When it comes to moving our image files through the Internet why does it always seem to take so long? While internet providers always talk about and compete over fast download speeds, upload speed is just as important to the digital photographer. The fact is that download speed is always much faster than uploading, but how much faster?
At Porter’s we have customers who send images to our lab through the internet for printing, or they upload their pictures to their private online web albums provided by Porter’s in order to store and share the images. Every customer who is new to uploading image files has the same comment after their first try – “This is so incredibly slow!” Sometimes they blame their computer, or maybe their internet service provider, but the fact is that it’s the internet itself. Let’s take a look.
I’ll use my home internet connection through Mediacom as an example. Mediacom claims that the download speed for my cable connection is 5 megabits per second. It’s important to note – that’s stated in megaBITS (Mb) not megabytes (MB).
OK, so what’s the difference between bits and bytes? Like everything else with computer memory we deal in values of 8. There are 8 megaBITS to the megaBYTE. So, a megabit (Mb) is a smaller unit of measure (which is why the letter “b” in the abbreviation is lower case).
If Mediacom says I get information fed down to my computer at 5Mb per second, then I’m getting 0.625 megabytes (MB) each second from the internet to my computer every time I’m downloading.
It’s pretty easy to do the math to figure out how long it will take to download something sent by a friend. Your buddy sent an image file that’s 5 megabytes (MB) in size? Divide 5 by 0.625 and you find it will take about 8 seconds to download to your computer.
However in the imaging world uploading images to our web albums or to for printing is just as important as downloading. But the internet providers don’t tell you how fast your connection can push information UP to the web.
This is where an internet speed tester comes in handy. I like to use the website www.speedtest.net. It’s pretty intuitive and easy to use and in about two minutes it can tell you your speed of both uploads and downloads.
While Mediacom gives me a respectable 5Mb / second download rate just like they advertise, the test reveals that my upload speed is much, much slower. In fact, the tested upload speed is 0.445 megabits per second. Or, my ability to upload information to the web is 1/12 the speed of my download capability.
Let’s create a sample order and see how long it will take to get it uploaded. The images I want to print are all from a family reunion and there are 204 files that I want made into 4X6’s. By the way, it is important to note that the product ordered doesn’t really matter, the images all have to be uploaded if I’m ordering a print of each or a photo book made from all of the images.
Now comes the fun part. We let Google do the math! If you have used the speedtest.net site you will have your upload speed in kilobits per second (denoted as kb/s). In the case of my connection it’s rated at 445 kb/s. Next we determine the total size of the files we want to upload – in my example order that’s about 340 megabytes.
So, we know the size of our upload (340 MB) and the speed of our connection (445 kb/s) and we simply enter this formula into the Google search bar: 340MB / 445 kb / s and then hit the “Enter” key on our keyboard. Google tells us that it will take 1.73 hours (or more easily phrased as 1 ¾ hours) to upload our images.
Enough time to make dinner and clean up afterward – or maybe to take a nap.
Current cameras offer an increasing number of megapixels with every new model. This means ever growing image file sizes. Our computers come with more and more memory to store these huge files. And even though many of us consider the internet to be one of the most technically advanced products we have ever used, the internet is one of the slowest components in our digital imaging world.
By the way, if you’re curious – a download of the same 340MB size would take only 9 minutes