How Fast Should My Business Internet Be?
COVID-19 (the coronavirus) is sending small-business owners out of the office to rely on their home internet. In response, internet service providers are temporarily changing their policies.
The Federal Communications Commission issued a pledge that all service providers are following. All providers “will not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.”
Comcast Xfinity is offering two free months of their Internet Essentials package to new customers and increased internet speeds to all existing subscribers. Also, anybody can use an Xfinity hotspot for free and subscribers get unlimited data use for 60 days.
Cox is offering the first month of its low-income internet program, Connect 2 Compete, for free until May 12, 2020. The provider is also providing free phone and remote desktop support.
With all the broadband jargon and technical terms, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. And internet can get downright expensive, especially when you want fast speeds. But not to worry—we’ll help you find the sweet spot for your internet speed.
So what is internet speed and how is it measured?
Internet speed, sometimes referred to as "bandwidth," is essentially how much data can be uploaded or downloaded in a second. And that covers your entire network, so if two people are downloading files at the same time, the download speed is halved for each of them.
The internet industry measures speed in megabits per second (Mbps). So the greater the megabits per second, the speedier your internet is. But like we mentioned above, increasing the number of internet users and simultaneous tasks can bump up internet lag. Data heavy tasks can also slow things down— think large file downloads or video conferencing. To prevent lag spikes during crucial business hours, cut back on internet activity by scheduling data backups after hours.
What about broadband internet? Now let’s break down the term broadband. Broadband, which stands for broad bandwidth, refers to high-speed internet access that is constantly on and faster than the traditional dial-up service. As one of the fastest and most popular types of internet connections available, it comes in several high-speed transmission forms:
- Digital subscriber line (DSL)
- Cable modem
According to the FCC, broadband is defined as a connection with a download speed of at least 25 Mbps (megabits per second) and an upload speed of at least 3 Mbps. The FCC recently increased this benchmark due to “advances in technology, market offerings by broadband providers and consumer demand.”¹
What is the average business internet speed?
Again, internet needs can vary wildly between businesses. But you may still be wondering, What’s the average business internet speed? In the first quarter of 2017, the average internet connection speed was 18.75 Mbps.² Fortunately, that average continues to increase year over year.
How much internet speed does my business need?
Curious about how much internet your business needs to run efficiently? As a small-business owner, choosing the right internet speed is crucial for tasks like fostering employee engagement and productivity, downloading files quickly, and communicating with customers properly—just to name a few.
And when it comes to the internet, the larger your employee base, the more speed your business needs. Again, with two people downloading data, the download speed is cut in half. So if you have five people downloading files at the same time instead of one person, it will take even longer for each person to download each file. That’s why larger businesses with more users need faster internet plans.
For example, if you operate a call center with more than 30 employees on the phone and internet simultaneously, you’ll need to pull out the big guns and opt for a 1 Gbps, or 1,000 Mbps, plan. On the other hand, if you run a small mom-and-pop shop with only a few employees, a 75 Mbps plan may do the trick. However, you may want to add a cushion to your internet speed to make room for business growth.
If you’re worried about the cost of business internet compared to residential internet, rest assured it comes with a wide spectrum of benefits, including reliability and faster upload speeds. So the investment is more than worth it.
To help accommodate different business needs and sizes, most internet providers offer a variety of speed tiers. With this in mind, use the following table to understand different internet speeds and how they can benefit your organization.
Internet speed (download)
Number of connected users/devices
What you can do
1 or 2
Online browsing, research, email
3 to 5
Large-file downloading, basic Wi-Fi, business communication
5 to 10
Video streaming, frequent file sharing, numerous POS transactions
10 to 15
Frequent cloud computing, video conferencing, data backups
15 to 20
Server hosting, seamless streaming and conferencing
20 to 30
Multiple-server hosting, constant cloud-based computing, heavy online backups
1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps)
Extreme-speed operating for enterprise-ready offices with near-zero interruptions
Download speed vs. upload speed
Wondering how download and upload speeds differ? Essentially, download speed is the rate that data is transferred from the internet to your computer. Virtually all internet activities require download speed, but some use more than others. You’ll need a faster download speed with every employee you add.
By contrast, upload speed is the rate that data is transferred from your computer to the internet. This speed is crucial for uploading large files without interrupting interactive services like VoIP.
Be sure to keep both download and upload speeds in mind when choosing a business internet service provider.
The three main types of internet
If you’ve ever researched and shopped for the best internet provider for businesses, you’ve likely heard of the three main types of internet.
DSL, known as digital subscriber line, is considered one of the fastest and most convenient internet options on the market. This high-speed service delivers businesses internet over existing telephone lines. While DSL doesn’t interfere with phone conversations, be prepared to lose your internet connection if the line is damaged or the service is interrupted by a power outage.
If you’re looking for blazing fast internet speed, look no further than fiber-optic. Fiber-optic technology offers the lowest latency, which means it’s a godsend for businesses who transfer large files or have frequent video conferences. This type of internet works by using fiber-optic cables made of strands of glass. Flashing lights are pulsed at designated intervals through these strands to relay digital code from one end to the other. But since fiber-optic is a newer option than DSL, it’s available to only 25% of the population and typically costs more.
Wondering what the dish is on satellite internet? Over 22,000 miles above Earth, orbiting geostationary satellites transmit and receive data from small satellite dishes on homes or businesses. Yet satellite internet is known for some technical limitations. Chief among them is the latency caused by the distance between your computer, the satellite, and the servers on the ground. However, If your business is located in a rural area, a satellite provider may be your only option.
After getting lost in space with how satellite internet works, we saw only two satellite ISPs—HughesNet and Viasat. However, only one of these satellite internet providers delivers better than the competition.
Should I get Wi-Fi?
Whether you're running a sports bar, hotel, or even a small office, there’s no doubt that offering public Wi-Fi offers several eye-catching benefits. For one, consumers expect free Wi-Fi as part of their experience in any business they plan on staying at awhile, including restaurants and auto shops. Not only does a public Wi-Fi make for happier guests and customers, but it can also improve employee productivity in an office setting
But it’s important to note that offering free Wi-Fi can backfire. As part of any business plan, you and your IT team should have a clear-cut security policy with protocols established. At the very least, make sure WPA2-level security is enabled. Additional measures you can take include adding firewalls, changing passwords frequently, and keeping the Wi-Fi router hidden away from outsiders.
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The takeaway: What internet speed does your business need?
Is your head spinning yet? We get it—business internet speed can seem like a complex maze full of intricate puzzles. And every business will have different internet speed needs.
But keep in mind that sizing your internet properly can help save you money in the long run so you can allocate funds to different areas of your business. In other words, faster may not always be better.
Do you have experience testing out different internet speeds for your organization? Tell us in the comments below.
1. FCC, “2015 Broadband Progress Report”
2. Statista, “Average Internet Connection Speed in the United States from 2007 to 2017 (in Mbps), by Quarter”