Of bits and bytes
Before you start scouting for a good connection, get the terminology right. When ISPs mention connection speeds, it is always in Kilobits per second, that is, Kbps. However when you down load a file on the net, the speed shown in your browser is always in kilo bytes per second, that is, KBps. So a 256 Kbps connection does not mean youâ€™ll be downloading files at 256 kilobytes a second. Rather, since 8 bits make a byte, youâ€™ll get a maximum speed of only 256/8, which is 32 KBps.
Next, look at your usage model before you go for a plan that sounds appealing. While this may seem an obvious thing to do, it will wholly decide whether you need an unlimited connection or a quota-based one.
In a quota-based connection, youâ€™re given a restriction on the amount of data you can transfer every month. Additional data transferred is charged by the MB (megabyte). One point to note here is that by data transferâ€™ ISPs mean both download band upload transfers. Say with your favorite peer-to-peer (P2P) application you download a file at 5 KBps and are uploading another at 5 KBps — this translates into a transfer rate of 10KBps and will be calculated as such by the ISP.
An unlimited connection on the other hand is one that has no restrictions on downloads or uploads. Thereâ€™s no catch save for the fact that most unlimited connections are slower than those with band-width restriction and are more expensive as well.
If in a day, you spend several hours on the internet that is, visit multimedia websites like youtube.com download music and videos and even play multiplayer computer games online like World of Warcraft — then donâ€™t think twice and choose an unlimited connection.
On the other hand, if you want searing speeds in order to do your work quickly and you donâ€™t download much, then a 512 Kbps connection with a 1 GB traffic limit will serve the purpose.
The fine print
For the best of both worlds, read the print on the ISPâ€™s plans. Many ISPs, in spite of quota restrictions, have â€˜free hoursâ€™ every night where one can download as they please. BSNL for instance marks its night of unlimited hours from 2 am to 8 am. This means that even though you may have a 500 MB limit per month, whatever transferred between those hours wonâ€™t be counted by the service provider.
Keep a check on traffic each day if you have a quota based account. You can do this by logging into the website using the username and password provided to you. This will help you evaluate how much data is consumed each day. As a reference, about 30 minutes of voice chat using Google Talk or Yahoo Voice Chat will result in approximately 5MB of usage. An hour of surfing news and visiting other websites is about 10MB.
Finally once you have chosen the scheme appropriate for you, decide on the type of installation you want. You go for a standard modem that will connect to your computer using the Ethernet port or go for wireless modem. If you own a notebook which has Wi-Fi, a wireless modem is useful. Expect one of these to cost anything between Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000.