Wi-Fi and Bandwith: Are You up to Speed?
When considering switching to cloud practice management software, you may be worried about internet reliability. If so, then you're not alone. According to an IDEXX May 2021 survey, 36% of practice managers, veterinarians, and veterinary technicians are worried about the same thing despite the potential improvements in speed and performance offered by the shift.
The good news is that you can learn more about the key components of internet bandwith and reliability in order to make the right decision for your practice. Here, find some actionable tips to do just that.
What Is Internet Bandwidth?
Bandwidth is a measure of the maximum capacity of a connection to transmit information. An easy way to think about it is to imagine a water pipe: The wider the pipe, the more water that can flow through. With your internet bandwidth, the data flow is typically measured in "bits," and most connections now support gigabit bandwidth, equal to 1,000,000,000 bits.
Another key point to understand is that internet bandwidth and speed are not the same—although they are often conflated by internet service providers (ISPs) because they are similar. However, speed refers to the rate at which information can be transferred while bandwidth speaks to the capacity.
The water pipe example again offers a good analogy. Speed is the rate at which the water flows; if your ISP can "push" the water faster at the source, it gets to you more quickly. Bandwidth is the capacity of the pipe; if your provider increases speed at their end, but the pipe is too narrow, you won't see the benefit.
How Does Bandwidth Relate to Speed and Reliability?
The bandwidth of your internet connection directly impacts both speed and reliability. The greater your available bandwidth, the higher your potential data transfer speed. In practice, this means that a connection with 4 gigabits of bandwidth can theoretically handle four times more data than a 1 gigabit connection. In most cases, ISPs tie bandwidth and speed together, meaning if you pay for more bandwidth, you also get more speed.
When it comes to reliability, meanwhile, bandwidth is critical. This is because any action taken by team members involving the internet consumes bandwidth. Some actions, such as working in cloud-based document editors or databases, require a minimal amount of bandwidth. Others, such as reviewing video or audio files, need a great deal more. Each online action adds more water to the pipeline and when that pipeline reaches capacity, problems start occurring.
This is often why videos or audio files start "stuttering" or why data entry programs start slowing down. There are too many tasks being performed simultaneously, which fills up the pipeline and gives users sporadic rather than steady connections.
How Can Practices Ensure Reliable Internet Access?
There are several steps you can take to help boost internet reliability and address key concerns.
- Create the right conditions: One way to enhance your internet access is with a combination of wired and Wi-Fi connections. Wired connections are ideal for stationary desktops, whereas Wi-Fi can be used to deliver comprehensive internet coverage across your practice.
- Consider an upgrade: It's often worth the cost to consider a more substantive upgrade that offers significant speed and reliability benefits and is governed by a detailed service-level agreement.
- Incorporate the cloud: Shifting to the cloud also offers a way to boost reliability and speed, as it shifts all the heavy lifting off-site. The result is on-site devices that aren't bogged down by massive software volumes and storage requirements. Furthermore, if data on-site is compromised by external threats, cloud backups let practices quickly get back on track. And even if ISPs go down, team members can still access cloud services using mobile networks.
Reliable internet is now crucial for veterinary practices to ensure they have the bandwidth and speed available to keep pace with current needs, reap the benefits of cloud technology, and set the stage for future practice growth.