When you begin to research file transfer solutions like SFTP providers for your business, there are always a few key terms to keep in mind. Many companies rely heavily on the terms "unlimited transfer" and "unlimited bandwidth" in their marketing materials in an attempt to make their services as enticing as possible. While these two terms do admittedly sound quite similar, they are actually very different and should be treated as such.
Unlimited transfer, also commonly referred to as "unlimited data transfer," refers to the specific amount of traffic that you generate to and from the provider's network. In particular, it is talking about the traffic that is being transmitted from one place to another (like from your business' desktop computer to your file server and back again to another person) over time - such as per calendar month.
For the sake of argument, say you created a file and uploaded it to your SFTP server that was one gigabyte in size. Then say that 100 different employees over the course of a week all needed to access, change or download that file. Every time another employee does anything with that file, you're looking at another one gigabyte in data transfer. So at the end of the week, you would have generated at least 101 gigabytes in traffic (1 upload, 100 downloads) even though you're still only talking about one particular file.
When you consider the sheer amount of files and activity that even an average sized business can generate in a week, you begin to get an understanding of why something like unlimited transfer is so important in the first place.
What is Unlimited Bandwidth?
Though people often use the term “unlimited bandwidth” to mean “unlimited transfer”, there is really no such thing as unlimited bandwidth once you understand what bandwidth is. Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be transferred from one place to another over a specific period of time usually measured in units per second. In other words, you're talking about the speed at which that data can get from its origin to its destination and back again if need be, or as some say -- “it is the size of the pipe”.
A standard T1 business connection, for example, offers a maximum speed of about 1.5 megabits per second. So, when a service provider says you have unlimited bandwidth, it essentially just means that your service provider won't be "throttling" the speed slower than the size of their pipe,thereby allowing you to take full advantage of the natural speed built into the service provider’s connection in the first place, which could be 1 gigabit per second or even more. It may also mean that the service provider allows you unlimited transfer per month.
Another way to think of these two terms would be in the context of a car. Bandwidth means that your car's top speed is whatever you need it to be up to the mechanical limits of the engine - if you want to drive 100 miles per hour, you can drive 100 miles per hour. Unlimited transfer means that you're allowed to take as many passengers with you in the car as you'd like while you drive at 100 miles per hour.
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Founder of FTP Today and an expert in secure file transfer and Internet protocols. A software and IT geek since a young age, Martin has successfully led his companies through the digital age by spotting market niches and filling them with quality IT services.