A guide to Internet data usage

Once up on a time, not so long ago, data allowances used to be applied to all kinds of digital services. You probably still have a monthly data allowance on your mobile phone contract. As you will probably know from experience, once you hit that limit, you can’t download any data, so you can’t access websites, use email, watch streaming services, or download files and images.

That is pretty limiting and as you can easily imagine, if you applied a data usage limit to your business Internet service, it would soon become a problem if you ran out of data.

Believe it or not, there were once limits – or at least, so-called “fair usage” policies that were applied to broadband services. That was back when there was not as much capacity in the network as there is today. Theoretical bounds on the amount of data you could download were applied – and even with so-called “unlimited” services, there would be a fair usage policy that evened-out the bandwidth amongst users.

This was to prevent someone who was, for example, downloading a huge graphics file or video in an office block or a small industrial park from clogging up the whole system and slowing everyone else’s service down.

Happily, pretty much all broadband services are now truly unlimited – you can download as much data as you like and the only restriction on you will be the speed / bandwidth of the service to which you are subscribed. Even so, as we are all consuming more and more “data” (what exactly constitutes “data” is explained below), it’s still possible that you’ll experience contention (and a subsequent slow-down in performance) at times if you don’t have a service that is suited to your needs.

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What is Internet data usage?

Whenever you use the Internet – when you download a web page, stream a movie or TV show on catch-up, send and receive images or emails – you are using data. It’s all “data”. Of course, different types of traffic use different amounts of data. One individual doing some normal web browsing, using email, and maybe checking into social media, you might use around 50MB to 100MB* over the course of a couple of hours – that’s not much.

Using a videoconferencing or collaboration service will use up a bit more – and also send as much data upstream as it will pull down the broadband connection. But you are still not going to run into trouble as long as you have a decent connection with reliable speeds.

But if you were downloading a building plan, a big presentation, or a video, for example, you might consume use as much as 5GB* in the process, which is 100 times more than everyday usage.

If there are several people using the connection intensively throughout the day, the amount of data you use will soon mount up. As most broadband services are now unlimited, this is not a real issue, but it’s worth working out how much data you will use on a regular basis, so that you can choose the right service for your needs.

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How much Internet data does your business use?

Don’t underestimate the amount of data your business consumes. Users will be online, all day, every day. it’s entirely probable that every user in your business will consume as much as 20GB to 30GB* of data every month and that’s only going to rise as time goes by and you use more online services. It is a good job then, that there are no limits on data for most broadband services now.

If you are dependent on your connectivity service to run your business – and that’s the case with most businesses these days – you should make sure that you choose a service that will meet the every-day needs of all your users.

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What can affect Internet data usage?

With the use of video conferencing and cloud applications and services rising all the time, businesses are pulling more and more data through their broadband connections. This is one of the reasons we see such a big push towards fibre connectivity as that will make superfast and ultrafast services more widely available – but that’s another story.

You will probably know from your own experience with mobile phone allowances, that 2GB* per month hardly goes anywhere and double that will not be enough for many users. Heavy users of mobile data might burn through as much as 20GB* per month. But these individuals are probably downloading HD films, video, and playing online games every day.

While business users (hopefully) won’t be downloading movies, or playing games, as we’ve already said, they will be using a lot of data since they are online all the time as making more use of conferencing and web-based cloud services.

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Data usage and broadband speeds

Of course, the amount of data you use each month is not the same as the amount of data bandwidth (or speed) you need at any one time. Even if you download 20GB* over a month, on average, that’s roughly only 1GB* per working day and about 125MB* per hour, and just over 2MB* per minute. Any decent broadband service will give you plenty of bandwidth headroom to play with in that scenario.

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Unlimited broadband – the best choice for my business?

Well, yes, and probably the only choice you can make anyway now. But make sure it is truly unlimited and that your service provider will not apply any rate or data-download limitations in the event of a surge of activity. If they are having to do that, they will probably be offering a very low-cost service – but that will be because they have a fairly basic set-up behind the scenes and are thus unable to guarantee they’ll cope with the peaks and troughs of usage. In such cases, you will certainly be better off with another provider that does have the capacity and capability to manage periods of higher demand on their network.

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Which providers offer unlimited broadband?

All the reputable, leading Internet Services Providers (ISPs) offer unlimited services and by and large, these services are entirely without limits in terms of data downloads. The main providers we work with, such as BT, Plusnet, and TalkTalk offer unlimited data on all their services.

* Please note, all figures are estimates – the amount of data each individual and business uses will vary

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