What you need to know about small business internet

December 10, 2020

By Kim Lindros & Kirsten Queen

Can your internet connection keep up with your business? If not, it might be time for an upgrade!

From bookkeeping to hiring to marketing, small businesses rely on an internet connection to handle daily tasks. And when that internet connection is inconsistent, it not only frustrates your employees and impacts their work, but it can also affect your ability to run your business smoothly and handle client or customer needs. 

Let’s look at internet speed and bandwidth, the factors that affect them, and some questions you should consider before you purchase internet service for your business. 

Speed versus bandwidth

While the terms “speed” and “bandwidth” are often used interchangeably, they actually refer to different aspects of an internet connection. Where speed describes how fast data uploads or downloads, bandwidth describes how much data can be transferred. The larger your bandwidth, the faster your connection will ultimately be. With higher bandwidth, you can upload and download larger sets of data faster, videoconference more smoothly, and use cloud-based applications seamlessly.

Internet speed is measured in Mbps (megabits per second) and Gbps (gigabits per second), with Gbps being much faster. Today’s internet providers offer standard business service up to about 40 Mbps and high-speed service at 100 Mbps up to 940 Mbps (or 1 Gig). The advertised internet speed you sign up for will be somewhat faster than the actual speed you get because speed and bandwidth are impacted by several factors. 

Factors that affect speed/bandwidth

Wired networks are typically faster than wireless, and if you run a wireless network, there may be obstacles like solid doors and bookcases that the signal must travel through. Older network equipment can limit speed. 

How you use your internet connection also plays a big role. Every device you have connected to your network can impact your bandwidth, including laptops, computers, printers, speakers, and much more. Voice over IP (VoIP) phone systems and video conferences demand some of that bandwidth while calls and meetings are underway. Cloud-based applications and HD video require another chunk.

What about upload and download speeds?

On some internet connections, upload and download speeds differ quite a bit, with download speeds coming out quite a bit faster. The internet is optimized for downloading; when you browse a web page, you’re downloading that data from a web server to your browser. The same applies to streaming video, audio and anything else you access on the web. Online content is hosted by servers all across the internet, meaning no single server is taxed. 

The reverse is true for uploads, which is transferring data from your computer or device to a server, which might be on the internet or at another business. When you send an email, post on Facebook or send a tweet, you’re uploading. None of that requires much speed or bandwidth. On the other hand, sending a large image file to a client requires a decent upload speed, especially if time is critical.

How much do you need and what can you get?

A noticeably slow internet connection won’t cut it these days, but it’s a challenge to figure out how much you actually need. Consider the following when evaluating whether it’s time to upgrade:

  • The number of employees who will share the connection: Five people using the same internet connection at the same time will result in reduced bandwidth/slower speeds than if just one person uses it.
  • The number of devices that will share the connection: Count up the computers, mobile devices, printers, point-of-sale systems and so on that connect to the internet. Consider both ordinary and peak usage. If your business cannot afford a slowdown during a major sale or the holidays, what devices must have internet access during those times?
  • How your employees use the internet: Employees that send email and use light web browsing require different internet speed and bandwidth than power users that use web-enabled applications, transfer large files, and multitask daily. Make sure you can consistently meet the needs of power users.

To find out what kind of speed you’re currently using, run speed tests at ordinary and peak usage times. You should also keep track of employee complaints of slow internet service. Does it happen only during peak times or during ordinary usage as well? This should give you some hard data to use when shopping for service.

What if you need more speed?

Consider your needs today and a few years into the future when weighing high-speed internet service offers. Start by checking with your internet service provider to see what speeds are available in your area. With 100 Mbps entering many markets and being heavily promoted, you might be able to get the upgrade without increasing your current rate. The 1 Gig service will cost more, but it may be worth it to future-proof your business.

You can also add a second internet line for your business to be used exclusively for high bandwidth activities, like videoconferencing, uploading files, or cloud-based applications. This is a great option for businesses that are already at the top speed tier in their area, but still need more bandwidth.

Is it time to upgrade your small business’s internet? Get started with CenturyLink Small Business internet today for low monthly rates, easy billing, reliable WiFi, and a team of business support experts available around the clock.


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