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The impact of Internet speed on business productivity

Gail Kodama

Today’s businesses rely on Internet speed more than ever. The speed of your Internet service impacts how quickly employees access email or find important information. It also affects the quality of your customers’ experience when they access applications on your website. In fact, enhancing the customer experience is a major driver of satisfaction and loyalty both of which are vital to your bottom line. From marketing your business, providing good customer service, to operating your business, Internet speed can highly affect your business.

To understand the benefits of faster Internet speeds on your company, it helps to understand the different Internet options and what they mean for you.

What’s bandwidth?

When it comes to small and medium-size businesses and the Internet, bandwidth means the rate of data transfer measured in bits per second, regardless of whether you’re uploading or downloading an audio file, application or medical record. In other words, bandwidth is the maximum amount of information a connection can handle under perfect conditions.

You may think that just because you have a high-speed connection, the speed is the same for both uploading and downloading, but this is often untrue. Regardless of the connection type, the download speed is usually faster than upload speed. For example, someone may tell you that you have a 10 Mbps (10 million bits per second) connection. In reality, that connection will only support 10 Mbps download, but the upload speed may barely hit 1 Mbps. This can be a major factor for business productivity.

What’s the difference between Internet connections?

Surprisingly, there’s a lot more difference between Internet connections than most people realize.

* Cable: Coaxial cable connections have been around since the introduction of cable TV. Multiple users can share a cable connection offering very high connection speeds up to 100 Mbps download, and 5 Mbps upload. Unlike digital subscriber line (DSL) services that traditionally utilize the existing phone networks, the speed from coaxial cable connections does not degrade with the distance from the Internet provider’s hub. Cable has become a major consideration for many small businesses.

Fiber optic: Fiber optic connections are expanding into business and residential areas. Instead of using copper wires as a physical connection, fiber optics use glass transferring data using photons at the speed of light. Fiber optic connections are blinding fast, delivering 100 Mbps or more. To get the most from fiber optics, every piece of the connection media must be fiber optic. Otherwise, the slowest segment of the connection throttles the overall bandwidth. Fiber connections can be cost-prohibitive for most small businesses, but cost effective for larger Internet-dependent businesses like hospitals or schools.

Determining whether your business would benefit from higher Internet speeds depends on several factors, such as the type of business you have, how many employees work at your location and their job tasks, and how your customers interact with your Web-based services. For the most part, businesses typically fit within one or more of the following categories:

Healthcare providers

Physician offices, nursing homes, dental offices, diagnostic centers and eye care facilities tend to use the Web in their daily operations and require significant information movement. The shift to electronic medical records, large MRI-scan or X-ray file transfers, and managing customer appointments require enormous bandwidth. Also, emerging trends in healthcare IT enable healthcare providers to access clinical and patient data via the Internet like never before.

As a healthcare provider, the faster your data transfers, the more patients you can process and service. Installing 50 or 100 Mbps Internet connections moves the critical information that you need quickly, speeding up the patient diagnosis process. Faster information access improves office efficiency, reduces administrative costs, and improves quality at the point-of-care.

Business services

Consultant services encompass a wide range of small businesses, including insurance offices, advertising and creative agencies, architectural firms, local banks, and law offices. Architectural firms rely on costly CADD software packages to service their customers. Ad and creative agencies move vast amounts of data including streaming Flash media, files created by Adobe InDesign, Dreamweaver, photo-realistic rendering, and web content management systems. Financial services depend on a wide variety of analysis software include trading and business intelligent applications, like S&P or Thomson Reuters, and other web-enabled tools.

If your business fits in the business services category, boosting your Internet speed could pay back big dividends. Cutting-edge services like web and video conferencing require higher speeds of at least 25 Mbps and beyond, and allow you to collaborate with customers more effectively, turn around projects faster and gain peace of mind that your Web-enabled tasks perform at peak efficiency. Your customers will perceive that your business is different from the competition.

Computer services

Like the business services sector, technology firms and consultancies depend on efficient data movement to maximize productivity. Data-intensive applications require faster data speeds, and these businesses transfer large files between locations, share work tools, files, or software, and access critical data on servers when working off site.

Slow Internet speed can have a domino effect on your business. First, it impacts your schedule then your customers and then your customers’ customer. Boosting your connection speed to 50 Mbps and beyond with the right service provider means your data is delivered, right now. No more worries about slow file transfers, angry customers, or inefficient collaboration.

Retail stores and franchises

Any retailer with an online presence has felt the embarrassment of slow online transactions. The results could be as simple as a few lost orders, or as extreme as a tarnished name within your local community. If your business requires significant credit card processing, online merchant or consumer ordering, you require the fastest and most reliable Internet connection available. Your need expands even further if you require high storage capacity and must access large files at off-site servers or data centers. Accelerating your connection speed simply means more orders processed and a faster track to boosting your bottom line.

While the Internet is an amazing place, full of new information and the latest fads, Internet speed is what really drives your business. Faster downloading and uploading of files and media help your employees stay efficient and enhance your customer’s online experience.

Today’s businesses need an Internet partner that delivers the performance, reliability, and value-added services critical to your business.

Gail Kodama is director of business sales for Charter Business. Contact her at gail.kodama@chartercom.com. Another contact with Charter Business in northern Nevada is Joe Chambers at 850-1346.