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What Is the Best Internet Speed for Your Business?

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff

This is one area where it's better to get exactly what you need.

  • The majority of businesses are online, which means you need to have access to the internet, but how much internet speed do you need, and how do you determine how much speed to get? Knowing key factors will help your business internet run smoothly and quickly.
  • Factors when choosing business internet speeds vary from business to business but must be determined according to the number of devices in use and what tasks will be done online.
  • Finding the right internet provider is essential in choosing the best internet speed for your business. Internet providers vary about the top speed provided, the cost, and the risk of service interruptions. Choose a provider that is best suited for your business needs.

Any business today is an online business. Whether you're a corner flower market or operate a more sophisticated digital operation with numerous employees who collaborate in real time, connectivity speed is a critical question to ask when searching for an internet service provider.

Your business must consider what internet speed you'll need to get those essential tasks done. The right answer depends on the type of business you have, your data needs and the number of customers you serve. However, there are a few key issues that should make any decision about how much bandwidth to push easier.

The terminology

The first key is to understand the different lingo on internet speeds. Speeds are described in Mbps, or megabits per second (not to be confused with MBps, which references megabytes per second). It takes eight bits of data to equal one byte.

The best way to think about speed relates to your home internet service or mobile connection through your smartphone. The average speed for phones on a 4G LTE connection in the U.S., according to OpenSignal, is about 16Mbps (which is actually on the low end compared to the rest of the world). The Ookla Speedtest service puts the numbers a bit higher, with a mean in the U.S. of about 27Mbps. Speeds are higher, of course, for home broadband.

Upload and download speeds explained

The main factor any business must consider is what it needs in terms of upload and download speeds.

One useful resource is the FCC Broadband Speed Guide. While it generally describes several consumer features, pay attention to the more intensive tasks. The recommendation is at least 25Mbps for download. If your team is going to be demoing videos to customers or regularly streaming training content, this is the minimum.

It's easy to just look at the download speed, but don't neglect what is promised for uploads. If you have large files that need to get to a client, those seconds or minutes can seem awfully long when you're sitting there waiting for information to load.

In essence, a strong 4G LTE connection should suffice for most needs, particularly if your team is distributed in the field or otherwise across multiple locations. However, a more intensive broadband speed – 100Mbps or even higher – may be necessary if your team needs to download or upload files regularly or conduct other resource-intensive tasks.

What is the average business internet speed?

One of the most confusing things when choosing the internet speed for your business is knowing what the download and upload speeds mean. For instance, if your ISP says they offer speeds up to 5/1 Mbps, the first number is the download speed and the second number is the upload speed. So, 5/1 means that there is a top download speed of 5 Mbps and a top upload speed of 1 Mbps. The most commonly offered internet speeds for businesses are 5/1, 10/1, 30/5 and 50/10.

Business internet speed requirements vary significantly between businesses. The speed requirement depends on several factors, such as the type of business you operate and the number of employees you have. The average business internet speed is approximately 19 Mbps; however, this average will continue to increase year after year.

How much internet speed does your business need?

If you are wondering how much internet speed your business needs to operate efficiently, there are a few things you need to factor in. For instance, if you operate a small business, you'll use it for downloading files quickly, writing emails and communicating with customers. However, the larger your business is, the more employees you may have that use the internet at the same time.

So, exactly how much internet speed do you need? Here is a good estimate of the ideal internet speeds you'll need based on the number of devices being used and what is being done online:

  • One to two users or devices with a download speed of 5 Mbps can accomplish online browsing, email and research.

  • Three to five devices or users with a download speed of 25 Mbps can accomplish large-file downloading, business communications and basic Wi-Fi use.

  • With five to 10 devices in use and 75 Mbps, tasks such as video streaming, numerous POS transactions and frequent file sharing will not be interrupted or slowed down.

  • Ten to 15 devices in use with 150 Mbps can accomplish video conferencing, frequent cloud computing and data backups.

  • Fifteen to 20 devices will need 250 Mbps to accomplish seamless streaming, conferencing and server hosting.

  • Twnety to 30 devices in use will require at least 500 Mbps in order to maintain multiple server hosting, heavy online backups and constant cloud-based computing

  • Operating a business with 30 or more devices in use at the same time, such as a call center will do best with 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps), which will allow for extreme speed operations with almost zero interruptions.

Choosing a provider

To find out what providers are available in your area, check out the FCC Fixed Broadband Deployment Map. From here, just plug in an address to see options in your area. If you want to inquire specifically about business services, you'll need to contact those providers directly. A search will turn up information like this:

The FCC Broadband Map can show you your local options for internet providers.


The FCC Broadband Map can show you your local options for internet providers.

The best approach is to chat directly with a service provider once you have a full list of your team needs. Discuss your requirements and which plans tailored to businesses may be in your best interest.

Be firm about what your team needs and how a provider can best meet those needs. Some providers also offer connectivity from a mobile network as a backup if things go awry.

The bottom line is that speed matters, and scaling back on costs in this area could mean long waits or a hindrance to productivity in other areas. It's essential to make the right choice when it comes to internet speed for your business broadband service.

Image Credit: scyther5 / Getty Images
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