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What Is the Best Internet Speed for Your Business?

Stella Morrison
Stella Morrison

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 (ISP).

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

Internet speed and how it's measured

Internet speed is measured using several factors. One term you'll see is "bandwidth," which is the maximum speed of an internet connection over a given amount of time. Bandwidth is measured in Mbps, or megabits per second (not to be confused with MB, or megabytes per second). It takes 8 bits of data to equal 1 byte. In theory, the greater the number of megabits per second, the faster the internet speed, but this can be influenced by many factors, including the number of people using the network, the shape and size of your office, and the activities being conducted while using the internet.

Bandwidth is calculated assuming that only one device is downloading or uploading files at any given time. For example, if your bandwidth is 300 Mbps, but there are two devices are connected to the network, each device experiences a bandwidth of 150 Mbps.

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 16 Mbps (which is actually on the low end compared to the rest of the world). The Ookla Speedtest service puts those numbers higher, with a mean in the U.S. of about 27 Mbps. Speeds are higher, of course, for home broadband.

Internet speed by type

Each internet type offers different speeds, depending on the infrastructure in your area, where your business is located and the plan you buy. Here are the four most popular internet types and what you can expect speedwise for each type:

  • DSL: A digital subscriber line (DSL) connection runs through your business's landline. The average download speed starts at around 6 Mbps, while the average upload speed starts at approximately 1 Mbps.
  • Fiber optic: This type utilizes fiber optic cables instead of copper wires, like its cable equivalent. Fiber optic cables use light signals to deliver data from and to your devices. Fiber internet can support download speeds up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), but its more common speeds range from 150 Mbps to 500 Mbps. Upload speeds range from 65 Mbps to 100 Mbps.
  • Cable: This internet type uses the same wiring that delivers cable to your home. The average download speed for cable internet can be 10 Mbps to 500 Mbps, while the upload speeds can range from 5 Mbps to 50 Mbps.
  • Satellite: This type uses radio waves to communicate with satellites in space to deliver internet connections. Download speeds can range from 12 Mbps to 150 Mbps, while upload speeds are typically around 3 Mbps.

[Read Related: DSL vs Cable]

What is the average business internet speed?

The average business requires at least 25 Mbps of download speed and 3 Mbps of upload speed to conduct everyday tasks like emailing, exchanging files, using cloud-based software and videoconferencing.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a broadband connection must offer at least 25Mbps download speed and 3Mbps upload speed to meet the definition of a broadband network. However, this average will continue to increase year after year as needs evolve and demand grows.

In addition, business internet speed requirements vary significantly between businesses. Your company's speed requirements depend on several factors, such as the type of business you operate, if you regularly upload and download large files, the extent to which your business depends on fast internet speeds, and the number of employees who use the network at any given time.

Consult your ISP if you're still unsure how much bandwidth your business needs. Many providers offer online internet bandwidth need calculators, which can help you better understand your needs and options.

Upload and download speeds explained

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

What are upload speeds?

Upload speeds are how long it takes for information, such as a file, to send from your computer to another location, such as another computer, or to a cloud-based storage system or software. The average recommended upload speed is 5 Mbps to complete most business tasks, such as making calls over the internet.

What are download speeds?

Download speeds are how long it takes for information to be received by your computer. Every action taken on your computer, whether you're uploading a video or accessing a website, requires stable and speedy download capabilities. Your minimum speed requirements depend on your business's needs. Some tasks require more bandwidth than others, which may require you to work with an ISP that can deliver speeds as high as 25 Mbps.

How to learn more about download speeds and upload speeds

A useful resource is the FCC Broadband Speed Guide. While it describes several consumer features, pay attention to the more intensive tasks. If your team demos videos to customers or regularly streams training content, the Mbps measurement listed is the minimum.

It's easy to look at the download speed, but don't overlook the upload speed. If you have large files that you send to clients, those seconds or minutes can seem like an eternity while you're waiting for information to upload.

A strong 4G LTE connection should suffice for most businesses' needs, particularly if your team is spread out over multiple locations. However, a more intensive broadband speed – 100 Mbps or even higher – may be necessary if your team downloads or uploads files regularly, or conducts other resource-intensive tasks.

How much internet speed does your business need?

There are a few things you should assess to determine the internet speed your business needs to operate efficiently. For instance, if you operate a small business, you'll use the internet to download files, send emails and communicate with customers. However, the larger your business is, the more employees you may have who use the internet at the same time.

Exactly how fast of an internet connection 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:

No. of users/devices Speeds Tasks
1-2 5 Mbps Online browsing, email and research
3-5 25 Mbps Downloading large files, business communications, basic Wi-Fi use
5-10 75 Mbps Video streaming, numerous point-of-sale transactions, frequent file sharing
10-15 150 Mbps Video conferencing, frequent cloud computing and data backups
15-20 250 Mbps Seamless streaming, conferencing, server hosting
20-30 500 Mbps Multiple servers hosted, heavy online backups, constant cloud-based computing
30+ 1,000 Mbps (1GB) Extreme speed operations with zero interruptions

 

Choosing a provider

To find out what ISPs are available in your area, check out InMyArea. (You'll input your address or ZIP code to see the options available to you.)

The best approach is to chat directly with an ISP once you know your team's needs. Discuss your requirements and which plans are best suited for you. Be firm about what your team needs and how an ISP can best meet those needs. Some providers 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 hinder your business in other areas. It's essential to make the right choice when it comes to internet speed for your business's broadband service.

Image Credit: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock
Stella Morrison
Stella Morrison
business.com Contributing Writer
Stella Morrison is an award-winning writer who focuses on marketing for small businesses, including useful tools and best practices that help business owners introduce their products and services to new audiences. She is also a digital marketing professional who has worked with leading brands in the tech industry.