Wherever the online storage space for your data is located, speed of data upload and download is important. The faster you can transfer files to your online storage provider, the better protected your data will be. The faster you can download them again when you need them, the more convenient it will be for you as an individual, or the more efficient it will be for your business.
What Determines Online Storage Speed?
There are several factors that can affect how fast your files can be stowed securely away online.
Network connection. The speed of connection between your IT systems and the network will put an upper limit on your online storage speed. Bigger users (bigger organizations) don’t always have faster network connections. And of course, the speed of connection of the provider to the network may also have an impact.
File sizes and quantities. Sending many files of a smaller size may take longer than a few, bigger files for a given total volume of data. The online storage provider must decide how each file is to be stored. More decisions take a longer time.
Number of users of the service. If many users want to access the service at the same time, a provider may portion out the available bandwidth between users according to certain rules or policies.
An online storage provider may deliberately restrict data transmission speeds (known as bandwidth throttling) for different reasons. The first is because of bandwidth shortage. The second is to discourage data transmission beyond a certain volume of data (which may range from a few gigabytes up to two hundred gigabytes). A third reason is to differentiate the service given to users who pay nothing from that given to users paying a subscription. If transmission speeds become unsatisfactory, you may want to investigate additional or different providers to get back the speed you need.
What Speeds Can You Expect?
From the remarks above, you can see that data transmission speeds may vary for different reasons. However, data upload speeds (sending your files) are often lower than download speeds (getting your files back) by a factor of five or more. Download speeds may vary according to geographical distance (closer means higher speed), but upload speed is often at the same lower value wherever a storage provider is located.
How Can You Tell What the Speeds Are?
Besides any figures that an online storage provider may publish, other sources of information are reviews of specific services and test tools often available over the web. Speedtest.net is a site offering users the possibility to test the speed of their network connection. Remember that network speeds may also differ according to the time of day, so where possible compare test results for two or more storage providers using tests done under similar conditions and at about the same time. The Online Drive Benchmark is a further service (currently available as a beta version) that tests providers to show you which one gives you the best performance on your computer. Google’s MLab (Measurement Lab) is also a tool for users to find out what may be causing any network slowdowns, including possible bandwidth throttling by a provider.
Unlimited – Really?
Given that speed is an important factor, it’s tempting to think that ‘unlimited’ offers from providers are the solution. However, some providers may use the word ‘unlimited’ to describe a service that still effectively has a maximum data transfer speed and maximum daily volume built-in. As always, decide what you need, then pick the service provider that corresponds to your requirements, and check that speeds hold up either by transferring data and monitoring, or by using tools like the ones mentioned above.