Business internet speeds are critical for your distributed workforce

by Tim Sobo, Lead Channel Manager

How often do you check your business internet speeds? Daily, weekly, or quarterly? If your business doesn’t have a regular schedule to see whether it’s meeting your needs, you’re not alone.

Now that many companies have a distributed workforce, which means more apps and demands on your connection, knowing network performance is critical. On top of that, companies have learned the importance of having a reliable connection that meets their needs for fluctuations in traffic and agility. But how do you know which internet speeds are right for your business to deliver on these? 

What is internet speed?

Internet speed or network speed is a measure of the time it takes to transfer data from your device, or source, to a destination server and vice versa. Suppose you go Google and search for an article about the Internet of Things (IoT). Internet speed is a combination of two things: the time it takes for your request to reach the Google server and then for the search results data to get to your device.

The unit of measure depends on the type of connection. There are a range of speeds depending on the type of connection. Broadband is a general term used when talking about high-speed connections. Broadband speeds are typically measured by:

  • Megabits per second or Mbps
  • Gigabytes per second (Gbps) or “gig speed”
  • Terabytes per second (Tbps)

There are slower and faster options, but broadband connection speeds are the common ones businesses use.

As more applications enter the marketplace that create more demand on your network, it’s important that you understand how they impact network performance. Do your remote employees connect to your network? Are there peak hours or are there spikes in usage throughout the day? All of these are things to keep in mind as you review your business internet speed.

How can you measure internet speed?

When you contract with a service provider, you likely choose from several options or tiers. Each tier promises a top speed. The higher the speed, the more costly the service may be. A regular business internet speed check will help your team make sure you’re getting what you pay for. Free, online tools like Speedtest.net are quick and easy. Your IT team simply connects directly to your cable modem or DSL connection to run the test.

For shared internet connections, providers don’t promise to deliver top speeds all day, every day. Instead, they promise a range, noting that the top speed may not be delivered at peak times. Make sure they’re delivering speeds that are at least at the minimum promised during those periods. You should expect to get top speed at peak times sometimes and almost always at off-peak times.

If you have a dedicated internet connection, it’s only shared with those who have access to your network.You should expect to get the internet speed you pay for 24/7.

Understanding speed and bandwidth

Bandwidth is different from speed, but the two measures are related. Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred from the source to a destination in a given amount of time. Let’s go back to the Google search example. A simple search transmits a relatively small amount of data and is sent from your computer to the search engine server. It doesn’t require much capacity, or bandwidth, so it’s likely the data will travel at a high speed, maybe even the highest speed promised by your internet service provider (ISP) or internet provider.

Other types of internet usage, like video conferencing or video streaming, require much higher bandwidth to transfer large amounts of data fast. And in certain industries, such as manufacturing or healthcare, machines—robotics, scanners, artificial intelligence (AI)-based technology—transfer heavy amounts of data and need more bandwidth to function. This becomes especially important as you innovate to keep pace with or even set trends in the future.

For these uses, you want high bandwidth and high speed. This enables your video to be smooth and jitter free, and your sound is crisp, clear, and in sync with the video. Also, your machines can operate and transfer data more smoothly.

Understanding download and upload speeds

Another related measure is upload and download speed. That is, the speed to get from a source like your computer or smartphone to the internet, and back again.

Symmetrical uploads and downloads occur when the upload and download speeds are equal. This could be another important factor in your internet choice, depending on how you use the internet. For videoconferencing, symmetrical speeds are important so you don’t experience latency or lag.

Imagine you’re hosting an important meeting to prepare for a product launch. You’re using videoconferencing, and you want to include employees across the country or maybe even across the globe. Without symmetrical upload and download speeds, there could be a significant lag in your conversations. They might overlap, and it would be difficult to have a conversation in real time. In this example, you would be experiencing asymmetrical download speeds. It’s likely frustrating and not very productive. You’ll want symmetrical speeds in order to have natural conversations.

Choosing the best internet speed for your business

To determine the right connection speed, you’ll need to assess your current internet usage. What types of data do you exchange on the internet and how fast do you need that exchange to happen? Think about whether your current internet experiences meet your needs or fall short. Consider how your customers, suppliers, partners, and employees interact with your business. As you evaluate, keep these factors in mind:

How critical is internet speed to your business? A related question is: What are you using the internet for? If your connection speed fluctuates throughout the day, what impact does it have on your business? For some operations, the answer is obvious. An outage or slow connection can be devastating to a stock trading platform, airport operation, or utility.

Dedicated internet might be your best bet if you discover you need high speed, large bandwidth, and better reliability. Know what you’re getting from your ISP to make sure it’s service can meet your needs and keep you connected.

Other businesses—let’s say an insurance company or a restaurant—may be more price-conscious and find that a shared internet connection gets the job done. Business fiber is internet service that delivers service across a shared network. That is, other businesses and the public may connect to the same network. It’s a cost-effective solution that offers high-speed bandwidth and flexibility if your needs change.

There’s even another option: wireless broadband. This service is delivered through a wireless local area network (WLAN) and acts as a mobile hotspot. It may be the best option if you need to get your business online quickly. Later, you can be more strategic. If you find business fiber or a dedicated connection makes more sense, you can use the wireless broadband connection as a backup.

Your business locations. Does each location perform the same function, or do they have different needs? Your business may include branch offices or a manufacturing facility as well as a home or corporate office. If so, the internet usage could be different for each location.

Availability. Some connectivity options may not be available everywhere. It may be that fiber, for example, is not available where you need it, but wireless broadband is. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It depends on your needs, but you certainly will want to know what options are in play as you work toward a decision.

Once you’ve gotten a good handle on your locations and their needs, you can more easily determine which service is best for your business and choose a provider.

How to choose a business internet provider

When choosing a business internet provider, look closely at what the provider is offering. Look for guarantees related to the quality of service. These could include:

Speed –

  • Which speed is the provider promising and for which service?
  • What are the speed and reliability guarantees for peak and off-peak times?
  • Do they offer multiple options to meet your current and future internet needs?

Uptime –

  • If it’s dedicated connection, is there a 100% uptime guarantee?
  • What can you expect if your connection is shared?
  • Are there backup services and options if your service goes down?

Finally, think about the value the provider adds. You want to make sure they’re evolving their technology and are willing to take the time to understand how your business uses its internet connection. It’s also important  consider how their internet solutions fit for your unique distributed workforce needs. Make sure your provider offers the speeds you need for each of location of your business. Finally, pay attention to their flexibility to meet your needs now and as they evolve.

Choosing the best internet speeds for your business may seem overwhelming. Now that you understand  speed and its related measures, bandwidth and symmetry, you’re in great shape to choose the best connection speeds and provide for your business now and as your business grows.

Learn more about AT&T Business Internet solutions and explore which internet service option is best for your business.