If you work from home (or want to start!), you might be wondering how fast your internet speed needs to be in order to do your work.
So, what internet speed do you need to work from home? To work from home, you need a minimum internet speed of 1Mbps for both download and upload. This will give you internet that is fast enough for email, research, and even video calls on Zoom or Skype.
Of course, you may want slightly faster internet speeds for higher quality video, group video calling, or sending and receiving HD video.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to measure internet speed and the factors that determine what internet speed you need to work from home. We’ll also offer some suggestions on how to speed up your internet.
Let’s get started.
How Do You Measure Internet Speed?
The internet provides communication and information to anyone connected to it. This data is sent in “packets” over the internet, to and from your computer.
All of this data is made up of bits (short for binary digits). A bit has two possible values:
- zero (no electrical charge)
- one (some electrical charge)
When talking about the size of data files, remember the difference between bits (b) and bytes (B). There are 8 bits in one byte, so 10 bytes is 10*8 = 80 bits. 4MB (four megabytes) is 4*8 = 32 Mb (thirty two megabits).
The Basics Of Internet Speed
Internet speeds are often measured in Mbps, or megabits per second. This rating tells you how much data you can download or upload every second.
Sometimes, an internet connection will have different speeds for upload (sending information) and download (receiving information). Taken together, the size of a file and the internet speed will tell you how long it takes to upload or download the file.
A good analogy is a hose filling up a swimming pool. The size of the hose determines the volume of water (bandwidth, or amount of data) that can pass through per second.
A larger pool (file) will take longer to fill up (download). A larger hose (faster internet connection) will fill up a pool (download a file) faster.
For example, let’s say your internet download speed is 4 Mbps. This means that you can download 4 megabits per second.
If a file has a size of 3 MB (megabytes), then it is 3*8 = 24Mb (megabits), since there are 8 bits per byte.
To find the download time, we need to divide the file size (24 Mb) by the download speed (4 Mbps).
This means it will take 24 / 4 = 6 seconds to download the file.
Download & Upload Speed
Of course, your internet speed is not measured as one number. There are actually two different speeds to consider: one for download, and one for upload.
Download speed tells you how long it will take to download a file from somewhere else on the internet.
For example, when you download a PDF e-book from a website, such as Amazon, the data is downloaded from Amazon’s website (servers) to your computer.
Upload speed tells you how long it will take to upload a file to the internet.
For example, when you upload a Word document to a folder on DropBox (a cloud storage provider), the data is uploaded from your computer to Dropbox’s website (servers).
Generally speaking, download speed will be faster than upload speed. However, you can also opt for symmetrical bandwidth, which means that upload speeds will be more balanced.
As a rule, if you will mostly be downloading files to read for work, you need a higher download speed. However, if you also upload files (such as videos you create), then you will also want high upload speeds.
How Do You Improve Internet Speed?
There are many ways to improve your internet speed it is too slow for your work, including:
- troubleshoot common issues
- upgrade your hardware
- choose a different type of internet or internet service provider
Before you try to improve your internet speed, make sure the internet connection speed is really the culprit for slow performance. For example, if everything you do on the computer is slow, then the computer itself might be old and in need of replacement.
If you frequent only a few websites for work, then ask others at work if they experience the same slow speed. It could be that those websites have too much demand at peak hours, and the servers cannot keep up with the requests for data.
Speaking of demands, it is possible that your internet speed is good, but it could still slow down if there is too much demand from other devices.
Going back to the water analogy, think about a house with decent water pressure. If five people try to take a shower, water the garden, fill up the pool, wash laundry, and run the dishwasher at the same time, then there is going to be a problem.
In the same way, your internet speed is like your house’s “water pressure”. It may be adequate, but too much demand at once will slow the speed down for everyone.
For instance, if you download files for work while your wife streams movies on Netflix and your 3 kids play online games on their computers, then you will experience sluggish download times.
This is why it is a good idea to plan ahead for your work. Arrange your schedule so you are not downloading files when everyone else at home is trying to use the internet.
If these common issues don’t yield any results, then it might be time to look into hardware upgrades.
There are a few hardware upgrades you can try to improve your internet speed.
First, a brief overview of some important terms:
- A modem brings the internet to you from wires along the street, whether you live in a home, apartment, or condo.
- A router forwards data (in the form of packets) from the modem to your computer.
- A signal booster allows you to get a stronger internet signal in areas of your house where the signal is weak.
The first step is to make sure that your modem supports the internet speeds that you need.
Next, make sure that your router also supports that speed. If not, then the fast speed coming in from the modem will be limited by the bottleneck caused by the slower router.
Then, make sure that your office is close enough to the router. If not, use a signal booster to get internet in your current office location.
Using an ethernet connection instead of wireless internet is also an option. You will need an ethernet cable that is long enough to run from your router to your computer.
You will also need to install the cable so that you and your pets are not tripping over it!
One way to test the internet speed in your house is to download the same large file from different rooms. Record the time it takes to download the file from each room.
This test will give you an idea of where the “slow” internet rooms in your home are located.
As a last resort, you can use a backup source of internet, such as:
- a cafe
- a bookstore
- a coworking space
For more information, check out my article on what to look for in a coworking space.
If you are a business owner, you can deduct these purchases against income for your business. For more information on technology for at-home employees, check out my article on technical support for remote workers.
Remember that all of this fancy hardware won’t help you if your internet service provider (ISP) has capped your speed based on your service plan. Let’s talk about internet service next.
Internet Service Type
The internet service type is the way the data is sent along by your service provider. From fastest to slowest, the types are:
- fiber (fastest)
- satellite (slowest)
For more information on these types and their speeds, check out this article on highspeedinternet.com.
You can call up your internet service provider (ISP) and ask if any of the faster options are available. However, be aware that the prices will be higher for these faster internet connection speeds.
You can also shop around with other ISPs to compare prices. However, be aware that prices will be competitive, and they are sometimes difficult to compare if speeds are different.
As mentioned earlier, you should think about both download and upload speeds when considering the internet you need to work from home. When you call the ISPs, be sure to ask about the following questions, for starters:
- What are the download and upload speeds?
- Can I get a plan with more symmetrical download and upload speeds?
- Are there severe slowdowns during peak use hours?
- What are the peak use hours?
- Do you have a business plan that I can deduct for my small business?
- Are customers “throttled” (slowed down) after using a certain amount of data each month?
- What does the pricing look like for these different plans?
You can come up with your own follow-up questions to ask after you find answers to these questions. It is a good idea to show that you are an informed consumer when you call to ask about pricing.
Test Your Internet Speed (Internet Speed Test)
You can also test your internet speed at a site like bandwidthplace.com,which offers an internet speed test. You should try this at different times of day, to avoid peak internet use hours.
Also, you can use my idea from earlier in the article: test out your speed from different rooms in the house. This can help you to decide when and where to work, in order to avoid the frustration of slow internet speeds!
What Internet Speed Do I Need For My Work?
This all depends on what you need to do for your work. Basic email and web browsing probably will not require download speeds of more than 0.5Mbps.
A that speed, you might even be able to get away with low-quality video calls on Zoom or Skype.
|50-75 kbps||screen share, no|
|50-150 kbps||screen share with|
1 on 1 video
1 on 1 video
|send and receive|
1080p HD video
(in 1 on 1 call)
1080p HD video
(in group call)
1080p HD video
(in group call)
Zoom? This table shows the internet speed
needed for various Zoom capabilities.
At download speeds of 1.5Mbps, you can probably stream low-definition video and make high-definition video calls.
With download speeds of 2.0Mbps, you can make larger group video calls.
If your download speeds are 5.0Mbps and above, you can download huge files and stream high-definition video without too much trouble.
Of course, you might use services like DropBox or other cloud services, where you need to upload data.
In that case, think about the size of a file and the time you would like it to download. Then, divide the two to find your ideal speed.
For example, let’s say that your largest files to upload are 300MB (megabytes), which is 300*8 = 2400Mb (megabits).
Let’s also assume that you want the file to upload in 8 minutes, or 8*60 = 480 seconds.
Then your upload speed should be 2400 megabits / 480 seconds = 5Mbps.
Anything higher than this would allow you to upload a 300MB file in less than 8 minutes!
There are many factors to consider when trying to figure out the internet speed you need to work at home.
Hopefully, this article provided a good overview of the technical terms and how to improve your internet speed without getting too far into the weeds!
I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.