Internet Speed: Assessing Your Needs

In 2000, 40% of Canadians used the internet. By 2010 the number had increased to an impressive 75%, according the United Nations.

For many of us it’s difficult to remember back to a time when companies operated without online products or applications.  Google Docs and VoIP technologies like Skype and web conferencing are widely used by businesses large and small.  These programs have enabled businesses to have a flexible workforce that can work from anywhere and still connect with customers in a meaningful way.

However, as you have adopted these technologies you may have noticed that the speed of your internet has decreased.  Not only can this reduction in speed be frustrating, it can also decrease the productivity of your workforce.  It’s important that as your business grows and your use of technology increases, you review your level of bandwidth.

What is Bandwidth?

Bandwidth refers to the volume of information per unit of time, known as ‘bits per second’ or ‘bps’, that can be used by a device which uses the internet connection.  This has been likened to the ‘data highway’.  The wider the highway, or the larger the bandwidth, the more cars, or in this case data, can travel at the same time.  The narrower the highway, or the smaller the bandwidth, the more the delay as fewer cars can travel at the same time.

How to Assess Your Needs

1. Understand Your Needs

There are a number of bandwidth calculators available online, through each of the service providers and through independent sites.  These tools will help calculate the bandwidth needed by analyzing your reason for use, frequency of use, and the number of users.  If you feel unsure or would like your hand held through this process, many internet service providers will connect you with an expert to help you make these calculations.

2. Continue to Monitor Your Bandwidth

Remember increasing your bandwidth to more than you actually need will not increase productivity, only decrease the amount left in your pocket. It’s important to continually review your usage to determine if there are spikes in activity at certain times of day and why those spikes occur.  If those spikes are because of a legitimate business need then use these as your benchmark for the lowest level of bandwidth you require. Determining these spikes may be confusing; however your IT service provider or consultant will be able to help you with this.

3. Examine Your Employee Culture

Most companies buy broadband with speeds much higher than their workers have at home, so it can be tempting for some to take advantage of this and download movies, music and images on to flash drives to take home. If this is occurring, include an internet usage policy for your company’s HR policies which outlines what employees are and are not able to use.

Flexibility is Key

Like any operational cost for your business, it is important that you continually review the service you are being provided with and sign up to flexible contracts which allow you to increase and decrease the service your business requires.  Speak to your current internet service provider and then shop around and compare to see if you are getting the best deal.  Alternatively look at websites such as Canadian ISP to compare the service providers in your area.