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Bandwidth Needs – 13 Questions to Ask Before Signing on the Dotted Line

Internet access is a business investment on which you should expect a fair return on. Too little bandwidth means your people will be twiddling their thumbs, pacing and losing their tempers waiting on uploads and downloads and while performing regular daily functions. A slow internet connection can mean loss of  productivity; which translates into negative opportunity costs.

On the other hand, excessive bandwidth means you are paying for something you don’t use. This is waste of money and something every business should want to avoid. 

Your decision on how much bandwidth to get for your business means you have to find a balance between these two extremes. One that fits your business needs specifically. But the decision is not that easy to make. Here are 13 questions you need to ask yourself before deciding on bandwidth needs for your business.

1. How many people are using the internet in your business?

This has a direct bearing on how much bandwidth you will need. Other relevant questions are:

  • How often do they use the internet?
  • What do they do online?
  • And for how long?

2. How much email is being sent daily and received by each user?

The volume of email use, the size of files shared (sent and received) as well as the frequency of such sharing can impact your bandwidth needs. What email you use, whether internet based ones like Gmail or Yahoo or one which you can work on offline, can also play a role in determining your business bandwidth needs.

3. Is uploading and downloading large files a regular thing?

This may happen through email or in file sharing services such as Dropbox and Google Docs. Whether for personal or business use, these may take up a lot of bandwidth if occurring on a regular basis.

4. Are you currently using a VOIP phone service? If so, how many users?

More and more businesses are turning to Voice-over-Internet-protocol or VOIP business phone system services as they offer economical packages compared to analog lines or even mobile services. If you are planning to use VOIP more in the future, consider this too in deciding on usage levels.

5. Are you using interactive web conferencing with video and desktop replication?

How many users will be there? How regularly? Factor these in because this may put you in the category of a heavy user.

6. Are you using any cloud services now or planning to use in the near future?

You and your employees may already be using services such as Office 365, Google Forms, Google Docs and Google Sheets.

Your marketing and sales functions, and even HR people may be using services like Canva, Buffer, Stencil for design and social media marketing purposes. There are many regular business applications using cloud based software, for Human Resource Management, Accounting and Warehouse and Logistics management. There are other online and cloud based services your managers may be using such as Mindmeister, Mural, Realtimeboard and Stormboard mindmapping and collaborating tools for brainstorming, project planning, and sharing creative work and ideas. Your business may be using some specialized SaaS or software-as-a-service platforms which also take up bandwidth.

Are you planning on using more cloud services in the future? Don’t forget to factor this into your decision on how much bandwidth your business needs.

7. Do you use online backup services as part of your business continuity and backup strategy?

Services like GoogleDrive, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive immediately back up your work data online. In addition to allowing you access your data from anywhere, they also allow your people share files within the company and with outside parties. All of this takes bandwidth.

8. Are you hosting any public-facing web servers at this location?

A public-facing server is a server that allows outsiders access to it; as opposed to a company server that only those within the company can access. For example, if your company website is hosted on an in house server, that definitely adds to your bandwidth requirements. If your server is hosted by a third party at a different location, you don’t need to bother with this item.

To find out how much bandwidth you need for your server, you must know the answers to a few simple questions.

  • What is the average page size of your site in kilobytes (KB)?
  • What is the monthly average visitor number to the website?
  • How many pages do they look at typically? That is, how many page views per visitor?

To find out your required bandwidth, the rule of thumb is to:

  • Multiply your average page size (in KB) by the monthly average number of visitors.
  • Multiply the result above, by the average number of pageviews per visitor.

Please note that all of the calculations are based on this article by Jerry Low of WebHostingSecretsRevealed.net. In case you don’t know the average page size, Jerry says that you should ” use Pingdom’s Load Time test on a few pages and take the average of those tested pages for your base testing number.”

This is a basic figure. Here’s what else you may need to fine tune your calculation:

If you allow visitor downloads, you must know

  • The average downloads per day
  • Average file size of the downloads
  • The redundant factor

Remember that your visitor averages may change. Traffic may suddenly shoot up. You need to make allowance for such good news events too. This is called the redundant factor. Jerry suggests you multiply your actual needs by a factor of 1.3-1.8, depending on your expectations for your website.

Here’s the ultimate guesstimate for how much bandwidth you need for your website (server).

Consider how much bandwidth your server may need, both currently, and in the future before settling on a figure to add to your total business bandwidth needs.

9. How frequent and heavy is the social media usage in your business?

We need to look at both business and personal use by employees before determining how much bandwidth your company needs.

What about your business use of social media?

Most companies have some level of social media presence these days.

  • Are you using social media—Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms—for business purposes?
  • Do you have a company blog, on your website or hosted through a platform like WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr or Medium?
  • Do you have a Youtube channel? Remember that media takes a lot more bandwidth than text.
  • How much social media marketing activity takes place regularly in your business?
  • How often do you blog, upload images and posts to Facebook and Linkedin? How often do you tweet, tumblr or Instagram?
  • Are you having blogs with a lot of interactivity?
  • How about Facebook groups and interactive online forums?
  • Are your people supposed to monitor all social media channels you are active on and respond as necessary in real time?
  • Do you expect your employees to be active on social media? A lot of companies do while others are either silent on the topic or specifically ask them to keep the company out of it.

Upon your answers to all these questions, you can determine how heavy the overall daily and monthly usage.

How about your employees’ personal social media use at work?

Here are some aspects you may want to consider regarding private Internet and social media use.

  • Is social media usage for personal use allowed or banned in your business?
  • Is it considered a basic business requirement or an employee perk?
  • Could content-filtering be an option?
  • Is there a policy on personal internet use, for internet banking and other services?
  • What is your business culture on streaming media? Streaming music and Streaming videos—Youtube, Slideshare, Facebook) can take up significant bandwidth.

People may engage in these activities for both work and personal purposes. This is why a social media and internet usage policy is important for every business, big and small.

10. How much online research and heavy web browsing happens regularly?

A significant level of desk-research can be done online by various departments in your business. An example is downloading whitepapers and other reports regularly.

11. Do you use Remote access/VPN servers in your business?

A remote-access VPN connection allows users with an internet enabled desktop or laptop to connect to a private business network from a remote location.  With a remote-access VPN, you can establish secure connections with a remote computer network. If this is done on a regular basis, factor this into your calculations.

12. How reliable to do you need your connection to be?

This is a question your Internet service provider will ask you when determining your Internet package.

Most often you get to pick one of these two options:

  • Important. That is 99.9% or worse. Think of this as 8.77 hours or more downtime per year.
  • Critical. That is 99.99% or better. This means your downtime per year would be less than 50 minutes.

Did you see this story a couple of weeks back?
Lululemon CEO blames IBM for site outage, says it’s looking at other options.

The website outage, although it lasted 20 hours, would not affect sales figures. However, Lululemon could end up switching to a different cloud, according to CNBC.

Obviously, Lululemon belongs in the critical category as does most businesses with a significant online sales or service component. Even businesses selling goods on Ebay, Amazon and platforms like Etsy can, depending on their daily sales volumes, belong in the critical category.

But if you are fine with a few hours or a couple of half-days without Internet access, or site downtime, you may opt for the less expensive ‘Important’ category. There is likely to be a significant cost difference between the two categories.

13. What are the other factors affect your bandwidth calculations?

These include:

  • Mobile devices and apps for both personal and official uses can place a heavy burden on your bandwidth.
  • How many mobile devices are on your network?
  • How regular is the use of mobile devices connected to your network?
  • And what are they being used for?
  • Point-of-Sale devices that are linked to your company system will also take up bandwidth depending on the volume of transactions.

In what internet bandwidth user category does your business belong?

When all factors are considered, and depending on your answers, most internet service providers will put you in one of four categories:

  • Light: This means basic email and web browsing, by a few users.
  • Moderate: This involves some file downloads, streaming music, streaming video, cloud-based resources and VOIP. Not too many users.
  • Multi-Media: Large file downloads (high volume), interactive web conferencing and other regular uses.
  • Power user: High bandwidth demand, intense internet-based application use, multiple devices per user.

Use a free online Bandwidth Calculator to get a better idea about what your business bandwidth needs may might be.

Ultimately, your decision should be made with all the internet usage information on the table. And the decision should be taken balancing the actual needs, productivity and service quality needs of your company all while weighing in the cost of all the options. And don’t forget to ask your provider for usage data to make sure that your needs are not changing too much over time.

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