Do You Know the Difference between a Gigabit and a Gigabyte?

by (8 posts) under Cloud Hosting, Dedicated Hosting

Many people confuse the terms “gigabit” and “gigabyte” by either using them synonymously or confusing their meanings. While both are units of measurement describing digital data, how much they measure and how they are used are different.  Atlantic. Net clearly explains these different meanings that help to clearly define your cloud server needs.

A Bit

A bit is the most basic unit used in computing and telecommunications. A bit is a binary unit, meaning it can have one of two values: a 1 or a 0. In computers, this value can indicate expressions such as “true” or “false”, “yes” or “no”, “come hither” or “ain’t gonna happen”. (Just kidding with that last one!)


A Byte

A byte is 8 bits*. Werner Buchholz, an American computer scientist, coined the term “byte” in 1956 during the construction of the IBM Stretch computer. He deliberately spelled the term differently to avoid confusion with the term “bit.”


The Difference

When we need to refer to numbers of bits or bytes as those numbers get larger and larger, we use the prefixes from the metric system (see table below for examples). To distinguish between the two when abbreviating them, the lower-case “b” traditionally represents “bit”, whereas the upper-case “B” represents “byte”.

prefix multiplier bits-to-bytes bytes-to-bits
kilo- (K) 1,000x 1Kb = 125B 1KB = 8Kb
mega- (M) 1,000,000x 1Mb = 125KB 1MB = 8Mb
giga- (G) 1,000,000,000x 1Gb = 125MB 1GB = 8Gb
tera- (T) 1,000,000,000,000x 1Tb = 125GB 1TB = 8Tb

They are also different in how they are used as units of measurement. Bits are generally used when measuring the rate of data transfer. When we talk about network throughput (or, what is often called “bandwidth”) or internal data transfer (such as in describing SATA or USB speeds), we use megabits per second or gigabits per second.

Bytes are generally used when describing data capacity. We measure the sizes of our files and the hard drives that store them in gigabytes and terabytes (and, perhaps soon, petabytes!).
At Atlantic.Net, you do not have to worry about staying up-to-date with confusing terminology because our expert technicians will handle all of the work for you! To learn more about our cloud hosting services, contact our team of hosting professionals today by calling 1-800-521-5881. Right now, we are offering dedicated server hosting plans from just $64 a month every month and no contractual commitments.



* Fun Fact: 4 bits, or half a byte, is called a nibble. It’s rarely used, but it’s official!

Kind of. In actual usage, particularly in measurements of RAM or hard disk space, the metric prefixes aren’t decimal-based but binary-based. This table shows the differences between these two types of calculations.

prefix decimal multiplier binary multiplier
kilo- (K) 103 1000x 210 1024x
mega- (M) 106 1,000,000x 220 1,048,576x
giga- (G) 109 1,000,000,000x 230 1,073,741,824x
tera- (T) 1012 1,000,000,000,000x 240 1,099,511,627,776x

You can see how that numbering scheme can grow to be confusing!

Difference between a Gigabit and a Gigabyte

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