Bandwidth Speed, Up / Down and all around

Are you confused about bandwidth, throughput, pipe, upload, download, and the “big words” the “engineers” like to throw out there like; asynchronous, synchronous or “DIA” (Dedicated Internet Access) and how it relates to Internet connection speeds?  You might be surprised that even the “engineers” don’t understand it either and are just as confused as you are (believe it or not).

Remember that bandwidth is bandwidth is bandwidth…is bandwidth.  If you have 10 Mb/s (that’s “Megabits per second” which is different than “MegaBytes per second” – Big “B” vs small “b”) and you’re downloading or uploading 9 Mb/s you still have 1 Mb/s to use in either direction (in theory).  You’d think this math is easy to understand right?  At such low speeds (10 Mb/s) there’s a little gray area and we don’t dive into those weeds,  however; at higher speeds there is less gray area on what you’d expect to see as a tolerance for acceptable loss.  At 30 Mb/s you’d expect to be at least near the 27 Mb/s speed on a download and upload on a synchronous connection (30 up / 30 down).

I recently had a run-in with an “engineer” at a large regional ISP in my neck of the woods who blathered on about asynchronous vs synchronous connections and how that if you’re experiencing problems with bandwidth it’s because off-site replication is “getting in the way” of other uploads or downloads like the kind you see during daily traffic.  That’s not a perfect quote but pretty darn accurate.  This leads me to note that…I hate the fact that it seems everyone these days is a “network engineer” or calls themselves an “engineer” when a lot of these people can’t seem to engineer their way out of a paper bag.  It’s a wonder how these people even got jobs doing what they’re doing!  All engineers are not created equally, especially when this engineer who’s one of the most arrogant I’ve run into in a long time knows very little about such a basic topic.  From one engineer to another you can’t dumb things down to uber simplicity like “getting in the way”…that just doesn’t hold technical water and it makes YOU look like the derp.

Why?  Why does this engineer know so little about such a basic topic?  I don’t happen to know but the derpgineer (that’s a derpy engineer) should understand that bandwidth is bandwidth is bandwidth as I started out.  It just is!  I don’t know how else to explain it, it’s such a simple concept.  You either have 30 Mb/s or you don’t!

This derpgineer also yammered on telling me how a tool called iperf works.  He went on to try and tell me how “ipperf” works saying that it just blasts UDP packets onto the network, blah blah blah…I heard blah blah blah after he mentioned “UDP packets” because anyone who’s used iperf for testing knows that the tool is not called IPperf, it’s “iperf” and that by default it uses TCP not UDP.  He trainwrecked midway through his first sentence!  I didn’t get the chance to enlighten him on the conference call because I was interrupted by the moderators.  Ugh…I don’t struggle with someone who knows less than me or even someone who knows more than me but when you fake know something…that’s when I get irritated!  It’s not called “IPperf” nor does it use UDP by default…the tell tale sign of a derpgineer is speaking about something authoritatively when they should go RTFM.  The ultimate issue is the all knowing all seeing derpgineer wasn’t even listening to what I was saying or the data that iperf put out which led to my questions for him.  It’s not…like…my opinion man!  The derpgineer just wanted to be right with less visibility into the bandwidth issue than I had.  I had more visibility than they did and I wasn’t being heard.  Most importantly, the data wasn’t listened to…it’s not about me or personalities it’s about the data!  It’s so frustrating to work with someone who doesn’t listen and pretends to know what they’re talking about!


On a 30 Mb/s connection they were arguing that replication was taking 20 Mb/s and since I was getting a 355 Kb/s transfer speed with something unrelated that we need to crank up our Internet speed (bandwidth) to something greater than 30 Mb/s.  Nothing could be further from the truth in fact!  If you have 30 Mb/s upload (and lets assume download too – 30 down / 30 up <- synchronous) and so do they (the derpgeineers ISP)…then I have (30 Mb/s – 20 Mb/s for replication traffic being consumed = 10 Mb/s) 10 Mb/s of available capacity or “bandwidth”.  Yes, 20 Mb/s of the 30 Mb/s is “consumed” by replication or whatever traffic you want to call it which means I have 10 Mb/s left so getting 355 Kb/s means there is a problem.  355 Kb/s isn’t anywhere near even 5% of the 10 Mb/s which is bad in anyone’s book.  In the derpgeineers defense we could be using the other 10 Mb/s or portions of it for other uploads say…to a backup cloud service but that wasn’t the case.  I also stated how that when iperf tests run from them to me, the bandwidth capacity was 27 Mb/s…perfect!  But, when I turn right around and run it from me to them…I get no better than 4 Mb/s.  I ran this test 3 times in a row from each side getting very similar results so it’s a replicable pattern! The fact I get such a stark difference from side to side is telling and should raise a red flag with anyone who knows these basic concepts!

It’s either a problem with you or with me.  I was actually telling them it’s us not you and we need to go back and look at our router…which is actually managed by another company so I can’t help…although we could…I can’t!  The derpgineer was getting defensive for no reason.  It’s all a bit frustrating not having our hands on all the pieces of infrastructure so it’s done correctly.  It’s like trying to drive where I hold the steering wheel, hey you other person…you push the gas while yet another person does the clutch and shifting…it’s all kind of a mess and anyone with common sense would see a car crash in our future!

Back to the issue.

Synchronous connectivity means you have the same amount of capacity / bandwidth both for your upload & download


30 Mb/s down, 30 Mb/s up

Asynchronous connectivity means you have a different amount of capacity / bandwidth depending on the direction.


250 Mb/s down, 30 Mb/s up

Most Internet these days is sold with a higher download speed than upload.  Charter, Comcast, ATT, Frontier, RoadRunner, Cox, etc, etc…they all say “Up to 100 meg down”, “lightning fast”, etc but they give you a 5 Mb/s upload which would be:  Asynchronous 100 Mb/s down, 5 Mb/s up.

Back to our “engineer” (derpgeineer) buddy.  I don’t know what he’s thinking because anyone who knows anything about anything can understand capacity.  Just like the 30/20 issue…I have 30 Mb/s and I’m only using 20 Mb/s so I have 10 Mb/s left of capacity.  It’s shocking and unbelievable that he doesn’t understand such a simple thing!  There’s not much of a difference either going to the Internet or over a VPN as the available bandwidth through the tunnel is the same minus a touch for encryption / decryption through the tunnel but that’s not going to consume almost 10 Mb/s of bandwidth (1/3rd of our capacity in this case).

Why am I talking about this?  Because even “engineers” seem to misunderstand that it’s not a problem with not ENOUGH bandwidth…it’s a problem of not having the ability for some reason TO USE the bandwidth you already have!

If someone ask you to upgrade your package you need to ask questions!  Why do I need to upgrade and supposing I do…what do I need to upgrade?  My upload, my download or both?  Sometimes you need more capacity (bandwidth) but sometimes you need to use what you already have better.  More bandwidth ALWAYS usually means more money out the door for not much benefit if you get more that you aren’t using efficiently.  I had a customer that upgraded to a gigabit download but only had a 10/100 Mb/s switch (gigabit = 1000 Mb/s).  There was no reason to get gigabit Internet UNLESS they also upgraded their switches to 10/100/1000!  Also…does your router do gigabit on the WAN link?  Many don’t!  Yowza…you can see why you need a team like ours.

If you’re an “engineer” and you don’t understand this simple concept of capacity and bandwidth then bone up and graduate from derpgineer to engineer and stop being a derp.

It’s a shame I even had to blog about this subject matter that’s how basic it is but it’s a problem many of the so called engineers just don’t understand.  It’s what a 1st year networking student learns…like; on the first day!

If you need assistance with anything technical including seriously simple to understand concepts other engineers might be having problems understanding like bandwidth and capacity (LOL) we’re the company you NEED to contact.


Comments or questions are welcome.

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