1stel Academy

How Much Bandwidth Do You Really Need?

A common question for the small-medium business (SMB) network administrator is, how much bandwidth do I need to run my business?

Based on my research, the answer today is not a simple algorithm based on the number of employees using computers at your business.

As recently as 2010, PCWorld was recommending (5)megabits per second (Mbps) as the baseline speed for a majority of businesses. In 2010, this may have been adequate for most SMB applications but today this figure hearkens back to the days of dial-up Internet.

The mainstreaming of VoIP telephony, video streaming, Skype, Webinars, WiFi in the office for smart devices, and cloud computing requires that network administrators examine not only the number of users at their site but also categorize them by user type.

Research supporting this thesis is as follows:

Low-level user (minimal web based applications): Entry level plans (often 5 Mbps download x 1 Mbps upload)

Mid-level user (moderate web usage) Mid-level plans (often 15-30 Mbps download x 2-7 Mbps upload).

High level user (heavy web usage) Higher level plans (often 50Mbps + download x 7Mbps + upload)

Using this methodology you would have three user clusters and simply multiply the cluster of low-level users, multiply the cluster of mid-level users, and multiply the number of heavy level users by the associated bandwidth values. You then add the totals for each cluster to determine your upper level bandwidth requirements to achieve optimal network performance for your business.

The most innovative and exciting system I found for determining bandwidth for your business is courtesy of U.K. provider, Zen Internet. They’ve developed a broadband usage calculator that is populated with nine preset profiles of business bandwidth users. The profiles include:

1. Average Joe
2. Film Buff
3. Gamer
4. Socialite
5. Telly Addict
6. Audiophile
7. 5-Users
8. 25-Users
9. 50-Users

The calculator includes values for each profile listed above across the following business applications:

VoIP
Email
Video Conference
Webinars
Remote Working
Document Sharing

Based on the profile selected, the recommended bandwidth is totaled at the bottom. The calculator will guide you through the process of updating the calculator with your own profiles. In a word, it’s simply brilliant!

My research taught me SMB network administrators must understand that applications are increasingly moving off the desktop / local network into the cloud thereby increasing the requirement for higher-speed broadband services. A wise administrator might want to over-buy based on today’s requirements knowing that tomorrow’s cloud-based applications will consume bandwidth like Winnie The Pooh consumes honey.

About the author

Randall Smith

Randall Smith

Randall Smith is the Marketing Analyst for 1stel and weekly contributor to the 1stel blog.