What is the difference between a megabit and a megabyte? This answer is obvious to computer people – it is “a factor of eight”, because a single byte contains eight bits. But there is more to the answer, including, how the data moves, is stored, and the history of computing.

What are megabits

“Megabit” is a term we often use when talking about the speed of our internet connection. Megabits per second, or Mbps, is a measure of data transfer speed. 1 Mbps is one million bits per second.

For example, take Internet service providers. My cable provider has achieved maximum download speeds from 25 to 75 to 150 Mbps in the last years. Fiber optic connections (FIOS of Verizon, Google Fiber) can be very fast, where you can get service.

What is a megabyte

“Megabytes” is a measurement often used to describe both hard drive space and memory storage capacity, although the word of art that we throw most often these days is the next order of magnitude, gigabyte (GB ). My computer has 8GB of RAM, for example, and 512GB of storage capacity.

How to measure megabits and megabytes

A bit is a piece of information, expressed in computers as binary 0, at its most elementary. Kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes, petabytes — each unit of measure is 1,000 times its size.

So why is network bandwidth measured in megabytes, while storage is measured in megabytes? There are many theories and elaborations on why.

I haven’t found a hard answer yet, but the most appropriate explanation I’ve heard from networking engineers is that this is because the bit is the lowest common denominator, if you want to understand the network transfer speed as the smallest measure of measurement. Is a meaningful unit. As in bits per second. It is like measuring the flow rate of plumbing in your home.

As to why data is gathered in bytes, Wikipedia cites the popularity of IBM’s System / 360 as one possible reason: the computer used an erstwhile novel in an 8-bit data format. IBM defined computing to a generation of engineers, so this is the standard that went ahead. The old marketing saying was, “Nobody was ever fired to buy IBM.”

Admirable? Absolutely. Is this the only reason? Well, Wikipedia presents an official case. If you look elsewhere on the Internet, you can guess a lot, but some hard answers.

This means that as far as I am concerned, aliens are behind it.

What does all this mean

Anyway, here we stand today, which is clear with clarity: bandwidth is stored in bits, storage capacity in bytes. Simple, but what can be confusing is when we mix the two. Assuming your network upload speed is 8 Mbps, this means that the most you can upload is 1 MB of data per second from your hard drive.

Megabytes vs. megabytes, remember to keep a gap in your head as you see how fast the data on your network or the Internet grows.

Both terms are misleadingly commonly used in computing; Megabytes are often used to measure Internet connection download or upload speeds, while megabytes are used to measure file size.

In terms of download and upload speeds, when someone says that a connection is “30 megabits per second” it has to be divided by eight to find the “megabytes per second” that will be transferred.

The most common way people get confused is when speeds (eg 30 megabits / megabytes per second) are written in short form such as 30Mbps or 30MBps with no additional explanation, because the ‘b’ bit represents a bit or byte compared to the bit. Does. Explicit ’30 Mbit / s’ or ’30 Mbit / s’.

The general convention for the short form, is that a lower represents b ‘bits, while an uppercase tes represents b’ bytes.

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