If you have even a little bit of a nerd in you, it’s likely that you’ve run a broadband speed test at some point in your life. Maybe you were troubleshooting an issue or maybe you just wanted to find out if you were getting your money’s worth from your ISP. Either way, you almost certainly kept your eye on one result: download speed. After all, that number is directly related to the functionality of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
Almost everyone simply ignores the anemic “upload” number that comes later (on a “Gig” connection, for example, upload speeds are often around 20 Mbps). For most of us, the only thing we upload is a microscopic instruction telling a server what to download next. Even video games work on roughly the same principle – the download is what counts, the upload is secondary (for the most part).
That is, unless you try to back up any meaningful amount of information to the cloud. I found that out recently as we started to push forward with a plan to get our backups offsite without having to carry around hard drives (usually in a small lunch cooler designed for grade schoolers). Services like Egnyte and Dropbox are useful, but inelegant for backing up. Instead, we thought it would be simple to just “back up to the cloud.” Boy, were we wrong.
Asynchronous broadband – that is, a large download pipe with a small upload pipe – is great for 90% of applications, but really, really limits your ability to send information quickly to a remote server.
Want proof? I was stunned to hear that backing up our data to the cloud for the first time would take many days. Even more frustrating, we tried this process several times, and it would fail at the 11th hour, waving the “too much data” flag and sending us back to the start. We are now using some workarounds to accomplish our goals, but my experiences with backing up in the cloud has somewhat dimmed my confidence in the unlimited potential of the web.
Of course, you can acquire a synchronous internet connection if you have the resources, but few of us do. Instead, I suppose we’ll just need to wait until the information superhighway adds so many lanes that we can travel freely in both directions. Until then, we’ll count on physical transactions and incremental backups to accomplish our goals. The results may be the same, but the process can be a chore.
The future, it would seem, isn’t quite here yet.