Working From Home Data Usage: How Much?

Here’s how much data working from home uses:

The average person working from home will use 8 to 20 Gigabytes (GB) of data each month. 

While that is average, the number can vary by leaps and bounds depending on the type of work done. 

Some types of work can exceed a Terabyte of data each month, which is enough to eclipse most internet data caps.

If you want to learn all about how much data working from uses, then you’re in the right place.

Let’s dig right in!

Table of Contents

What Work Activities Use the Most Data?

If you really want a clear picture of how much data your job might use, it becomes necessary to break it down into categories. 

There are a lot of different ways you might use the internet for work, and none of them consume data at the same rate. 

For the most part, we can break data usage into four categories:

  • You download major files
  • Video streaming/conferencing
  • Audio streaming/conferencing
  • Website downloads

Bulk Downloads

Sometimes for work, you have to download a file package or software suite. 

It’s part of many lines of work, and these packages vary wildly in size. 

A single pdf document could be a few kilobytes. 

Meanwhile, some software suites like Photoshop are more than a Gigabyte. 

Plenty of other professional software packages can get over 100 GB in size.

The size of your bulk downloads will depend entirely on the work you do, but they very easily can eat up more of your data than anything else. 

This is the first thing to look at when you are trying to gauge data usage.

It’s tough to put this into a monthly estimate as it depends so severely on the type of work you do. 

You can figure it out pretty easily by going over work downloads over the past week and adding them up. 

That’s your weekly data usage in this category.

If you download a ton of files, you can ignore anything smaller than 10 MB.

Video Streaming

For the majority of work-from-home jobs, video streaming is the largest data hog they will face. 

In fact, this is true for consumer intranet usage as well. 

Streaming video uses a lot of data, and the numbers go up quickly when you opt for high-quality video feeds.

Video conferencing is the most common source of video streaming for work. 

At low definition rates, it can be less than a GB per hour, but most people have high definition conferences. 

In these cases, your data usage will average around 2.5 Gigs per hour.

Keep in mind that having multiple streams at a time multiplies the effect.

Regardless, an average work-from-home job is going to eat up 5 to 10 Gigabytes of data every workday. 

If you work 20 days a month, you’re looking at a high-end estimate of 200 GB for the period.

Audio Streaming

Audio streaming is another common data user. 

Before we get into it, we can discuss how audio streaming relates to video streaming. 

In the previous section, the video streaming and conferencing services discussed all have audio features. 

Data usage for audio bundled with video is accounted for in the video numbers.

When it comes to audio streaming, you only need to consider it when it isn’t part of a video. 

If you like to listen to Spotify at work, you’ll be adding to your data consumption. 

For many work positions, audio conferences are as important and frequent as video conferences.

So, how much data does audio streaming use? 

It once again depends on quality. Most streaming services will support 30 Kbps quality. 

This is pretty high quality, but it’s also as much of a standard as you will see. 

At this quality, audio uses about 115 MB per hour. 

That comes out to about 1 Gigabyte if you stream audio nonstop for a full 8-hour workday.

Again assuming a 20-day work month, that adds up to 20 Gigabytes each month.

Web Pages

Lastly, we come to web pages. 

A single web page is not going to eat very much data. 

On average, they require a download of about 1 MB. 

For anyone forgetting the conversion rate, a gigabyte is equal to 1000 Megabytes. 

That means you have to download 1000 web pages to match a half-hour of high-definition video streaming. 

Or, you have to download 1000 web pages to equal a full day of audio streaming.

Plenty of jobs will send you to hundreds of websites in a day. 

Very few will make it to a thousand per day. 

So, if you want to err on the side of caution, you can budget 1 GB per day for web browsing. It is well more than enough.

How Fast Should Work-From-Home Internet Be?

One reason to gauge data usage is that many internet providers have data caps, and you don’t want to go over the limit. 

Another reason to look deeply at data usage is to figure out how fast your internet needs to be if you’re going to work from home. 

We’ll go back over these categories and look at what they mean in terms of bandwidth (or internet speed).

Video Conferencing

Coming back to video conferencing, we can look at a mainstream tool and its recommendation to get a feel for what kind of speeds you need. 

Zoom recommends download and upload speeds of around 3 Mbps to have a good experience.

If we compare that to the data usage numbers, it’s about 10 times the average data consumption of a video conference. 

This makes sense because video conferencing isn’t a perfect interruption. 

While you’re connected, some of the digital signals will be lost at different times. This means the connected devices have to resend whatever is lost.

If your connection speed is 10 times the actual download rate, a lost signal can be resent very quickly, and for the most part, your playback will not stutter or suffer when these random issues occur.

Zoom’s recommendation gives them a lot of wiggle room, and it allows them to promise better playback and connectivity as a result.

You can use the Zoom rule pretty generally. 

To stream video, you want about 10 times as much bandwidth as the service typically uses per second.

Audio Services

Audio is a very different story.

Even though audio uses a lot less data than video, bandwidth recommendations are a lot higher. 

As an example, Skype recommends that your download speed be around 8 Mbps for a 30 Kbps audio connection. 

That’s closer to 100 times the data consumption in terms of bandwidth. 

Why is this recommendation so extreme?

There are two reasons. 

Mainly this is for group connections with more than seven people. 

When you add that many people, the demands go up quickly.

But, it also comes down to the user experience. 

The truth is that most people pick up on audio miscues a lot more easily than video miscues. 

We’re all kind of used to internet videos stuttering sometimes. 

As long as the audio is seamless, everything feels pretty normal.

Whether you’re streaming music or having a conversation, audio disruptions will be more obvious to you, and they will have a stronger impact on your experience with the service. 

Audio stream services give themselves a lot more wiggle room than video services.

Website Downloads

And, we’re back to websites. We already covered that the average web page requires a 1 MB download. 

So, if your connection speed is 1 Mbps, it will take 8 seconds to download the page.

We should probably pause for a second. 

That seems like really bad math until you remember that a Megabyte and a Megabit are not the same things. 

A Megabyte is actually 8 Megabits. 

Internet companies usually promote their connection speeds in Megabits per second. 

This allows them to advertise larger numbers, so consumers feel like they are getting a better deal. 

It’s like when a store prices an item at $2.99 instead of $3.00. It’s a visual trick.

But, the trick is in play, and it means that the initial math is right. 

Downloading 1 MB at 1 Mbps takes 8 seconds. 

As awkward as that is, we can extend this math to figure out how much speed you need for work.

If you want web pages to load in under a second, you need a 10 Mbps connection. 

Technically, an 8 Mbps connection will get you there, but internist speed packages usually come in intervals of 5, 10, or 15 Mbps.

So How Much Total Bandwidth Do You Need to Work From Home?

We can put all of these numbers together. 

Remember, if you’re loading web pages while listening to music while ignoring a video conference, you have to have enough bandwidth for all of those activities simultaneously. 

We calculate that by simply adding the totals together.

That brings our bandwidth need to 21 Mbps. 

A common internet speed package is 25 Mbps, which would be enough to get by for the average work-from-home experience. 

If you really want to err on the side of caution, a 50 Mbps connection would definitely be fine.

You would not need to bump up to 100 Mbps or faster unless you have specific, high-demand internet needs. 

Going all the way to Gigabit internet means you have a very demanding technology-related job, or you just love having fast internet.