The Impact of Internet Speed on Small Business Productivity

Why bandwidth is vital for your business growth and competitiveness

Today’s small businesses rely on internet speed more than ever. And the speed of your internet service not only impacts how quickly your employees access their email or finds important information—it affects the quality of your customers’ experience when they access applications on your website. In fact, enhancing the customer experience is a major driver of satisfaction and loyalty—both of which are vital to your bottom line. From marketing your business, providing good customer service, to operating your business, internet speed can highly affect your business. To help you understand the benefits of faster internet speeds on your company, we’ve covered the basics in this paper. We’ve also identified the types of businesses that can benefit the most from high-speed internet.

Understanding the differences between internet connection options

Before you can align your business needs to your internet requirements, it helps to understand the different internet options and what they mean for you.

What’s bandwidth?

We’ve all heard the term “bandwidth,” but what does it really mean? When it comes to small businesses and the internet, bandwidth means the rate of data transfer measured in bits per second, regardless of whether you’re uploading or downloading an audio file, application or medical record. In other words, bandwidth is the maximum amount of information a connection can handle under perfect conditions.

What’s the difference between download and upload speeds?

You may think that just because you have a high-speed connection, the speed is the same for both uploading and downloading. Not true. Regardless of the connection type, the download speed is usually faster than upload speed. For example, someone may tell you that you have a 10 Mbps (10 million bits per second) connection. In reality, that connection will only support 10 Mbps download, but the upload speed may barely hit 1 Mbps. This can be a major factor for business productivity.

What’s the difference between Internet connections?

Surprisingly, there’s a lot more difference between internet connections than most people realize. Here we explore DSL, cable and fiber optic.

DSL – The early days of high-speed internet was ushered in by digital subscriber line (DSL) technology. It uses the same twisted-pair wire connections as the existing phone networks. One drawback of DSL is that you must be within three miles from the DSLAM (Digital Subscriber Line Access multiplexer) to have service. Another limitation is the slow connection speed. DSL connections typically run about 3-4 Mbps download, and less than 1 Mbps upload which can clog large files. In fact, the further you are from the DSLAM, the lower the speed.

Cable – Coaxial cable connections have been around since the introduction of cable TV. Even though multiple users can share a cable connection, it offers very high connection speeds—100 Mbps download, and 5 Mbps upload. Unlike DSL, the connection speed does not degrade with the distance from the Internet provider’s hub. Cable has become a major consideration for many small businesses.

Fiber Optic – While still not mainstream, fiber optic connections are expanding their reach into businesses and residential areas. Instead of using copper wires as a physical connection, fiber optic uses glass—transferring data using photons at the speed of light. Fiber optic connections are blinding fast, 100 Mbps or more, depending on the service plan. To get the most from fiber optic, every piece of the connection media, from the provider to your network, must be fiber optic. Otherwise, the slowest piece of the connection throttles the overall bandwidth. To connect with 100 percent fiber can be cost-prohibitive for most small businesses, but cost effective for larger internet-dependent businesses like hospitals or schools


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