Even if you have a strong background in tech, you might find the terms an internet service provider uses to be a bit confusing to sort out. However, if you want to fairly assess which plans are best, you have to know how to talk the internet-provider talk. Use this guide to translate the ISP speak into something you can follow.
Bits per Second
You will usually see companies advertise their services based on speeds, and these speeds are almost always measured in megabits or gigabits per second. A megabit represents a million bits per second, and a gigabit represents a billion.
Okay, but what the heck is a bit? Every piece of data your devices transmit or receive is a one or zero in binary, and a single piece of one of those numbers is a bit. The more bits a connection can support, the faster you'll get that TikTok video of a kitten your friend sent on Facebook.
Notably, bits are not the same as bytes. At the smallest file sizes, it takes at least 8 bits to make a byte. Worse, this can vary if a system is using a higher bit standard to deliver something. Many JPEG images are 24-bit, and encryption systems can get into the thousands of bits. Standardizing on one bit allows you to make an apples-to-apples comparison between how fast two different standards will operate.
Upload and Download Speeds
The next big selling points for an internet provider are upload and download speeds. Most folks know downloading as a concept because they need to save files, and they may understand uploads if they've ever sent anything.
As a consumer, download speeds dictate how fast things like streaming will work. Most modern internet service systems should handle 1080p streams without trouble, but bigger standards like 4K get taxing.
Upload speeds are where you can sometimes run into problems with an ISP. If you have to push major file sizes through emails or to servers, you want to have upload speeds that are only a couple of times lower than your download speeds. Folks hosting web servers or live streaming on services like Twitch may need upload speeds comparable to their downloads.
Companies assign IP addresses to identify equipment, not unlike how your phone has a number. They can do this dynamically or statically. A static IP is one you keep like a phone number, while a dynamic one may change from time to time. If you're purchasing internet service to access certain APIs or host a web server, you may need a static IP.