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Which Fiber-Optic Internet Speed Works for Your Business and Budget?

Fiber-optic internet offers a more reliable service with more consistent speed and almost equal download and upload rates. This is important for businesses that use numerous cloud-based applications to run your business or do a great deal of large file uploading, downloading, and sharing. Fiber internet is also scalable, which is helpful as your business grows.

Once you know fiber can come right to your business, just make sure you pick the right speed tier. Here are three important areas to consider:

Estimate your speed requirements

Bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of data transmitted through an internet connection in a given period of time. The speed of that transmission is measured in Mbps (megabits per second) and Gbps (gigabits per second). The internet breaks up information into small packages called bits, which are sent piece by piece. So a speed of 1 Mbps means 1 million of these pieces of data are sent per second. While any internet connection will let you download that huge file you need, using an internet plan with lower bandwidth will mean that you could be staring at the spinning wheel for a while.

The table below can help you determine the appropriate bandwidth for your business.

1–5 Mbps5–10 Mbps10–25 Mbps
General browsing: 1 MbpsEmail: 1 MbpsVoIP calls: 0.5 MbpsStandard and HD video calling (one to one): 1–1.5 MbpsSocial media: 1 MbpsStreaming audio: 0.5 MbpsFile downloading: 10 MbpsHD video conferencing: 6 MbpsStreaming SD video: 3–4 MbpsStreaming HD video: 5–8 Mbps Streaming Ultra HD 4K video: 25 Mbps

Source: Federal Communications Commission

Each internet-based activity you perform uses a particular number of megabits per second, and performing several tasks at once or supporting several connected devices at once requires more bandwidth. To estimate your needed bandwidth, determine the number of people in your business performing each of the tasks above at any given moment and add those numbers up. 

Let’s say it’s a slow morning, and in your office, you’ve got two employees streaming Ultra HD training videos (total of 50 Mbps), one downloading two large files (20 Mbps), two users logged into an HD video conference (total of 12 Mbps), three people checking their email (total of 3 Mbps) and audio streaming in your common spaces and lobby (0.5 Mbps). Your office is using a minimum of 85.5 Mbps at that given moment. This doesn’t take into account various software requirements and their drain on bandwidth or the Wi-Fi available throughout the office and to guests.

Consider how many team members need to conduct these activities simultaneously, and at your busiest periods, to determine how much bandwidth you need and the appropriate speed for your internet. Factor in your network size and potential growth shortly. And realize that wire cable internet offers, on average, a data transfer rate of 25 to 300 Mbps (or 300 million bits per second), while fiber internet offers data transfer rates up to 10 Gbps (10 billion bits per second). If the internet is your business’s lifeline, and you don’t want that lifeline failing you when you need it most.

Compare fiber cost vs. benefits

While fiber internet tends to cost more than copper-based internet, or DSL, the difference in price between fiber and copper internet has narrowed over the years, making fiber a more realistic option for small businesses that stand to benefit from its speed and reliability. If you’re struggling with your current internet because you’ve reached the limits of the service’s bandwidth or exceeded the data cap, the price of business-class fiber internet may seem small in comparison to your loss of productivity caused by data caps and latency. “What’s latency?” you ask. It’s the time you spend staring at your monitor between your actions and the response of your computer and the internet.    

If your business relies as much on uploading data as it does on downloading it, fiber internet may also be an answer to your prayers. The upload and download speeds of fiber are almost equal.

If you want to learn more about how fiber compares to DSL and cable high-speed internet, a good resource is here.

Test your internet speed

Before you make any decisions about a new internet plan, use these tools to better understand your current speeds and how they’re serving you.

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