Upload vs Download Speeds: What’s the Difference and Why Do They Matter?





woman on tablet

If you’ve ever done an internet speed test to find out how fast your connection is, you’ve probably seen the terms “upload speed” and “download speed.” You might notice that your download rate will always be higher, but what do those numbers really mean?

It’s pretty simple: the download speed is how fast information comes to your connected device from the internet. Upload speed is how fast information goes from your connected device to the internet.

When it comes to really anything you do online, download speed is what’s most important. Streaming video or music, loading a web page, or downloading a file or document – all of those things depend on the speed to your connection.

What depends on speed from your connection are things like video chatting, uploading a photo or video to social media, backing up photos to the cloud, gaming, or sending data over an online form. 

As a general rule, upload speed wasn’t tremendously important until lately because people use far more data than they send. But with more people working from home and learning from home though, this is becoming more of a factor to be aware of. .

Of course, download speed can be affected by a number of things. Just because you have a fast connection, that doesn’t guarantee quality. If you’ve got multiple devices using the connection, you could see your quality start to suffer. This can even apply if there’s a lot of overall usage in your area, not just your home. And even physical distance (like how far a modem is from a printer or video game system) can have an impact. That’s why it’s important to make sure your modem is centrally located.

What speed do you need? That depends on what you’re doing. If you’re streaming video, it’s recommended to have a 5 mbps connection for a single device or at least 8 mbps for multiple devices watching HD content. If you’re watching 4K content, you’ll need 25 mbps for one device or 40 mbps for multiple devices. 

Here’s how to test your internet speed.

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