Internet Speeds:
What is upload
speed used for?

Author: Heidi Vella

Superior customer experience is a top priority for just about any successful business.  Access to high-speed internet can be the difference between superior and poor customer service, and between high or low staff productivity.  Performing an internet upload speed test and understanding the difference between upload and download speeds will help determine the right internet speed for your business. So, what is upload speed used for?

Here is a handy guide that explains the important definitions and distinctions between internet speeds and bandwidth, defines what is fast upload speed, provides resources to perform an internet upload speed test, and digs deeper into the big question, why is upload speed important?  

Internet Speeds

All internet connection speeds are measured and reported in bits, specifically megabits per second (Mbps), which is the speed or transfer rate of data.  For example, an internet speed of 100 Mbps is the rate at which information is uploaded or downloaded based on your connection speed.  Whereas the amount of data being transferred, meaning the file or storage capacity, is measured in Bytes, or megabytes per second (MBps).  For example, the size of a video clip could be shown as 500 MB. 

Upload Speed: What is upload speed used for?

Internet upload speed determines the amount of data that can be sent from your computer, or device, to the internet.  It can be used for things such as sharing a photo, uploading a video to a social platform, or presenting a work presentation from your computer to multiple devices. This can be determined by performing an internet upload speed test.

Download Speed: What is download speed used for?

What is download speed used for?  Download speed is how fast an internet connection can transfer data from a server to the user.  Reading email, viewing web pages or videos, and streaming content online are a few examples.  This can be determined by performing an internet download speed test.

Symmetrical Speeds

Symmetrical speed is when the upload speed is equal to that of the download speed. Most internet providers provide faster download speeds than upload speeds. However, having equally fast upload speed is important for many applications, including posting content online via social platforms, streaming live video, and video calling, perhaps simultaneously. Weak or slow upload speeds are often the cause of broken audio and/or frozen video screens. Fiber internet provides symmetrical speeds. 

Understanding bandwidth

Bandwidth is how much information you receive every second, while speed is how fast that information is received or downloaded. Bandwidth is often mistaken for internet speed when it's actually the volume of information that can be sent over a connection in a measured amount of time – calculated in megabits per second (Mbps).

Let's compare it to filling a bathtub. If the bathtub faucet has a wide opening, more water can flow at a faster rate than if the pipe was narrower. Think of the water as the bandwidth and the rate at which the water flows as the speed.

Understanding bandwidth is a crucial step to learning the answer to "what is upload speed used for," and provides a measurable benchmark that can help you compare with what other experts online suggest. 

Why is upload speed important?

So, why is upload speed important—especially when it is often overlooked in favor of download speeds?

For many businesses, uploading data to the internet is a crucial part of day-to-day operations, such as:

  • Adding attachments to an outgoing email
  • Uploading files to shared databases
  • Uploading images or files (or both) to social platforms
  • Furnishing websites and social media with high-quality images and videos
  • Video conferencing, such as Verizon's BlueJeans
  • Using collaboration and sharing tools, such as Google Docs, Dropbox, iCloud and other cloud-based applications
  • Sending secure data to financial institutions (or other institutions)
  • Hosting live streams
  • Posting webinars, training videos and workshops

How do slow speeds hamper productivity and efficiency?

With slow upload speeds, everyday work tasks can be disrupted and that could lead to lower employee morale. For example, emails might be too slow to disseminate important, timely information. Daily updates made to a company website could be hampered by slow upload capabilities that cannot handle the quantity of images, gifs and/or animations.  The same applies to large file sharing between multiple team members or with clients. This may even hurt your ability to respond to customers, meaning less than satisfactory customer service. It can cause lag in video, meaning lost information during a presentation, embarrassing pauses, causing frustration of both employees and clients. Bottom line: faster speed equals more efficiency and enhanced productivity.

It’s especially important to consider your upload speeds as your business grows and you add more devices, which will take up more bandwidth. And with bandwidth constraints, your business may find it difficult to have different staff members simultaneously conduct video chats with clients or suppliers, provide online training to remote staff or stream webinars—or all three. If bandwidth isn't adequate and upload speeds are slow, it will hamper—or simply halt—everyone's productivity. 

What internet speed is right for your business?

It may be evident, but what's fast for a business will depend on how the internet is used. Remote and hybrid work is here to stay so it’s important to ensure your team is prepared. 

What is fast upload speed?

One generally accepted rule of thumb is that anything above 100 Mbps is considered “fast” internet because it can connect multiple devices at once.

Basic web browsing and email use a lower upload rate than video uploads or using collaboration platforms with complex tools and file sharing capabilities. Are you hosting live streams? Live video conferences with multiple hosts? Find the right speed for your business with this simple overview.

As technology marches forward, applications mature and user adoption rises, upload speed becomes more important. This is why there is debate whether upload speeds of 5 Mbps and higher are sufficient for a wired connection supporting one device, especially as the current download speed standard hasn’t changed since 2015.

Faster internet speeds can help you scale as your business grows.  Verizon's Fios Gigabit Connection provides speeds up to 940/880 Mbps and can handle up to 100 devices at once. Staying connected with clients is paramount and that means evaluating your business’ internet speed, reliability and consistency.

To get started, perform a simple speed test and ask your staff to help determine if your upload speeds are enough to get the job done.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.