5 Differences Between Best Effort and Dedicated Internet Services

Common terminology that you will hear from Internet Service Providers is that they offer “Dedicated” and /or “Best Effort” services.   Ironically the company gave their best effort when they built their dedicated network. This post will explore and explain five differences of Dedicated vs Best Effort internet.  You will get a better understanding of both so that you can make the right decision for your project.

#1. Costs

Putting cost aside, bit for bit having a dedicated internet connection is better than having a best effort service.  If you had the choice of having a 100 Mbps dedicated service or 100 Mbps best effort service and the cost were somehow the same for either service, you should take the dedicated service. However, their costs vary and often times drastically.  Dedicated internet connections can be 3-10X more than their best effort counterpart.

  • Best Effort internet services typically can range from less than $100 per month to a few hundred dollars per month.
  • Dedicated internet services typically range from a few hundred dollars on the low end for lower bandwidth tiers and can cost upwards of $10,000+ for larger projects.

Dedicated Internet: Lower marginal costs with higher employee deployments.

The cost of a Mbps with dedicated internet connections lowers as you begin to buy higher bandwidth circuits.  So as you add more employees and require more bandwidth the cost per employee for internet falls. This sometimes makes dedicated circuits easier to justify for larger companies.

Here’s a look at three examples. A  Small, Mid-Sized, and Enterprise Sized office space:

Small Office:  A 10 employee office space considering a 100 Mbps circuit for $1,000 per month. The monthly cost of supplying internet for one of their employees is $100 per month.

Mid-sized Office– A 100 employee office space considering a 1 Gbps circuit for $2,000 per month (let’s round 1 Gbps to 1000 Mbps for the sake of easy numbers).  The monthly cost of supplying internet for one of their employees is $20 per month.

Enterprise Office– A 1000 employee site considering a 10 Gbps circuit for $7,000 per month. The monthly cost of supplying internet for one of their employees is $7 per month.

#2. Over Subcribed. "Best Effort" uses the same logic as airlines:

“Best effort” internet services often called “shared services” use a similar logic as airlines overbooking flights. Airlines can sell more seats than they have available on a plane because they have historical data to tell them the average percentage of people typically no showing on similar flights. When their calculations are wrong, you’ll hear that announcement over the loud speaker asking volunteers to take a later flight in exchange for a credit.

Similarly telecom companies sell more shared bandwidth than they have the capacity to fulfill if everyone were to use it at the same time.   It’s a fairly safe bet on their part because they also have historic performance of that network and they can forecast how it will be used under typical conditions. Some companies do better than others at managing the networks and some areas do better than others. 

When there is unusually high usage in the area, your shared connection will perform worse than when the network is experiencing lower traffic.

Most telecom companies don’t oversubscribe their dedicated network and will be able to deliver what you bought from them.

#3. Asymmetrical vs Symmetrical

Not always, but often times “best effort” or “shared” internet connections are delivered as asymmetrical services.  The download speeds are faster than the upload speeds. 

Example: 100/20 Mbps means a 100 Mbps download speed and 20 Mbps upload speed.

With cloud services and video conferencing continually becoming more important, upload speed is heavily relied upon in an enterprise environment.

#4 Service Level Agreements

Service level agreements (SLAs) can vary drastically between dedicated and best effort services. The purpose of this post is not to go thru each line item of an SLA, but rather to point out that dedicated services generally carry stronger SLAs. There are two main components to service level agreements:

  1. Defining target expectations.
  2. Service Credits – What happens when those targets are missed?

Target Expectations

SLAs can outline many target expectations, some of the more common ones are uptime, response times, repair times, jitter, and latency.

Uptime Targets

Uptime commitments tend to be much more aggressive with dedicated services.  99.99% or 99.999% vs a typical 99.9% uptime with a shared service. 

Here are each of those percentages translated into time per year:

  • “Three Nines” 99.9% = 8.77 hours per year
  • “Four Nines” 99.99% = 52.6 minutes per year
  • “Five Nines” 99.999% = 5.26 minutes per year

Response and Repair Targets 

When things go wrong, dedicated internet connections usually come with firm expectations that the problem will be fixed. Typically that is expressed in a number of hours.  Example:  4 hours to repair. Best effort services often are accompanied by a “best effort” to get out there and take a look.  Sometimes it can take more than 24 hours before getting a tech on site.

Service Credits

In my experience, customers never want to be in a position where they need to ask for credits because SLA targets were missed.  Instead they would prefer that the service just worked as expected. When enforcing SLAs is required the remedies associated to a dedicated connection are usually better. Credits are generally expressed as a percentage of your monthly service cost.

#5 Use Cases

Each service has their situations where they are best utilized. When up and running, best effort services provide tremendous value. You’re often able to get fast download speeds for a very reasonable price.  Dedicated internet services offer high availability and support often required by businesses.

Cases where best effort services are used:

  • To run small businesses.
  • Back-up internet connections.
  • Non-mission critical services are being accessed.
  • Temporary projects.
  • Load balancing

Cases where dedicated internet is used:

  • There are many people on the network.
  • Mission critical applications are being used.
  • Downtime is expensive.


It’s important to select the right type of service to match the needs of your company. If you have the option of choosing between a best effort and dedicated internet service, hopefully this post was helpful.  If you’re still unsure or would like to chat about a different project, contact me by scheduling a free consulation.