A hand pressing an upload button.
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Everyone wants fast download speeds. Who wouldn’t want to get their games, movies, and music piped in almost instantly? But the way we use the internet is changing, and that other number on your internet contract is becoming increasingly important.

Your Connection Is (Probably) Asymmetrical

Most home internet connections are asymmetrical. This means that the download speed is different from the upload speed. In other words, the rate at which you can send information is different from the rate at which you can receive it.

This asymmetry is almost always in favor of download speed, so you might have 500Mbps of peak download speed, but only 50Mbps of upload speed. There’s a good chance that when you chose your internet plan, you didn’t pay as much attention to the second number that denotes upload speed. But there are a few reasons why you’ll probably want a symmetrical internet connection (in other words, a connection that has as much upload speed as it has download speed) in the near future, if not already today!

The Cloud Must Be Fed

Cloud storage and services make our lives much easier land it’s good to know that you have terabytes of storage space for your media and backups in a world-class data center somewhere. However, if you’ve ever tried to sync your multi-terabyte OneDrive or iCloud account on a new computer, you’ve probably seen the remaining time tick up into days or weeks.

While it’s mainly a small subset of power users who make such heavy use of the cloud, regular users will soon appreciate being able to use cloud services at the same speed in both directions. We’re pumping more and more data upstream from our smartphones and computers. The quality of our photos and videos is growing and often we share content between our own devices by first sending them to the cloud and downloading them.

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With symmetrical bandwidth, all of these cloud-based tasks become faster and more convenient. Ultimately, you can start treating your cloud resources like local storage.

Accessing Your Home Network Remotely

Today, it’s possible to access your home computer via remote desktop, your game console through remote internet streaming, and your home media server from anywhere in the world. As we build our home network resources, there are plenty of times when we want to use them even when not at home.

If you have symmetrical internet bandwidth, then you’re going to have a much better time accessing your home network resources at work, on holiday, or out and about on mobile data.

The same goes for smart devices such as thermostats, security cameras, and every other appliance that now has a Wi-Fi chip in it. If you want to manage your smart home even when you’re not home, you want enough upstream bandwidth to make it seamless.

A Content Maker’s Dream

If you’re creating content for YouTube, uploading high-resolution photographic projects, or live-streaming to your Twitch audience, then having fast upstream bandwidth is a high priority. If you live in a household with several people who are trying to get their content out there, it becomes even more important!

The Essential Work-From-Home Service

Thanks to a global work-from-home shift that seems here to stay, there’s never been a more critical time to upgrade your upstream bandwidth. This is especially true if you’re hooked into the company VPN and need to access software services and content on the company intranet. If you’re only uploading those crucial project files at a tenth of your download speeds, your boss probably isn’t going to appreciate you taking things down to the wire!

Future Applications Will Demand It

While many of the internet applications we already use today are already hungry for more upstream bandwidth, that’s nothing compared to what’s coming in the future. Cloud storage is going to grow and become ever faster. Fully-embodied mixed- and virtual- reality experiences such as those offered by Meta are only going to become more commonplace. At some point your smart-connected home is going to need a wide data pipe back into the internet, so you might as well look into reaping the benefits today while you prepare for tomorrow.

 

Profile Photo for Sydney Butler Sydney Butler
Sydney Butler has over 20 years of experience as a freelance PC technician and system builder. He's worked for more than a decade in user education and spends his time explaining technology to professional, educational, and mainstream audiences. His interests include VR, PC, Mac, gaming, 3D printing, consumer electronics, the web, and privacy. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Research Psychology with a focus on Cyberpsychology in particular.
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