With how lightning fast internet speeds have gotten, it’s easy to forget just how far we have come from the dark ages of dial-up. But with how rapidly our web technology is developing, it’s just as easy to be left behind. Keeping ahead of your competition isn’t a today only thing — it requires you to take a good hard look down the road to come, too.

Where do you see your business some 3-5 years from now? Have you already mapped out the strategy you will use to guide you there? In what ways do your company’s shifting tech needs factor into your business plan, if at all? These are all important questions to ask yourself.

We’ve all heard the internet be called the information superhighway, but for businesses like yours, there’s an opportunity for it to be so much more. With the right amount of coverage, it can be the expressway to your future. Or, in the obverse of this metaphor:  don’t risk running out of gas because you got caught up doing circles in the roundabout of slow internet.

Of course, the million Megabit question now is:  “how much speed do I need?”

We’re so glad you asked — but as with most things tech-related, the answer won’t be the same for everyone. In fact, to continue our metaphor, “your mileage may vary” might be something of an apt saying here. Certain businesses, especially those who employ VoIP and cloud-based solutions in an effort to aid scalability, might require much more than others, while a few might need just enough to handle email.

Determining your speed requirements does take some work (and a bit of basic math), but the best place to start is with a speed test. Before you run off in search of a new provider, you first need to figure out whether your current ISP is delivering the speeds you’ve been paying for. Is your connection performing the way it’s supposed to? If not, and the disparity doesn’t stem from a hardware issue, it’s probably time to make a few calls. The first? To your employees.

These are the people on the front lines of your business; the ones for whom your network is integral to their job functions. If they’ve been experiencing lags when sharing files, or if their video conference calls are buffering every eighteen seconds, this is information you will want to know. What the network is being used for, and how many users and/or devices are connected to it, are together the two biggest determining factors in which speed tier you should go with.

When it comes to tiers, though, there isn’t just one speed:  there are two. Upload (UL) and Download (DL). While residential plans often focus heavily on download speeds — the Mbps (megabits per second) ratio of DL to UL can easily be 10o:1o — businesses often require symmetric connectivity, or a guaranteed speed ratio of 100:100. This allows you to upload and download large amounts of data simultaneously without lags or loss of bandwidth. An asymmetrical connection will make it more difficult for you to access cloud apps, and reduce your overall coverage.

With all that being said, in today’s business technology, “coverage” refers to so much more than speed alone. It also comprises the physical infrastructure of the network itself — the pieces of equipment that tie it all together. Two of these devices are routers and switches. On the list of office essentials, their importance puts them up there with the coffee maker.

Though they seem similar at first blush, each performs a discrete and significant function. Routers are what allow your networks to connect both to each other and the web at large — sort of like how a highway interchange or off ramp to a surface street might. They are what ensure a packet of data gets to the appropriate device (or node), while also acting as a security checkpoint. If your router, which often comes with a built-in firewall, spots a packet of data coming from an untrusted or potentially harmful source, it gets turned away. Trusted packets get the all clear, and are fastpassed as necessary to priority devices.

This isn’t the perfect metaphor, of course — it starts to break down pretty rapidly once you bring switches into the mix, so without the aid of any rhetorical devices:  switches are what tie your various gadgets together. They allow your computers, phones, printers, servers, and the like to communicate with one another, while also controlling the flow of shared information. This means that the faster your network is, the more capable of a switch you’ll need to handle your increased traffic capabilities.

Despite there not being the perfect transport analogue for switches — an argument could be made for traffic lights, but it would still be lacking — this idea of a highway should still highlight just how vital routers, switches, and firewalls are to maintaining a functional infrastructure:  take one out of the network and your productivity will all but grind to a screeching halt.

In a sense, these hardware devices are all about control — giving your business complete authority over its network. To take this one step further, imagine the potential headaches and slowdowns if the interchanges of your highway were privately owned; if the only way you could get online is by passing through someone else’s toll both. It sounds pretty terrible, doesn’t it? That’s because it is! And if your business is still using the router your current ISP provided, that’s the reality you’re living with.

This is why it’s always best to own your own router. Not only do you get out from under the thumb of your ISP — Yay! No more monthly router rental fees! — but you’ll also be able to have a higher level of network oversight, allowing you to more effectively leverage your business technologies to reach your goals.

Ultimately, that’s what JNT TEK is all about:  helping you save money, while giving you the most robust platform possible, so that you never have to worry about technology holding your productivity back. To get to that wonderland of efficiency, though, you’ll first need to take a good, hard look at your internet coverage. Are you actually getting the maximum value possible from your current internet speeds? How robust is your local network? Can it support the growth you envision the next 3-5 years bringing? These are all questions that we at JNT TEK can help your business answer.

Contact JNT TEK today to see if you can get a better deal on your internet coverage, and start building the expressway to your future.