Today’s Topic – What is Bandwidth?
This morning, two of your kids were on their Chromebooks doing schoolwork on a math website. Your spouse was logged into his work PC and taking calls on the VoIP phone he hooked up, and your dog was planted in front of your wide-screen TV, streaming cat videos from YouTube. Does this sound like your house these days? If so, you are experiencing the magic of internet bandwidth.
Bandwidth is often mistaken for internet speed when it’s actually the volume of information that can be sent over a connection in a measured amount of time, calculated in Megabits per second (Mbps). Some Internet terms are so similar that they are often confused with each other. Let’s try to clear that up.
Bandwidth is how much information you can receive every second. Let’s compare it to filling your swimming pool. If you have the local fire company fill your pool, their large hoses allow water to flow at a faster rate than if you used your garden hose. The pool fills up faster because more water is flowing. Likewise, bandwidth is a measurement of volume, but the end result looks like speed because we get our information faster.
If you have multiple devices and several family members on them at the same time, you’ll need more bandwidth to keep up. Streaming, gaming and other high-capacity activities demand a certain amount of bandwidth to get the best experience without a lot of buffering or lag. The more bandwidth your internet provider can deliver, the faster you’ll get to your favorite Oprah Super Soul sessions.
How do you know how much you have and if it’s enough?
If you love streaming from Amazon Prime, downloading large files and multiplayer online gaming, you may want to consider speed plans of 100 Mbps or more. For all other activities like streaming music, surfing Facebook and video conferencing, anything above 25 Mbps should be enough. It will depend on how patient you are willing to be with potential buffering and slightly slower speeds when other family members are competing for bandwidth at the same time for their own activities.
You can do a speed test on your connection. Your internet provider might have one on their website or you can try a common one like www.speedtest.net.
If you think you could use more bandwidth, there are a few ways to go. Contact your internet provider to switch to a higher Mbps plan. Try to connect your computers directly to your router (Not directly into your modem! See the previous column about firewalls!) with ethernet cables. Being wired helps with congestion on the airwaves and helps prevent bandwidth and connection issues from other devices. And finally, investigate upgrading to a better router (dual-band or tri-band) which will provide faster, higher frequencies when you have multiple devices connected.
If all this is gibberish, meaning I’ve failed to put this in “plain English,” I would recommend following EZ Micro Solutions on Facebook. Our fearless leader, Dave Dooley, is hosting weekly live question and answer sessions on Wednesdays at 1 pm. You can post any questions you have in the comments and Dave will give you his best bits of wisdom!
Until then, happy browsing!