The speed and capacity of networks to transfer data is constantly increasing.

In the mid-19th century, the Pony Express could move mail between St. Louis and California in an average of 10 days – a remarkable speed for the time!

Flash forward to 2016. Researchers at the University College London set a new record for the fastest ever digital data transfer rate – a blistering 1.125 terabits (TB) per second. At that speed, you could transfer the entire series of Games of Thrones (HD) in less than one second!

Amazing for sure. But, what does data transfer rate mean exactly? And, why should you care?

Data transfer rate is the amount of digital data that is moved from one place to another in a given time. In general, the greater the bandwidth of a given path, the higher the data transfer rate.

Many people equate bandwidth with speed – like driving a car on the highway. However, it’s more accurate to think of bandwidth as the highway. Visualize a set number of cars all cruising down a highway at 55 mph. The number of cars that can get from Chicago to L.A. in a set period of time will be a function of the number of lanes on the highway. 

Similarly, you can imagine each lane on the highway as a megabyte (MB). If you stream a 2MB movie, it will buffer on a two-lane road. On a six-lane highway, however, you could watch two movies and still have two “lanes” open to surf the web.

In any discussion of bandwidth there are two key limiting factors to keep in mind:

The bandwidth of any site you connect to is a limiting factor. This is out of your control. If Netflix limits its transfer speed to make sure it can serve millions of customers at the same time, there is little benefit to be had for you if you dramatically exceed their capacity.

Congestion is also a factor. At rush hour on the Eisenhower Expressway, it doesn’t matter what the speed limit is –  no one will move quickly. Unfortunately, many DSL and cable providers are oversubscribed. They may, for example, sell 100 customers a 50MB connection, but only have 200MB available. Not surprisingly, at peak times, a customer may only be able to crawl along at 5MB.

Although you probably do not need blazing fast connections that set new speed records, it is important to make sure that your bandwidth is keeping up with your current business activities.

Businesses often find themselves using the same Internet connection for years, even though technology has progressed and their needs have increased.

Fortunately, bandwidth is more affordable than ever and there are options that can increase your speed and productivity. Call us today to review the different high-speed Internet options available in your area.

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