  • 1 Kbps = 1,000 bits per second
  • 1 Mbps = 1,000,000 bits per second
  • 1 Gbps = 1,000,000,000 bits per second

And, although people tend to use “speed” when referring to internet capabilities, you’re actually purchasing the bandwidth, or the amount of data that can be processed at one time. 

Think of it like the number of lanes on the highway: the more lanes (bandwidth) you have, the more potential traffic (data) you could accommodate.

Determining your current bandwidth

If your current internet isn't cutting it, and it’s time to upgrade, you’ll first want to run an internet speed test. Once you know what your current internet bandwidth is, you’ll have a better idea of what’s not enough. 

An internet speed test will give you two of the bit-per-second measurements we just discussed: one for your downloads and one for your uploads. 

Download speed is how quickly your internet connection receives data from the internet. So, with low bits per second, downloads are slow.  With high bits per second, downloads are fast.

Upload speed is how quickly you can send data from your devices to the internet. So, higher bits per second mean faster uploads. Lower bits per second mean slower uploads.

We recommend using Speedtest.net by Ookla for speed tests.

Your speed test results are a snapshot of your internet’s performance at that particular moment. During the test, your computer will download and upload test files (don’t worry, they’re encrypted for privacy!) using the maximum bandwidth available at that time. 

To get a number that’s as close to your actual bandwidth as possible, run your speed test when no one else is using the internet. And, since wireless connectivity often varies throughout the office (we’re looking at you, corner conference room nobody wants to book…), do it while directly connected to the internet via an ethernet cable.

What to know before you buy

Lots of factors can impact your internet needs, but knowing a few of these key stats will help you make the best call on which bandwidth will be right for your business now, and for the business it’s growing into. 

Number of employees

The more people that will be in your office using the internet, the more bandwidth you’ll need. As you’re taking a headcount, add enough buffer for additional employees you’ll hire down the line. (You don’t want to do this all over again in 3 months when you grow the team!)

Number of devices

Much like the number of employees in the office, the number of devices connected to the internet at the same time will impact the bandwidth you need, too. Here again, you’ll want to think ahead. New employees will likely have more than one device, and you may be adding additional connected devices—like video conferencing equipment—in the coming months.

Age and ability of devices

Believe it or not, your devices themselves can impact whether you’re able to take advantage of your bandwidth, too. Old or slow devices—including both computers that connect to the internet and the equipment that delivers that internet to you—may not be able to process all the bandwidth you are actually paying for. (It’s kind of like how a 25MPH speed limit doesn’t matter much if Citibikes only go up to 8.3 miles per hour.)

If your devices are too old or slow, they'll be a bottleneck. So, you'll want to consider getting new equipment, or at least taking a look at compatibility, to make sure you’re able to take advantage of the bandwidth you sign up for.

Activity of employees 

Is video conferencing the primary way you hold meetings? Do your employees use Salesforce or other cloud applications? Are large files being downloaded and uploaded constantly? Do your employees do a lot of streaming? (We’ve all got a work playlist, amiright?)

All of these types of activities require more bandwidth than simple activities like sending emails. Since data shows that hybrid working environments are in, you’re likely going to see a lot more video calls and other high-bandwidth activities happening in the office. 

So if your employees are all up in Zoom, Dropbox and Spotify, you're going to need the bandwidth to support them.

So… how much bandwidth does your business need?

After running an internet speed test to find out what might not be enough, and collecting some useful information about your internet activity and needs, it’s time to figure out exactly which level of bandwidth is right for you.

Here are some common internet bandwidth options and what they support, so you can see how these offerings align with your business needs:

  • 100 Mbps - Great for smaller businesses with basic internet needs. Think simple emails and some voice over IP (VoIP) calls, some light cloud application activity (i.e. Google Suite with Google Docs), or Salesforce use. No more than a handful of video calls happening simultaneously.
  • 500 Mbps - Great for small-to-medium offices with medial internet usage. More emails are sent with attachments and employees are on the phone more frequently. Regular access to cloud applications is needed. Simultaneous video calls are common.
  • 1 Gbps - Many devices are connected to the internet. Larger companies with more employees doing bandwidth-heavy activities (many simultaneous video calls, sending and receiving large files via email or cloud environments, and regular cloud computing).

Remember, consider your activity and needs now as well as the ones you’ll have in the future as your business grows. This way, you won’t have to do further upgrades later on as your needs grow.

Finding the right provider

Once you’ve got an idea of the internet plan that might best support your office and your colleagues, you just need to find the ISP—Internet Service Provider—that can deliver that bandwidth to your office or building. 

If your office is in the New York City Metro Area, Pilot may be able to hook you up. We offer Dedicated Internet Access from 100 Mbps to 10 Gbps, making sure your team can connect to whatever and whoever they need, today and down the road.