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Digital Phenomena - Your first stop for internet consultancy 
Ok, So What is Bandwidth?   
Simple.  Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transmitted via a given communications channel (such as a computer network) in a given unit of time (generally one second).    
What does that mean? It means that all internet connections are limited to a certain amount of data transfers over time. For example, if you try to download too many files at once, your internet connection becomes lagged. Why? Because the speed of your dialup connection (assuming you are on a dialup) cannot handle transferring that amount of data at once.  If you upgraded to a higher bandwidth connection, ie: a cable modem, then you would be able to download more files before becoming lagged.    
How Is Bandwidth Measured?   
ALL connections to the internet are limited in the same way. We measure dialups by kilobytes per second (Kbps), thus 14.4k, 28.8k, 33.6k, 56k, 64k, 128k.  A kilobyte is a measurement of storage capacity equal to approximately 1024 bytes.  We measure other connections in megabits per second (mbps).  A megabit is a measurement of storage capacity equal to approximately 1 million bits (1,048,576).   
What Is a Hop and a Backbone?   
A backbone is a high-speed, high-capacity medium designed to transfer data over thousands of miles. The internet is made of an enormous system of linked backbones.    
A hop is the path that data travels from one router to the next. A router is an electronic device that examines each packet of data it receives and then decides which way to send it onward toward its destination.  So that the data can reach the backbone, several hops may be necessary.    
Hops require processing time. When the message must be read and passed on by several routers before it reaches its destination it can result in jitter.  Jitter is an annoying and perceptible variation in the time it takes various "workstations" to respond to messages. Some respond quickly, while some respond slowly.   
What Does All of This Mean to Me?   
When you are looking at buying a shell you need to know its bandwidth and possibly how many hops it is from its backbone connection. Now you know what the measurements mean, what a backbone is, and what hops mean. Let's move on the the different types of connections and their speeds.    

If you either understand or don't care about dialup, ISDN, ASDL, or Cable connections, skip to here.   

Dedicated or Non-Dedicated?   
An "unlimited" internet account is not the same as a dedicated connection. A dedicated connection means that someone is paying their provider to keep them connected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. An unlimited internet account generally does not include "idle" time and many internet service providers will disconnect dialup accounts after a certain length of time (sometimes whether idle or not). A dedicated connection however allows a system to connect to their internet service provider continuously whether idle or not, with no time constraints.   

Dialup Connections are connections that are established when a user calls into the system that connects them to the backbone and then to the internet. They are:   
Ok, So What Are all these acronyms? 

Dialups  14.4K, 28.8K, 33.6K, 56K
DS-0 Digital Signal. 64 kbps 
Dual ISDN 128K SDN Connections are also a type of dialup, however they use digital lines as opposed to analog lines and are much faster. 
ASDL Asynchonous Digital Line. These use regular copper lines for a faster connection. 512 kbps to 6.1 mbps
Cable Modem This is a connection to the internet via the same cable lines that you would get cable television through. The actual bandwidth for Internet service over a cable TV line is up to 27 mbps on the download path to the subscriber with about 2.5 mbps of bandwidth for interactive responses in the other direction. However, since the  local provider may not be connected to the Internet on a line faster than a T-1 at 1.5 mpbs, a more likely data rate will be close to 1.5 bpbs, although some cable subscribers have been known to get up to 4mbps.
T1 1.45 mbps (equivalent of quite a few ISDN lines)  
a very high speed North American, dedicated phone connection, costing generally $750-$1500 per month. Normally it is used to connect internet access providers or other internet businesses to nodes. 1.544 mbps 
DS-1 Digital Signal. 1.544 mbps 
VT-1.5  virtual Tributary 1.728 mbps 
E1 A European connection. 2.048 mbps 
VT-2  Virtual Tributary 2.304 mbps 
VT-6  Virtual Tributary 6.912 mbps 
E2 E2 is also a European connection. 34.368 mbps 
DS-3 DS-3 Digital Signal. 44.736 mbps 
T3 speeds can vary. up to 44.736 mbps (depending on the type of T3) 
OC-1 Optical Carrier 51.84 mbps 
STS-1 Synchronous Transfer Signal 51.84 mbps 
100BaseT 100 mbps 
E4 European connection. 139.264 mbps 
OC3 Optical Carrier 155.52 mbps 
STM-1 Snchronous Transfer Module 155.56 mbps
STS-3 Synchronous Transfer Signal 155.56 mbps
OC12 Optical Carrier 622.08 mbps 
STM-4 Synchronous Transfer Module 622.08 mbps
STS-12 synchronous Transfer Signal 622.08 mbps
OC25 pretty damn fast
OC256 Transatlantic Link (approximately $1.5 million per month)
P.S. If you are wondering why 1 kilobyte isnt equal to 1,000 bytes and one megabyte isnt equal to one million bytes, here is your answer.  The computer world is based on twos, not tens. Two to the tenth power equals 1024. Because one byte is the same as one character in personal computing, 1K of data can contain 1024 characters. Want to know the difference between a byte and a bit? Eight bits make a byte :)
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