The world of data can be a confusing place, with experts blurting out jargon acronyms and terminology hoping that you’ll have even the slightest idea of what they’re on about. At SoConnect we try to avoid complicated phrases like “Contention” or “Latency” when explaining our services to our clients but sometimes it’s just unavoidable, so we decided to create this handy little guide on some of the most used Broadband terms to try to help you get a better understanding of the data services you are using right this second.
Download / Upload
Let’s start with the most used, abused and misunderstood term in the world of Broadband; Download as well as its slightly less used but just as obfuscating counterpart; Upload. Put simply Download and upload to the “speed” at which data is transferred from a server to your computer (Download) and from your computer to a server (Upload). However “speed” is a very loose term and one which doesn’t really fit the process that’s really going on. A better way to understand Download and Upload is to think of the “Speed” as a measurement of volume over time, specifically the volume of data being transferred per second to and from your computer. This is why Down and Upload speeds are measured in Megabits per second, or Mbps (a bit being a unit of measurement for the information that is being sent). The larger the number the “Faster” the connection is, as it is able to transmit more data per second, which is why your 50Mbps business connection is better than the 5Mbps connection speed of your local coffee shop.
This is where things get a little tricky. Latency is a term used to describe the time it takes for a data signal to travel from your computer to a server and back again. This shouldn’t be confused with the Download speed (which is why I dislike using the term speed when it comes to Download and Upload) as your connection can have a very fast Download speed but very high latency, which can make the connection feel slow and delayed. (Satellite broadband connections are often known to suffer from this issue.) To see if your connection has high latency a technician may try to “Ping” a server, this means they will send a signal to and from the server and measure the time it takes for the signal to travel the full distance there and back again. Latency (which is sometimes just referred to as Ping) is measured in Milliseconds or ms so the lower the number the less latency your connection has and the faster it will appear to be. There are a number of reasons why a connection can have high ping, normally it is either the result of a fault in your connection (which you should notify your Internet Service Provider about so they can fix it) or it may be because the server you are trying to reach is located very far away, for example if I’m sitting in my house in Scotland and I try to connect to a server in Australia then the latency will be higher than if I was attempting to connect to a server in England.
This is something you might hear about a lot if you’re based in a built up, urban area and you are using a Broadband connection. Contention is an issue that causes your Download speed and potentially your Upload speed to slow down when a lot of other people in your area are all trying to connect to the internet at the same time. Contention usually occurs at “Peak times” (times when most people are trying to get online) like around Lunch time or around four when Schools finish for the day and thousands of teenagers swarm the internet to get on Instagram or check their Snapchat (I’m going to stop listing trendy websites to try and sound cool now.) and is the result of the Broadband connection which is shared between all users in the local area reaching its maximum capacity. Think of it like a drain pipe, a little bit of rain can flow down the drain no problem, but if a river bursts its banks and it starts to flood then the drain fills up and only allows so much water through at once. This is why more developed areas like central London suffer from problems with Contention and why you might notice it takes longer to get online at certain times of the day than others. Many Businesses use a “Dedicated” data connection to work around this problem so that they can have a consistent data connection that doesn’t slow down when you need it most.
Broadband / Dedicated
Broadband and Dedicated are terms used to describe the two main categories data connections fall under. Broadband connections are the most popular kind of data connection with all domestic and most business data connections being delivered as Broadband services to their users. In simple terms a Broadband connection is a connection that is shared amongst multiple users in the same area. When an ISP is fitting a Broadband connection they connect all of their clients to a single, central internet cable, the cable then has smaller cables which branch off of it and (through some other overly technical processes which aren’t very important,) connect your business to the central line providing you with a connection that you share with other users. Broadband connections have their share of problems like issues with contention and others, however the fact that the cost of the line is shared between multiple users means that it is a much more affordable service, making it ideal for businesses that need a connection that does everything they need it to without breaking the bank. A dedicated connection is much simpler, it essentially takes the big central cable that would normally be shared with a bunch of users and connects it directly between your premises and the local internet exchange. With a dedicated connection you are also the only person that is using the line, meaning that whilst it is significantly more expensive, the connection is faster, more consistent and able to cope with anything you can throw at it, making it ideal for large, multi-office businesses that are web reliant and need nothing but the best when it comes to their data line.
So there you have it! Hopefully this article has helped to explain what some of these complicated terms mean and hopefully you’ll be much more informed the next time you’re looking for a new data connection. For more information on the data services SoConnect offer, please visit our web page on it, or you can contact our sales team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0333 240 1824.