What is the width of my band?

That is an excellent question, I will be happy to assist you with bandwidth.

Bandwidth has to do with data flow in a network, how fast two computers can communicate with each other. Bandwidth is defined in computing as the bit-rate of available or consumed information capacity expressed typically in metric multiples of bits per second.

What does that mean? First off, we need to understand that when you are sending or receiving any data it is traveling through the wire in binary. Binary is the computing language that uses 1’s and 0’s to transmit data across networks. A single 1 or 0 is referred to as a bit. So when we say bit-rate we mean the speed of a 1 or 0 traveling across a medium be it wired or wireless.

Nerd Alert: A byte is a unit of measuring data. A Byte is 8 bits. Traditionally a byte was the amount of bits needed to encode a single character of text so it is the standard unit of measuring data.

Now that we know what a bit is, let’s decode the rest of that definition. So the bit-rate of available or consumed information. To simplify the idea of bandwidth it is usually expressed as a tunnel or tube. Think of data as water running out of a faucet. To get that water into your computer we need to link it to the faucet. Now when we plug the hose from the faucet to the computer we want the water to flow as fast as possible. What determines how fast that water flows? The size of the hose. A larger, wider hose allows more water to flow then a smaller, narrower hose. (Editor’s note: Do not pour water into your computer.)

Bandwidth goes hand in hand with the speed of the Internet service. If you test the speed of the service at one of the testing sites like Speed Test or Speak Easy you will get a numerical read out in Mbps (Mega bits per second) that is also the bandwidth. So the higher the speed of the service the more bandwidth you have.

How do we troubleshoot bandwidth? You will see a bandwidth issue if the speed of the Internet slows down. Videos start skipping or buffering, online games start lagging or disconnecting, et cetera. The first thing to check is the speed. Go to one of the speed test sites. If the speed is drastically lower than normal, reboot all the equipment (modem/router) and test again. If that does not resolve the issue contact the service provider and see if there is an issue on the line.

Now the other thing to think about with bandwidth is congestion. Let’s keep with the water flow idea. If the kitchen faucet is running and we add more devices to the Internet like another computer, we in theory are turning on the shower and another faucet and so on for each new device that gets added. The water pressure for all the faucets will decrease together.Let’s switch the thinking of data flow from water to cars on the road. Each car represents a computer, phone, or TV connecting to the Internet and the road as the bandwidth. With only a few computers connecting at once the road is clear and traffic moves at a normal pace. The more computers and phones we connect, the road also gets more crowded. The traffic starts to slow down. Add in someone streaming an HD movie which on average uses 7 Mbps of bandwidth. That is like a huge over-sized truck. One of the ones that spill out of its lane into the nearby one slowing traffic down even more. This could be a cause of Internet speed slow down. The way to test this would be to start shutting down connections, removing them from the Internet, and test the speeds again. If one device changes the speed of the service dramatically then that is where the issue is. However, if it seems like the bandwidth you have cannot handle the amount of data you want to access, you may have to increase the service to a higher bandwidth.

Now, it is not to say that the minute you connect a new device that you will see a slow down in service. Most impact of the bandwidth is not noticeable. If you are going to Facebook or checking your E-mail then the connection should not be affected. As long as the amount of data you are requesting does not exceed the allotted bandwidth everything will run fine. It is only when we start pushing through the amount of bandwidth on the connection that you start to see a slow down.This happens when some one is streaming a movie and playing an online game or any other heavy traffic on top of the normal connections.

Now we know how bandwidth relates to our internet connection and speeds. It is the size of the tunnel allowing data to flow from the Internet to our devices. The more bandwidth we have, the faster the connection should be. The easier it is to keep videos or gaming flowing smoothly. If you are seeing a slow down on service check the speeds and try to determine if you are exceeding the bandwidth.

If you have a technology question you would like answered, please E-mail speakslowerblog@gmail.com and I will be happy to look into it for you.