No! Bandwidth and Speed are NOT the Same Thing

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When shopping around for the best web hosting company, you often hear the terms bandwidth and speed. Sometimes all the technological jargon gets thrown around so much it loses its meaning. If you don’t do your research you may end up with too much or not enough of one or the other.

Have you ever played the game “Telephone?” You tell a person a short phrase. Then, each person is required to whisper what he heard to the next with the final person saying it aloud. What starts out as “The dog is brown and black”, ends up like “A cog is round and flat.” The same can happen when people talk about bandwidth and speed, especially when the FCC uses them interchangeably.

No, bandwidth and speed are not the same thing, now take a look at how they are different.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth has nothing to do with speed; rather, it has everything to do with capacity. The simple definition for bandwidth refers to the amount of transferred data from Point A to Point B at a given time. Many people believe that their website speed increases as they increase the bandwidth. While bandwidth may be part of a larger problem that affects website speed, increasing your bandwidth does not necessarily mean your website speed is going up too. For a tangible example, let’s look at a pack mule. One pack mule, let’s call her Sandy, can carry five duffel bags from Texas to Mexico while another mule, Bessie, can carry ten. Bessie has a higher “bandwidth”, however, she takes one hour longer to get to Mexico. Thus, a higher bandwidth does not necessarily mean a faster speed.

Speed

Now that we have looked at bandwidth, let’s take a closer look at website speed. Internet or website speed is pretty much what it sounds like: how quickly information travels from Point A to Point B. Speed measures in Megabits per second (Mbps) or often referred to as “Megs”. Speed, the number one factor that determines if people will visit and stay on your website. Studies show that the longer a user has to wait for a page to load, the more likely they will ditch the site and search for something else.

How they interact

Now that we have a better understanding of what bandwidth and internet speed are independently, let’s now see how they work together. Back to our pack mule example, we expand on it. For instance, we need to move twenty duffel bags from Texas to Mexico. As stated before, Sandy’s “bandwidth” is five duffel bags, and Bessie’s “bandwidth” is twenty. Now, let’s say Sandy’s “speed” is one hour while Bessie’s “speed” is two hours. Simple mathematics can help us see how bandwidth and speed interact. Let me draw it out for you so it is easier to reference:

Sandy:
Bandwidth = 5 Bags
Speed = 1 hour

Bessie:
Bandwidth = 10 Bags
Speed = 2 hours

It will take Sandy four trips to move all twenty duffel bags, making her speed a total of four hours. Bessie can move all the duffel bags in two trips totaling two hours. In our example, the higher bandwidth does equal a faster speed to move all the duffel bags. In the example, substitute the duffel bags with amount of data, and the hours with megabits per second, and you can see how bandwidth and speed interact.

It’s important that you evaluate your website needs in order to decide how much bandwidth and speed you will need. If you have videos or games that require more data for high quality streaming, you may need more bandwidth than a website that just contains text. Work along side your web hosting company to determine the best ratio of bandwidth to speed for your website. GlowHost offers some of the largest bandwidth allocations available in the industry, all ports (that’s the bandwidth part!) on our network run at least 1 Gbps with capacity to supply well over 100 terabytes of monthly transfer, and future plans include 10 Gbps ports even on our entry-level shared hosting accounts.

  • Wally

    THANK YOU!! For the longest time ive been wondering where in the world did this distorted and to be honest completely wrong view of bandwidth come from? And where is throughput in all this. I even read one article on study dot com(i dont want the link to pop up as they seemingly dont deserve the traffic lol)where a man;who apparently has a Bachelor’s in IT, says that bandwidth is the theoretical speed and throughput is the literally. Being that by definition bandwidth is a measure of distance between the highest and lowest frequencies that a medium can transmit forces me to call shenanigans on these so called tech experts. Kudos to you :)/post-script: who gets a Bachelors in just IT anyway without noting a focus, anyways PEACE OUT