Office 365's potential fatal flaw: Not enough Internet bandwidth

Office 365's potential fatal flaw: Not enough Internet bandwidth

Summary: It;s not just Office 365's problem though. Google Docs, the Chromebook, and everything else that relies on the cloud have the same problem: Not enough affordable Internet bandwidth.


I've played with Office 365. I'm not impressed. Office 365's pricing and requirements schemes are a nightmare. I can''t see myself--or anyone else--moving to Office 365 if they've already tried Google Docs. But, that said, that's not Office 365's real problem. No, Office 365 shares with Google Docs, the Chromebook, and all other cloud-based applications and devices, the problem that there's not enough bandwidth to go around.

If you've been around Internet technology circles for a while, you've heard this song before. As best I recall it dates back to 1995. Then, Bob Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet, predicted that consumer demand for Internet bandwidth would exceed the available network capacity. When these "exafloods" of data demands happened they would cause "giga-lapses." These Internet "brownouts" or even complete service interruptions would leave users unable to use the Internet.

Well, as we all know, Bob was wrong. Since then though a year doesn't goe by without someone proclaiming the End of the Internet. Short of the collapse of civilization, that's not going to happen. But, I do think we might start seeing Internet brownouts. The rise of Internet video services, especially Netflix, means that video alone now takes up 40% of all available Internet bandwidth. That number is only going to keep going up.

I have no scientific proof that the videos services are starving the Internet at times. All I know is that I'm seeing a lot more pauses from both Netflix and Hulu Plus videos during evening prime time hours than I did six months ago. Since I have a 25Mbps (Megabits per second) cable connection, I know those delays aren't coming from between my network and the Internet.

That's annoying when I'm watching a movie. But, it's far more trouble if I were relying on Office 365, or any other cloud-based application, to get work done and I'm unable to get it done.

Up to 2010, the Internet infrastructure was able to keep up with demand. Indeed, according to In-Stat downstream speeds increased an average of 34% in 2010, As Mike Paxton, Principal Analyst said, "This response indicates that so far, broadband service providers are managing to stay ahead of the consumer demand curve for bandwidth."

To be precise, the average download speed for the broadband subscribers in 2010 was 9.54 Mbps (Megabits per second), up from 7.12 Mbps just twelve months earlier, while the average price for broadband service increased by just 4%.

So what about my concerns? They're still there. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been able to increase bandwidth without raising costs significantly because they've been imposing bandwidth caps.

ISPs, such as Comcast, Charter, and Cox, already have bandwidth caps ranging from 20 to 250GBs (GigaBytes). The rest will add them soon.

Now, 250GBs may sound like a lot and it is a lot. It's 50 million emails (at 0.05 KB/email); 62,500 songs downloads (at 4 MB/song) or 125 standard-definition (SD) movies (at 2 GB/movie). But, once you start watching HD video and constantly working on the net all that bandwidth usage really starts to add up.

As networking expert and writer Glenn Fleishman recently wrote, "more than half of U.S. home broadband subscribers now have some kind of cap. Some firms, like AT&T, charge for usage above a set amount, like 100 GB or 250 GB per month; others, like Comcast, with its 250 GB monthly limit, give you a warning the first time you exceed your limit, and then cancel your service if you get a second warning within a year."

Wouldn't that be just wonderful! Locked out of your local high-speed ISP for a year because you spent too much time working on Office 365 and watching The Office reruns.

So, sure for right now, we're OK. But, if we go all-in on Office 365 and other Software as a Service (SaaS) and clouds apps, we're asking for trouble. Then, we won't be just putting all our video entertainment eggs into the Internet basket; we'll be putting our work into it as well.

I don't know about you, but that makes me nervous. Really nervous.

Related Stories:

Microsoft launches Office 365: Here's what you need to know

Netflix: Bigger than cable. Too big for the Internet?

10 things you can do to conserve Internet bandwidth

The Internet belongs to Netflix

Google TV, Apple TV, & Roku's Biggest Enemy: A lack of Internet Bandwidth

Topics: Software, Browser, Collaboration, Microsoft

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Office 365's potential fatal flaw: Not enough Internet bandwidth

    Normally I like your articles, but this one is questionable at best and just plain wrong at worst.

    First, you've seen very high bandwidth consuming web services (Netflix, Hulu) show signs of issues and equate that to a fairly low bandwidth app having potential issues? Really? If you mentioned Google Docs running into problems, your logic would work, but the logic you present is terrible.

    Second, the bandwidth problems you've seen could very likely be growing pains from Netflix growing faster than they can react (like Twitter did in previous years). They may have absolutely nothing to do with Internet bandwidth. If so, this doesn't relate to the likelihood of lower-consuming applications failing at all.

    Third, this isn't an Office 365 issue. This is an issue for every Internet based service we hold dear. GMail, Flickr, Picasa, ITunes, Google Docs, Dropbox...everything. Why you've singled out Office 365 is beyond me. Is it because their business model involves charging? Thousands of Internet services do that. Is it because you perceive the content in Office 365 to be more important? I know many mission-critical SaaS applications today that rely on the Internet for delivery. Why single out Office 365?

    I don't get it.
    • RE: Office 365's potential fatal flaw: Not enough Internet bandwidth

      In particular, since Office365 in at least some configurations tries to sell you rich clients (Office) with an Internet backend, while Google Docs is all online. Which one is more likely to run into trouble?
    • RE: Office 365's potential fatal flaw: Not enough Internet bandwidth

      @bithooked - <i><b>"Why you've singled out Office 365 is ..."</b></i><br><br>... because SJVN is a rabid anti-Microsoft fanatic. He just cannot bear to write anything that's even vaguely positive about the company and would rather spin up the wildest fantasies and lay all their woes at Microsoft's doorstep ... even if those perceived problems have either no basis in reality whatsoever or, as in this article, affect many others just as much, if not more so!<br><br>It's such a shame because when he's sober, SJVN can write lucidly and intelligently. But then he goes and pens ridiculous pieces like this and greatly undermines his credibility and reveals his bias and ignorance for all to see.<br><br>Sad. Very sad.

      Holy cow! If even DTS is saying you've gone to far, then perhaps you should pay attention.
      • RE: Office 365's potential fatal flaw: Not enough Internet bandwidth

        @bitcrazed He's never written lucidly or intelligent. His stupidity kills brain cells.
    • RE: Office 365's potential fatal flaw: Not enough Internet bandwidth


      Don?t worry about not getting it, - the quality of his blogs / articles are horrendous.

      As someone already stated ?because SJVN is a rabid anti-Microsoft fanatic?.

      You cannot, let me repeat, you cannot take anything serious that he writes.
  • The need for quotas at ZDNet is diluting quality

    I would like to see more in depth, higher quality articles which aren't scratch 'n sniff superficial substance lacking speculative gibberish.

    Perhaps Steve you will hold back more than a few days to keep up your old standard--I looked forward to reading your CW articles because of that. I felt you put alot of effort into thinking about and researching your topics.

    Please keep these remarks in mind--I will keep reading and hope for better days.

    I don't see what the point of this article was other than it showed what happens when ZDNet Management insists on quotas.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate
    • RE: Office 365's potential fatal flaw: Not enough Internet bandwidth

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate

      Crap. I had to bend down and touch the ground to check if it was cold to the touch. Clearly hell has frozen over when I agree with DTS.
      Your Non Advocate
      • LOL

        [i]I had to bend down and touch the ground to check if it was cold to the touch[/i]

        LOL! :)
        Will Pharaoh
      • RE: Office 365's potential fatal flaw: Not enough Internet bandwidth

        @facebook@... I feel your pain, because I too agree with him.
      • RE: Office 365's potential fatal flaw: Not enough Internet bandwidth

        @facebook@... <br>Me too!<br>If this made 365 break, it's goodbye Facebook too! Slow news day, or else trying to get hits because 365 is the hot topic right now.
      • RE: Office 365's potential fatal flaw: Not enough Internet bandwidth

        @facebook@... Brrrr ... is it suddely chilly around here?
  • Wait...

    Stephen hating a Microsoft product?
  • RE: Office 365's potential fatal flaw: Not enough Internet bandwidth

    Do you realize that a whole word doc would be equivalend byte-wise to 4 or 5 frames of an HD movie, so you are speaking of different scales here and mixing them to make a far fetched point.

    We get it, you don't like Microsoft and will go any length to vent your prejudice, but come on, we're not morons here.

    Even a super inflated document full of pictures is a blink of an eye compared to half an hour of youporn.
  • SJVN - tried Office 365?

    I seriously doubt it. How about a post on how you took a Government Tender document in Word format and edited it in both Google Apps and Office 365, added your company logo, formatted text, some topology image files and spread sheets and then save.

    Now pretend you're a government employee using Office and open those those documents from Office 2007 or office 2010 and see how the fidelity from Office 365 and Google Apps has been continued.

    Bet your business on Google Apps?
    • Message has been deleted.

      Mr. Dee
  • I see hope

    These cloud folks are on to something we told them years ago. There is no bandwidth to have a terminal at your house. You think they might get the privacy angle too? Or the backhoe syndrome?
  • Wrong

    Document is k-class size file, a 30 page with many pictures may be over 1M byte.
    Movie, on the other hand, is M-class file. A so-so quality movie is 300~500M bytes, HD may reach 1G bytes.

    Uploading/downloading 1M file normally take a couple of seconds, family wifi is able to handle it smoothly.
  • Google Apps Premier potential fatal flaw: Not enough Internet bandwidth

    Now change all mentions of Office 365 in this article by SJVN to Google Apps and all mentions of Microsoft to Google and you will see the hypocrite this guy is. This is the same guy that preached that people shouldn't upgrade to Windows 7 because its too different but have no problems promoting Ubuntu's Unity as an excellent game changer. Seriously, ZDNET should delete this fools blog. You shouldn't have fools like this preaching and writing lies. You just want to be a part of Office365 traffic because Ed Bott, MJ, and Zack Whittaker are getting all of it. Why don't stick to your crappy 0.76% Linux that will never ever be a success! Sick of your crap!
    Mr. Dee
  • RE: Office 365's potential fatal flaw: Not enough Internet bandwidth

    SJVN, your arguments are utter rubbish. Anybody with basic IT knowledge would understand that this is a foolish article. Nobody is going to buy this story and once again you have painted yourself as a fool.
  • RE: Office 365's potential fatal flaw: Not enough Internet bandwidth

    I couldnt help but notice you said you have a 25Mb/s connection, you need to come to australia, I have a 100Mb/s connection. brownouts of internet traffic are nowhere to be seen in my country.