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Upload rates and the need for speed

It’s important to consider both download and upload speeds when weighing Internet options, and this primer can help determine the best fit for your business.

Woman looking at laptop

Slow internet is not only frustrating, it’s costly. One global study of more than 8,000 participants worldwide found that, on average, slow connection times amount to the equivalent of one lost week of work per employee annually. As speeds start getting measured in gigabits per second, slow connections may seem like less of an issue, but depending on your organization’s needs, may not be the only determinate of the performance you require.

“In a worldwide study, slow connections cost businesses an average of one lost week of work per employee annually.”


Network speed it is actually determined by two separate factors: download speed and upload speed. Download speed refers to how quickly data can travel from a remote source to a user’s device. Upload speed refers to the speed with which information is transported from a user’s device to the internet.

When upload and download speeds differ, you have what’s called asymmetrical speed. When a network is capable of offering equal upload and download speeds, you have symmetrical speed.

Historically, download speeds were a priority for businesses so they could quickly and efficiently deliver information to employees. But shifts towards remote collaboration and digital workplaces as well as growing file sizes required by organizations like game studios and media meant that fast upload speeds were just as imperative.

Here’s how to ensure your internet meets your business needs:

1. Do a needs assessment: To determine whether symmetrical speed is a key business need of yours, it’s important to first consider the types of activities and applications for which your organization utilizes the internet. Video collaboration and meeting apps, such as Skype and WebEx, require a fast flow of data in both directions, as video input is downloaded from remote locations and your voice and image data are simultaneously uploaded for other participants. When upload and download speeds are asymmetrical, the result can be lag times, frozen video and other frustrations. Offices that use VoIP phone systems would similarly require the ability to both download and upload data at high rates of speed.

It is also important to consider the type and volume of information your organization needs to share. Businesses that frequently need to share large files or databases between offices and/or customers, or high-definition, content-rich files will likely require fast symmetrical speed.

2. Consider fibre: The infrastructure you have can impact your upload and Download speeds. Though cable is capable of delivering fast download times—and although the technology is improving to provide faster upload speeds – it is optimized for content consumption, such as viewing webpages or streaming video.

Fibre optic cabling, however, provides virtually unlimited capacity, able to transmit uploads and downloads simultaneously at speeds that can reach up to 10 Gbps. If symmetrical speed is important to your business, fibre may be a great fit for your business.

3. Look at your SLA: Before you commit to an internet package, it is important to understand the performance levels your vendor can--and is obligated--to provide. As you explore your options, make sure to ask about both download and upload speeds. Your service-level agreement (SLA) is an important tool for ensuring your needs will be met because it should spell out your providers’ obligations in terms of performance metrics, such as speed, with clear, legally-enforceable response times should a network problem occur.

Always remember to think about the functions your business will need to perform online. While fast downloads are sufficient for some, symmetrical speed is increasingly an imperative for many organizations.