For small businesses, a fast and reliable internet connection is crucial. Slow internet makes getting work done even harder. It can decrease productivity and ruin videoconferences. It can bog down cloud applications and prevent speedy customer service. It might disrupt your point-of-sale system or prevent you from keeping inventory up-to-date. Whether your business internet needs are limited to sending emails or you need a connection to support real-time, online collaboration, it’s important to find internet that can meet your needs.

Finding a reliable internet service provider is step one when securing internet, but the choices don’t stop there. Next, you need to consider internet bandwidth. Bandwidth is the maximum amount of data that can be transferred over your internet connection in a given amount of time; your bandwidth needs are determined by the types of activities you are performing via the internet. You want to find the sweet spot; too little bandwidth can cause connectivity issues but paying for more bandwidth than you need can be an unnecessary expense. First, let’s dig deeper into what bandwidth is. Then, we’ll go over how you can determine bandwidth requirements for your small business.

Internet bandwidth is needed for video conferencing.

What is bandwidth and why does it matter?

Although bandwidth affects internet speed, there are differences between the two. As mentioned, bandwidth is a measurement of the amount of data sent over your internet connection per a specific time period. This is usually expressed in “Megabits per second” or Mbps. The lower bandwidth you choose, the less data can be sent at one time. This can cause a slowdown in your internet as the bandwidth pipeline gets clogged.

Factors that affect your bandwidth needs

By calculating your small business’ bandwidth needs, you can choose the right amount of bandwidth necessary for fast and reliable internet. To determine the bandwidth needs of your small business, you’ll need to find out the number of users and devices, common online activities, and the type of internet service you’ll be using.

If your small business uses VoIP, you should factor that into your bandwidth needs.

Number of users and connected devices

One of the most important factors when estimating your bandwidth needs is the number of people and devices your small business typically supports. Your bandwidth will be affected by the number of devices being used at once, meaning the more employees you have, the more bandwidth you will need.

When estimating how many devices will need to connect to your internet network, remember that mobile devices or tablets should also be included. If your small business frequently has clients or customers in the workplace that need to access your internet, you should also account for their online activity and devices.

Generally, if your small business relies heavily on the internet you’ll need at least 10 to 15 Mbps per employee. However, the type of online activities your business does can significantly affect this number.

Online activity

Different small businesses will have different bandwidth needs depending on employee’s typical online activities. For instance, you will need more Mbps for HD video streaming than for online web browsing or emailing. The speed recommendations noted below are a good place to start calculating your bandwidth needs:

  • Online browsing, email, and social media. Casual internet activities like emailing clients, browsing online or responding to online reviews require a small amount of bandwidth. For each employee, these activities typically only use 1 Mbps.
  • VoIP calls. Small business VoIP phone only needs .5 Mbps per user.
  • Using software. Software like accounting programs, payroll software and bookkeeping software usually require 3 Mbps per employee.
  • Videoconferencing. Although personal video calls through FaceTime or Zoom will only need between 1 and 1.5 Mbps, high definition video teleconferencing requires at least 6 Mbps per person on the call.
  • Downloading large files. If downloading large medical files, spreadsheets or video files is an important part of your small business, you’ll need at least 10 Mbps for each employee.

You can list all the activities you use the internet for to calculate bandwidth for business.

Type of internet

The type of internet you choose will also affect the bandwidth needs of your small business. There are four types of broadband internet connections available today: DSL, pair bonding, copper, and fiber-optic internet. These technologies use different materials, which in turn affects how much bandwidth your connection has. For example, fiber-optic internet is able to transmit data at nearly the speed of light. That means your internet speed isn’t affected when multiple devices are connected to the network. Because fiber internet offers a lot of bandwidth, it’s the type of connection that works really well for small businesses that work online.

How to estimate your small business bandwidth needs

When calculating your small business bandwidth needs, list all the common internet activities and reference the amount of bandwidth each requires. Then, multiply this amount by the number of employees that will be performing those tasks at once. Small businesses that need multiple people to videoconference at once will require larger bandwidth, for example. The number that you calculate is only an estimate, so it’s best to consider your small business’ specific internet needs. If you own a small brick-and-mortar retail business that only uses the internet for social media marketing and email, you may only need 1 to 1.5 Mbps per employee. If you own a small business that relies heavily on the internet, like a law firm that needs to transmit video depositions or graphic design agency that collaborates heavily online, add 10 to 15 Mbps just in case.

CenturyLink Small Business Internet

CenturyLink is proud to offer internet service for small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re a solopreneur, run a local business, or host an e-commerce site, we have a small business internet option for you.