Why Do You Need a Gig?


Brian Henderson, President


Brian was recently asked, “Why do I need a Gig of Bandwidth?”

Answer: The popular marketing of today’s high-speed Internet connections would have you believe “a gig” is the answer to your bandwidth concerns. Unfortunately, that’s only part of the story, and could easily lead business decision makers to purchase much more than they need.

First, bandwidth comes in a variety of speeds…or to be more precise, capacities. In today’s market, you can purchase 5Mbps, 10Mbps, 20Mbps, 50Mbps, 100Mbps, 500Mbps…all the way up to the hyper-marketed 1Gbps (or 1,000Mbps). The advertising around these services makes it easy to believe that more is always better and that one can never have enough. Don’t believe it!

There are three items that aren’t mentioned in most of the advertising:

1. Dedicated vs. best effort

In a nutshell, this means your service might or is capable of giving you the advertised speeds…just not all the time. You’re likely sharing network capacity, so you don’t control the factors that determine the transmission capacity at any given time. I often say…”that’s the speed you’ll likely see at 2am on a Sunday morning.” Best effort is just that. There’s no guarantee, and the provider won’t realistically investigate ‘slow internet speed’ complaints with any veracity.

On the contrary, dedicated service means the provider is guaranteeing you capacity all the way through their network at the given speed; so you aren’t sharing, and it’s always there, even when you’re not using it. This is much more expensive and burdensome on the provider from a capacity management perspective, but promises the best experience with the service. It also means ‘slow internet speed’ complaints are checked for bandwidth issues.

2. Upload vs. Download

In the industry, they use the terms ‘symmetrical’ or ‘asymmetrical’ bandwidth. Usually, best effort services provide a speed, a “/” and then another speed. Generally an asymmetrical connection, the first speed is the maximum download and the final speed is the maximum expected upload speed. Therefore, a connection with 20Mbps/2Mbps states the best you can expect in download capacity is 20Mbps/second, and the best in upload will be 2Mbps. Again, the speed is never guaranteed. Symmetrical in contrast is usually a dedicated service, or what is also referred to as ‘business-grade’ internet. Speed is guaranteed in both directions with just one speed of 5Mbps, 10Mbps, 20Mbps, 50Mbps, 100Mbps, 500Mbps…1Gbps. No need for two speed listings since it’s equal in both directions, and the provider is dedicating capacity just for your connections.

3. How much Internet do you actually use

For each step in the ladder, the price goes up per month. Buying “a gig” doesn’t always make sense if you’re never going to come close to using that capacity. Remember, this is a measure of capacity, so you’re paying for a “a gig’ every second. If you’re not a heavy data user, it will be difficult to fully realize the benefits of this much bandwidth. While downloading or uploading very large files will complete faster, the benefits are almost negligible if it’s done only once or twice a week.

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Don’t fall for the marketing hype and pay more than you need to for your business. Instead, take a harder look at what you actually need. Remember, the marketing people with the carriers want you to purchase more. Be informed and make that purchase on your terms. And again, not all bandwidth is equal…and not all providers are the same!

If you need an ally in the technology industry to make sure you’re on the right track and purchasing the right amount of bandwidth for your company, contact us. We are here to ensure your satisfaction, at no cost to you.