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A Toronto Small Business Owner’s Guide To Internet Speed and Business WiFi Solutions

In this day and age, internet access, WiFi and connectivity are critical to business.  If you want to succeed, your business needs reliable technology, and your team needs reliable access to it.  For the small business owner, it can be challenging to know and understand relevant tech terminology, internet speeds, the various components of a WiFi system, and what is needed to create a reliable network for the business. In this guide to internet speed for small business owners, we help you understand what is needed to create the right internet and WiFi network for your team.  We’ll cover:

  • Megabits and Megabytes – what’s the difference?
  • Internet Upload & Download Speed – Megabits
  • Fibre or DSL
  • Understanding File Size – Megabytes
  • Dedicated vs Shared Circuits – to help you decide if you need to invest in a dedicated circuit
  • Regular vs Heavy Use – so you can understand the speed you need
  • Usage & Circuit Examples
  • Understanding WiFi Signal Issues
  • WiFi Signal Repeaters – why we never recommend them
  • Mesh WiFi Access Points – how they are better than repeaters
  • Hard Wired Access Points
  • Concrete & Steel Block WiFi
  • Backup Internet Connection
  • Business VoIP over WiFi
  • Toronto WiFi & Network Setup Services

Guide To Internet Speed For Small Business

Megabits Vs Megabytes

Megabits are expressed as Mb (note the lower case b), or Mbps for megabit per second, and refer to data transfer speed, or how much data you can upload or download on your internet connection in one second.

Megabytes are expressed as MB (note the upper case B) or MBps and refer to file size or total data transferred.


Internet Upload & Download Speed – Megabits

Internet service providers advertise internet packages with the upload and download speed promised.  The number is advertised as Mbps, or Megabit per second, and refers to how much data can be uploaded or downloaded in a second.

The number usually looks something like 5/1 Mbps.  The first number refers to the download speed. The second number is upload speed.

Common business internet packages include:

  • 5/1
  • 10/1
  • 30/5
  • 50/10

Common fibre internet packages include:

  • 50/10 FTTN – see below for more info on this acronym
  • 150/150 FTTB – see below for more info  on this acronym
  • 300/300 FTTB
  • 940/940 FTTB

 


Fibre or DSL

Fibre is faster than DSL, and DSL gets slower the further you are away from your ISP.  Since Beanfield is fibre internet in Toronto, it might be right for you.  Bell also offers fibre internet directly to your business, but there are some variations among their Fibe plans.  Here are some terms to know.

Fibre To The Business (FTTB) refers to fibre internet that runs all the way to the home or business junction box.  It offers higher bandwidth, but can be more expensive to install or subscribe to.

Fibre To The Node or (FTTN) refers to fibre connection up to the node that serves a few hundred customers within a close radius.  From the node to the home or business junction box, referred to as “the last mile”, the connection can be DSL.  This can slow things down compared to FTTB.

FTTB is best for VoIP and video conferencing because the primary advantage of FTTB is low latency , which refers to the amount of time it takes for a data packet to be sent and received. Obviously, this speed effects call quality and video image transmission because both require data to be sent and received quickly in order to maintain clear calls on VoIP or to maintain a video image which has many data packets. If you are not using VoIP or video conferencing, FTTN is fine.

Bell Fibe offers FTTN. FTTB is only offered on their plans that are 150 Mbps or above.

So again, for VoIP or video, you want Bell Fibe or Beanfiled FTTB package.

Now, before we go over typical use scenarios, let’s go over file size.


Understanding File Size – Megabytes

File size is how big a digital asset is.  From smaller to bigger, file size is usually expressed in Kilobytes (KB), Megabytes (MB) or Gigabytes (GB).

File size affects how much storage space you need, how much working memory your computer needs to open or read a file, and how much bandwidth the file needs to be transmitted.  Bigger files need more bandwidth or internet speed, memory and storage space.

Smaller files are basic word documents or Excel spreadsheets.

Bigger files are large or high resolution photos, video files, image heavy files such as longer PowerPoint presentations, blueprints, architectural drawings etc.

To geek out on the bits and bytes of file size check out this Wiki entry.

To give you a sense of file sizes and their transmission speed, check out the table below.

File type Estimated file size 3 Mbps 6 Mbps 10 Mbps 25 Mbps 35 Mbps 50 Mbps
Small PDF Brochure 1 MB 3 s 1 s < 1 s < 1 s < 1 s < 1 s
E-book 3 MB 8 s 4 s 2.5 s 1 s < 1 s < 1 s
2 minute compressed video 5 MB 13 s 7 s 4 s 1.5 s 1 s < 1 s
Large PowerPoint file 20 MB 53 s 27 s 16 s 6.5 s 5 s 3 s
1 hr TV show / video 1 GB 44 m 22 m 14 m 5 m 4.5 m 2.5 m
SD movie 2 GB 88 m 44 m 27 m 11 m 9 m 5 m
1080p movie 12 GB 9 h 4.5 h 2.5 h 1 h 46 m 32 m

 

Let’s assume your internet speed is 5/1, that’s 5Mbps download speed and 1 Mbps upload speed.

A small 1MB PDF brochure would download in less than a second, and upload in about 3 seconds or so.  A 20 MB PowerPoint file would download in about 30 seconds and upload in a little over two to three minutes.

That’s fast enough for many regular use business teams, as long as every computer is hard wired and not sharing WiFi, and as long as one user isn’t uploading or downloading large files all day, eating up the bandwidth everyone on the plan is sharing.  More on these italicized key points as you scroll.

To summarize, a 5/1 connection might be fine for a small team of 5 people using email and small files all day.  If you have a team of 20 people working on image of graphic files, that 5/1 is going to cause some slow down and frustration.

Everything we have talked about so far assumes a shared circuit, as this is what most small business in Toronto use. Some market research companies, architectural firms, or graphics companies may want to consider a dedicated circuit.


Dedicated vs Shared Circuits

Dedicated circuit means only your business is using that circuit, and the high cost reflects that. Dedicated circuits are intended for heavy use (heavy load on the network), dense use (many people on the network) and highly internet dependent clients.  Some pricing examples are shown below. The high cost usually comes with a 4 hour guaranteed response time from the ISP should your internet go down.

A shared circuit is what the majority of us are on, meaning our business is sharing the internet circuit with neighbouring businesses.

So which do you need? Well, it depends on your business and usage.


Regular Vs Heavy Usage

Regular usage is internet browsing and email use.

Heavy usage includes VoIP, watching videos, video conferencing, heavy multimedia streaming or large file uploads and downloads, including graphics files, multimedia files, data sets, blueprints etc.

Density matters too. Each device connected to WiFi puts a load on the network. So, even if you have all light or regular users, but many of them, you may still be over saturating your network or WiFi and getting poor results.


Usage & Circuit Examples

Many small businesses have internet speeds of 30 -100Mbps on a shared circuit.  A 30 Mbps plan will cost $75-$100/month.  30 Mbps on a shared circuit would be sufficient for a team of 5 people with regular use. That does not include any heavy use activities, which would require more bandwidth.

For a medium sized enterprise with heavy use such as uploading large files regularly, or frequent multimedia streaming such as watching Youtube or videos online, 30 – 50 Mbps would not suffice. You would need 100 Mbps upload and download speeds on a dedicated circuit.  Something like that would cost $700- $1000/month and includes a service level agreement. This means if your connection goes down, a technician from your internet service provider is on site within 4 hours. It’s also more likely that you will consistently get your advertised speed, because you are not sharing your connection with other businesses.

Now, 100 Mbps is fast right? Fast enough for your team, right?  Well, perhaps. Perhaps not. A single Netflix stream will take up 10 Mbps of available bandwidth. For a team of 10 users with heavy use activities daily, even 100Mbps can be slow.  A faster connection would be required. Plans with 150-200 Mbps on a dedicated circuit will range from $1250-$1475/month.

You can opt for a non dedicated shared circuit through a service such as Bell Fibe, and get approximately 300Mbps for roughly $200/month, but the uptime and bandwidth is not guaranteed, and there are no service level agreements in place should your connection go down.

We hope this helps you understand your daily use so that you can buy the internet speed you need for day to day work in your office.


Understanding WiFi Signal Issues

Once you have internet in place, you will probably want WiFi.

Your internet service provider and package determine your internet and WiFi speed.

Your modem/router determines how far your WiFi signal can only reach, which is typically only a few feet – 10-100 or so, depending on the model. Any employee outside the radius will not have WiFi. Those on the fringe of the radius will have intermittent WiFi.  If any one user in the radius is hogging the WiFi with heavy use, they will choke out all other users, unless you have user restriction programming in place.  See the diagram below showing a typical single router setup and how it affects your team and business.

typical wifi setup in an office with 1 router

Keep in mind that WiFi is a “shared” connection. So if your internet package and WiFi router both advertise a capability of 300 MBps, that is 300 MBps shared with everyone connected. And it isn’t shared evenly unless you have advanced Quality Of Service settings programmed in place. A single user can monopolize the entire WiFi connection leaving little to none left for other users.

Using the diagram above, if one of the desks with WiFi signal streams a lot of Youtube, or sends/receives large files all day, the other desks in the WiFi zone will still have little to no signal.  Simply moving the router to the middle of the room could work, depending on size of room and user behavior. Generally speaking, for teams and offices this size, at least one additional access point and Quality Of Service programming is needed.

Programming matters.

Placement matters.

User behaviour matters.

A good setup should be based on your needs, and is often worth a consultation with your IT Provider.

 


WiFi Signal Repeaters For Business

You can extend WiFi signal to cover a larger area, but you can’t make the signal “bigger” or faster.

Signal repeaters are one advertised solution to extend WiFi, however they are limited in what they can do, and we never recommend or install them. The diagram below demonstrates how WiFi signal fails on repeaters.


Mesh WiFi Access Points For Business

Wireless access points are another solution, and these can extend your WiFi signal further than a router alone. Mesh access points can send WiFi signal to users at the end or beyond your current WiFi signal boundary. So instead of only getting 100 feet of WiFi signal area, you can get 5,000 feet or more.  The diagram below demonstrates how mesh WiFi access points keep a signal strong.  We install WiFi solutions using access points for small and mid sized companies in Toronto, including office space, boardrooms, warehouses, and even outdoor spaces.  Feel free to schedule your consultation for a personalized solution.

comparison wifi repeaters vs access points

 


Hard Wired Access Points

Cabled connections will always be faster than WiFi.  If team members are frequently uploading or downloading large files, using VoIP or video, this will throttle your WiFi bandwidth, and you should consider hard ethernet connections.

If you have many users or devices connecting at once, this can saturate your WiFi. Just the act of being connected puts load on your WiFi signal. Consider ethernet connections or wired WiFi access points throughout the office.

Ethernet connections can run you approximately $200 per line installed. WiFi solutions with wired access points would start at approximately $2200 for up to 4000-5000 square feet. Larger installations would increase in price. Some brands for consideration are Open Mesh and Meraki.

Again, it may be tempting to cut corners, but your network setup should be able to properly handle your current load, and be easily expanded as you grow.  To do this well, you should:

  • have the right internet speed for your use and needs – and check this before you sign a lease, as you may be surprised to find that some modern buildings in the city lack sufficient internet speeds for modern business
  • have sufficient space for networking equipment in a cool room, so it doesn’t overheat
  • have sufficient hard wired ethernet connections installed throughout the entire office space during construction or before you move in
  • have Quality of Service programming in place to control users on the WiFi network and consider a web power switch to keep programming in place in the event of a power failure
  • have a WiFi access point system that can be added to at any time
  • have a reliable IT Partner to handle network setup and network management as you run and grow your business

 


Concrete & Steel Block WiFi Signal

If your office space has concrete or steel blocking the router signal path to your intended users, you will not have WiFi signal.  In such cases, you may need multiple ethernet connections to hard wire your WiFi access points to create a singular WiFi network for your business.  This should be done by your general contractor or electrician during the construction phase of your project.  If your office is already constructed, you can contact a cabling company or electrician to run the lines for you.  Have them label each line for you, as this is helpful if you make network changes as you grow.  Once lines are in place, your IT company can install WiFi access points for you.

Even if you don’t have steel or concrete blocking signal, be aware that router placement and access point placement matter.  Each access point should be in range of the others.  No routers or units should be placed inside wood or MDF cabinets or closets, which are enough to dampen signal and give you a poor connection.

Take time to plan the placement of your WiFi equipment so you can get the most out of it.


Backup Internet Connection

A backup internet connection is essential to keeping your business running when your primary internet connection goes down.  Fail over connections are simple to understand.  Your primary connection is with Provider X – let’s say Rogers.  Your back up would be with provider Y – let’s say Bell.  If one Rogers goes down, Bell kicks in.

If the cost of internet disconnection is high for your business, meaning you and your team can’t be productive or serve clients without it, then even just a few hours of downtime can stall your business.  Adding a second internet connection, even a light one, will ensure your team can still perform mission critical tasks if your ISP goes down.

Your IT consultant or provider can program this dual mode of connectivity for you.


Business VoIP Over WiFi

VoIP can be a brilliant business phone system solution for small business, and it can even work over WiFi. For best results in a larger or heavy call use company, we recommend your VoIP connection be hard wired. You can use desk phones or soft phones, which are apps that run on your computer.  Either way, to ensure call quality, you will need to ensure your internet speed is fast enough, and that your network isn’t overly congested. For larger teams, or those with heavy internet use habits, we recommend a separate network altogether – 1 for daily email and work, and one dedicated to VoIP.

Trying to reduce startup costs by cutting corners will only leave you with an unproductive and unhappy team who can’t serve your clients very well. And clients don’t appreciate choppy calls. They are annoying and can come across as unprofessional.

You can opt for VoIP as a service, renting lines, phones and users, or you can reduce your total cost of ownership by buying your own VoIP phones outright, and paying to have your IT Provider setup your VoIP network for you. The upfront cost is larger but the total cost over time is smaller.  Most desk phones are reliable and can work for 10, 20 or more years without issue.  Headsets are prone to a little more wear and tear, and their rechargeable batteries do need replacement every 1-3 years, depending on use, but this replacement cost is minimal, with batteries ranging from $8-$25 each.

Your network speed and setup will determine your success with VoIP.


Toronto WiFi & Network Setup Services

The way we use the internet and work is changing fast.  More files, bigger files, more devices connecting to the network, expectation of ever faster response time – and all of it means you need professional guidance to ensure your IT infrastructure can support you today, and down the line.

As you consider your business internet needs, consider all your IT needs, and call on us for insight, clarity and guidance.

We are TUCU- a Toronto IT Support Company delivering network and IT solutions to small business since 2003. Services include network design, server and network setup services, WiFi solutions, VoIP phone system installation and more. Browse our service pages to learn more or get in touch today to schedule your personalized IT Consultation.