How Is Network Performance Measured?

A computer message showing a loading bar and a silhouetted man running
Malte Mueller / Getty Images

Measures of computer network performance are commonly stated in units of bits per second (bps). This quantity can represent either an actual data rate or a theoretical limit to available network bandwidth.

Modern networks support very large numbers of bits per second. Instead of quoting 10,000 or 100,000 bps, networks normally express these quantities in terms of kilobits, megabits, and gigabits.

The following equations illustrate the mathematics behind these terms:

  • 1 Kbps = 1 kbps = 1 kilobit per second = 1,000 bits per second
  • 1 Mbps = 1,000 Kbps
  • 1 Gbps = 1,000 Mbps

In networking, both "kbps" with a lowercase "k" and "Kbps" with an uppercase "K" can be used interchangeably.

Technically, network speed can also be expressed in units of bytes per second, abbreviated as "Bps" with a capital "B". Use of these quantities is strongly discouraged in networking to avoid confusion with the bits per second standard:

  • 1 KBps = 1 kBps = 1 kilobyte per second = 8,000 bits per second = 8 Kbps

Finally, the conventions used for measuring the capacity of computer disks and memory might appear similar at first to those for networks. Do not confuse these two different conventions.

Data storage capacity is normally measured in units of kilobytes, megabytes, and gigabytes. In this non-network style of usage, "K" represents a multiplier of 1,024 and "k" represents a multiplier of 1,000 units of capacity.

The following equations define the mathematics behind these terms:

  • 1 KB = 1,024 bytes
  • 1 kB = 1,000 bytes
  • 1 MB = 1,024 KB
  • 1 GB = 1,024 MB

More - What Are Bits and Bytes?

Was this page helpful?