Importance of Data Transfer Rate in Computer Networks

by Herbert Harris

Data transfer rate is the speed at which data can be transmitted between devices. The faster this process occurs, the greater the "throughput" rate and, in turn, the greater the efficiency of data transfer. Modems, scanners, printers, hard drives and many other electronic devices feature this rating.

Measuring Data Transfer Rate

Data transfer rates on computer networks are measured in bits per second (bps) or bytes per second (Bps), with a byte equaling 8 bits. Megabits (1 million bits) per second is written as Mbps, and gigabytes (1 billion bytes) per second is denoted as GBps. An Ethernet local area network (LAN) can feature data transfer rates of 10 Mbps, while some Internet servers boast data transfer rates measuring in GBps.

Data Transfer Rate and Bandwidth

Many terms used in relation to computers and networks can be confusing or misleading. One example is the term bandwidth. While generally it's a good thing to have as much bandwidth as possible, having greater bandwidth does not equate to commensurate data transfer rates. Bandwidth is a measurement of the potential amount of data that can be transferred in a given time frame, while data transfer rate is the actual amount of data being transferred.

Factors That Can Impact Data Transfer Rates

While many things can cause slow data transfer rates, packet loss--the failure of one or more transmitted packets to arrive at their destination--is a common culprit. Dropped packets create jitter in videos, jitter and gaps in audio, unintelligible speech and even total loss of signal. Some causes of packet loss are congested routers and switches, faulty links, and Internet service providers (ISPs) oversubscribing their service capabilities. Improperly configured PCs--those with inadequate memory and processors--can also negatively affect data transfer rates.

Problems Caused by Poor Data Transfer Rates

The problems created by slow data transfer rates in computer networks range from the not so serious--long wait times for connections and downloads--to the more urgent such as the complete inability to download due to endless requests for retransmission of dropped packets. Poor data transfer rates during an important video conference can severely hamper communication and may result in important information being undelivered, which can impact critical decisions.

Improving Data Transfer Rates on Computer Networks

Data transfer rates in computer networks tend to improve with better bandwidth management. Businesses can take advantage of services that provide caching of frequently accessed web pages, establish mirror sites requiring fewer hops and reduce bandwidth-intensive elements such as video. More sophisticated approaches employ "compression" techniques that minimize traffic.

About the Author

Herbert Harris is a retired IT professional who does article marketing and works from home. He has served at the Atlantic Undersea Test And Evaluation Center, a U.S. Navy test range located at Andros Island, Bahamas, and Ascension Island's U.S.A.F. test range.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Network connection image by Fantasista from