Bits and Bytes

Why is Network traffic measure in bits?

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7 Replies - 3003 Views - Last Post: 24 December 2010 - 08:53 PM

#1 SleepingInChapel  Icon User is offline

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Bits and Bytes

Posted 24 December 2010 - 11:39 AM

Hey all,

Could someone clarify this for me? I've never really understood--

Why is network traffic measured in bits and storage measured in bytes?

Is there any other reason than that ISPs can make it look like they've got higher transfer rates than they really do?
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#2 xTorvos  Icon User is offline

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Re: Bits and Bytes

Posted 24 December 2010 - 12:24 PM

It all depends on who is doing the measuring. When you download something, it usually tells you how fast you are measuring it in Bytes. ISPs measure in bits because it looks like more and can give you more round numbers than Bytes do sometimes.

The difference between network traffic and storage is that a kilobyte in network traffic is 1000 Bytes, whereas a kilobyte in storage is 1024 Bytes. The difference is between just multiplying by 1000 and taking 2^10.

This post has been edited by xTorvos: 24 December 2010 - 12:25 PM

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#3 lordofduct  Icon User is offline

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Re: Bits and Bytes

Posted 24 December 2010 - 12:25 PM

Well it's very well known that in the case of storage capacities manufacturers use bytes to mislead to an extent. Namely due to the fact a standard to what the definition of kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte is defined as... is a kilobyte 2^10 or 10^3 (1024 or 1000 respectively). In small values (kilo) the difference was small, but once we climbed into the gigas the difference was massive (giga == 2^30 == 1073741824... vs. giga == 10^9 == 1000000000... differnce of 73741824).

A standard of course was laid down soon after for names. But still manufacturers don't always follow it. Where the base 2 representation take the 'bi' turn on the prefix:

2^10 == kibibyte
2^20 == mebibyte
2^30 == gibibyte
etc

see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gigabyte

The kilobyte is now 1000 bytes... but isn't relative to its binary depth. Where as kibibyte is 1024 bytes and is relative to its binary depth. What I mean by relative to its binary depth is that a kibibyte is 2^10 bytes OR 2^13 bits. A mebibyte is 2^20 bytes or 2^23 bits. There is no 'clean' base 10 for bytes vs. bits.



as for network. I wouldn't be surprised if marketers enjoy the difference for the sake of making things look larger and more round (16 megabit connection or... well how many megabytes? Is a megabyte 10^6 giving us 2 megabytes, or is it 2^20 giving us 1.907 megabytes). But in the same respect there is no confusion about how many bits is in a megabit. A bit has a unit size of 1. So the previous issue with bytes representing their binary depth isn't an issue.

Personally I prefer them all to be measured in bits, allowing me to convert to bytes in my own method. I lay down my own standards for the application at hand. Instead of having to remain in sync with some other person's standard that could easily alter due to a lack on consistency.

Of course even then I've seen some companies and applications screw with the prefix meaning for bits as well. It's far more seldom and mathematically doesn't make sense... but still I've seen it... ugh. But the 'bi' turn on the prefix standard still exists for this purpose as well.

This post has been edited by lordofduct: 24 December 2010 - 12:36 PM

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#4 SleepingInChapel  Icon User is offline

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Re: Bits and Bytes

Posted 24 December 2010 - 01:44 PM

Thanks guys. What you've said makes a lot of sense. I just wish it were all standardized so there would be no confusion... :blink:
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#5 lordofduct  Icon User is offline

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Re: Bits and Bytes

Posted 24 December 2010 - 01:48 PM

agreed
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#6 MATTtheSEAHAWK  Icon User is offline

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Re: Bits and Bytes

Posted 24 December 2010 - 02:56 PM

I have always wondered that. Thanks for clearing it up. :)
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#7 Programmist  Icon User is offline

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Re: Bits and Bytes

Posted 24 December 2010 - 05:52 PM

Seriously? Take a freshman CS class to two.
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#8 lordofduct  Icon User is offline

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Re: Bits and Bytes

Posted 24 December 2010 - 08:53 PM

Because class is the only place to learn.

Hey check it, these guys just learned something with out having to pay to go to a freshman CS class.
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