Understanding broadband's limitations and why it may be time for a change.
The internet has never been more important in our lives than it is today. The rise of cloud-based applications, smart devices and machines, and internet-based communication tools have placed a greater importance on the reliability of an internet connection.
This is true of businesses across every industry. The increased use of cloud storage and backups, software as a service (SaaS) applications such as Google apps and Microsoft Office 365, and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) telephone systems have put business’ internet connections under extreme pressure.
But despite the need for business-grade connectivity solutions, too many small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are still relying on basic broadband services that are aimed at residential users.
While broadband connections might be fine if you work in a small office or you work at home, they tends to struggle if you have staff that regularly rely on bandwidth-hungry software and apps.
When broadband first arrived in the early 2000s, it revolutionised internet access for both residential and business users. Instead of having to use slow, unreliable dial-up connections that tied up a phone line, we were able to access the web at 0.5 Mbps (megabits per second) while using a phone at the same time.
Naturally, the connections gradually improved and offered faster speeds when delivered over copper circuits. However, it was the wider availability of fibre connections offering download speeds of around 20 Mbps or more that enabled broadband to really fulfil its potential.
It meant websites could be built with richer and more graphical content; No longer were we subjected to viewing text-heavy pages with mosaic grey backgrounds, we now had the ability to stream videos and hold Skype video conversations.
While broadband is capable of meeting your typical home-life demands, when it comes to relying on it for essential business use, it’s worth assessing if it can meet your requirements – especially if your bottom line is at stake. Here are a few things to consider with broadband.
Broadband is an asynchronous connection
An asynchronous connection isn’t as confusing as it might sound, it simply means your broadband offers more bandwidth for downloads rather than uploads. It’s not generally an issue for light internet users that tend to download more than they upload, but for business people that regularly upload large files or high-res images, it can often feel like an upload takes forever to finish.
Broadband connections as subject to contention
If you didn’t already know, broadband connections are shared with other users, meaning it can slow down when other people are using their service at the same time as you. Broadband connections run from a premise to a street cabinet before heading to the exchange, and it’s the latter part of the circuit which is shared. You’re essentially sharing your bandwidth with other users. While it can be hard to get definitive contention ratio figures from a provider, you can often notice that broadband seems to slow down during peak periods throughout the day.
The availability of broadband services and the associated speeds available differ across the UK. While some areas have access to fibre to the premises (FTTP) connections which offer speeds of up to 1 Gbps (gigabit per second), the vast majority of customers will only be able to receive speeds of up to a maximum of 80 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.
The dedicated difference
If you’re now thinking that the above points could seriously hinder your business, then you’re probably wondering what your options are. The answer could be to look for a dedicated internet connection – a leased line that uses Ethernet technology.
A leased line can enable you to get around the limitations of broadband. For a start, it’s capable of reaching much faster speeds, including up to 10 Gbps. It’s also synchronous which means you get equal bandwidth for both your downloads and uploads. It’s uncontended meaning it won’t slow down during peak periods. It enables you to set your own traffic priorities so that high priority applications can be given more bandwidth. And it ensures that there are no restrictions on the amount of data you can transmit.
Pretty appealing, right?
A leased line uses similar technology to broadband in the fact it arrives at your premises via fibre, whether that’s directly or through a street cabinet. What’s more, if you’re in an area where fibre isn’t yet available, you can still benefit from a leased line through a technology referred to as Ethernet first mile. This combines twisted pair cabling with some signal processing gizmos to give you a fast, synchronous connection over a copper circuit.
The business benefits
Having a synchronous internet connection is hugely beneficial if you want to leverage cloud storage or SaaS applications such as Microsoft Office 365 or Slack.
Not only that, a leased line is more suited to support a VoIP telephone system (which can help you save on call costs) as you don’t share the connection with others so it offers guaranteed speeds.
Ethernet is a fast, reliable service which offers low latency that helps contributes towards achieving a smoother virtual private network (VPN) connection.
And finally, because a leased line is a business-grade product, the speeds you receive and the connection’s reliability are enshrined in service level agreements (SLAs) which mean in the event of a problem, it will be fixed much quicker than a broadband service. Leased lines are also often monitored by service providers so any nascent issues can often be addressed before they turn into major problems.
The result of all of this?
Less downtime, which saves you both time and money.
Over to you…
If your business is reliant on its internet connection, it’s worth considering a dedicated internet connectivity solution to ensure that you get the speeds, reliability and SLAs you require.
It’s important to note that the cost of a dedicated internet service is more than broadband. However, rather than comparing it as a like for like product, you should consider the long-term benefits of a leased line and ask yourself if your business can afford to survive if its internet went down for a period of time.