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What is the difference between 100 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s? What are the advantages of a 1 Gbit/s network and pricing?

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Please clarify are you really meaning network throughput or are you referring to the amount of bandwidth allowed each month? –  TheCleaner Sep 23 '09 at 13:51
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It's probably the line rate (speed) of the first network link, the one which attaches your server to the hosting providers network. It matches the ubiquitous 100 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s Ethernet standards; and hosting providers have a habit of mentioning this link speed, as it gives such a nice high number to show.

The actual difference is between 100 megabit/second (which often comes to around 11 megabyte/s in practice), and 1000 megabit/s (often around 80 megabyte/s).

In most cases, it is a pretty meaningless measurement on its own. Large-scale Internet traffic is expensive, so no hosting provider will really sell you 100 or 1000 Mbit/s out of their network for a few hundred bucks per month. In other words, you will be limited elsewhere -- limited by the practical speed the hosting providers own network can handle, or by traffic shaping, or by an "acceptable use policy" or other legal agreement.

Edit: I should add that if your site can work on a single server, then you most likely don't need more than a few megabit per second. Earlier on the Stack Overflow blog had a nice post with numbers and bandwidth usage, showing Stack Overflow consuming only around 6 Mbit/s. Now, Stack Overflow is a best-case example, as it is a site with mostly text, HTTP compression turned on, and a proper HTTP headers set. So analyze your own needs; YMMV.

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DV for "so no hosting provider will really sell you 100 or 1000 mbit/s out of their network for a few hundred bucks per month." I could probably name 10 providers off the top of my head that do. www.theplanet.com being the one at the front. –  Chris Marisic Sep 23 '09 at 14:52
    
2ghz Celeron server, 1TB bw 100mbps port from theplanet $99/month +$25 setup fee. I used to rent a couple of these back in the day when it cost $60-80/month per server. –  Chris Marisic Sep 23 '09 at 14:54
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Sorry, Jesper is dead on here, +1 to him. You either get a cheap rate for an oversubscribed network (that is probably still quite fast most of the time), or you get an expensive rate for guaranteed bandwidth. Check your SLA. I would be very surprised if it guaranteed you 100 Mbps throughput 100% of the time for $99/month. –  James Sneeringer Sep 23 '09 at 16:20
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@Chris Marisic: In your second comment, you mention a The Planet dedicated server limited to 1 terabyte data transfer per month -- so there is a contractual limitation. Right now, I'm looking at the order form for that server, and The Planet is also offering a true 100mbit un-metered (i.e. unlimited) upgrade option for 1800 USD per month extra. So clearly, The Planet is an example of what I wrote? –  Jesper Mortensen Sep 23 '09 at 16:26
    
The reason my point is valid is you never brought up the difference between bandwidth line speed vs bandwidth usage rates. There are many carriers you can buy 100mbps from for 100mbps out of network transfers and most price per terrabyte, very few providers price per megabit from what I've seen. and in regards to James, you might be gaurenteed by an SLA to get 100mbps 24/7 on that $99 server if you actually used it as such you would get the full 100mbps all day long network congestion permitting between routing. You'd also get a $5000 overage bill for the bandwidth though =] –  Chris Marisic Oct 5 '09 at 17:35
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1 gigabit/s network is ten times faster, and therefore more capable, than 100 megabit/s - so 1 Gbit/s should be better than 100 Mbit/s - that said, if your server doesn't use this extra capacity, it may not be worth going for the 1 Gbit/s. What's the price difference?

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+1 because it all depends on the need. –  sybreon Sep 23 '09 at 14:21
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The main thing you need to understand is many hosts will sell you 100 Mbit/s hosting even very cheaply in the USA. Gbit/s hosting in the USA is a little harder to find, outside of the US there are lots of hosting proivders that offer Gbit/s hosting for 100~ euros a month.

Now that you have 100 Mbit/s or 1 Gbit/s you have to look at the amount of bandwidth you use. Most hosting plans come with the range of 1 TB - 2 TB usage a month unless you sign up for an extremely large plan that can scale into the 10s and 100s of TBs of usage.

If you use sustained transfers of 100 Mbit/s you can easily use 100s of GBs in a single day, with Gbit/s that factors up to TBs a day which will run through your bandwidth allotment very quickly.

So you really need to focus on how much bandwidth you will consume and base pricing on that and quality of the bandwidth. Most likely you won't need a Gbit/s host, however, I would never recommend settling for anything under 100 Mbit/s unless you purchase a server that provides an unmetered 10 or 20 Mbit/s connection.

Side note: some hosting providers will actually sell you bandwidth based on a metered number, that is, true 100 Mbit/s hosting where you can use 100 Mbit/s every single second of the day. For hosting plans that price based on Mbit/s expect 100 Mbit/s to start around $1300 to about $2700/month. So in a normal situtation you will pay for 10 Mbit/s or 20 Mbit/s which will allocate you 10/20 TB a month and your speed will still burst to 100 Mbit/s, but you can only use it 10 or 20% of the day at that rate to stay in your bandwidth limits.

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I don't think people here gives you clear picture which leads me to believe they don't have real experience. The point behind overselling is, that most servers will never need true 100 Mbit/s or 1 Gbit/s. The same at home, you don't buy fiber for downloading 24 hours a day at 50 Mbit/s, but for convenience - when you do, it does it fast.

What nobody mentioned to you, that for a true 1 GBit/s experience, just connection speed won't do the trick. At cheap rates you will usually get server hardware not capable of using such connection. At these rates you are usually limited by your hard disk drive and other hardware components. Cheap hard disk drives won't even push more than 10 MB/s constantly (you think they will give other than cheap hard disk drive to your cheap server?). I got a 1 GBit/s server with a very new SATA hard disk drive, and I was able to push mostly 20 MB/s from/to there (also a problem to test, because almost no server is truly capable of this). So if you really want to push 100 MB/s, you have to have high-end hardware, SSD drive instead of HDD.

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A new SATA drive should easily do 50MBps, which doesn't saturate a 1Gb link by itself, but two would... SSDs definitely not required, I regularly saturate my 1Gb network both a work and home doing file transfers. 100Mb might be good enough for many people, but I wouldn't shortchange the number of people who would notice a difference switching to 1Gb. –  Chris S Apr 14 '11 at 19:55
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