Discover the differences between leased lines and broadband. Which is best for your business?
Most businesses use computers and the internet to some degree and many rely upon technology for a major part of their everyday operations. In addition, larger companies are becoming more geographically spread and almost all businesses are storing increasing amounts of their data in the cloud. All of this means that having reliable connections to the internet and to other office locations is essential.
Because it is in widespread domestic use, many people think of broadband as the only answer to internet connectivity. But broadband has drawbacks in terms of speed and reliability that mean it may not be the best choice for business use. There is an alternative in the shape of leased line connections, so let’s look at the leased line and broadband difference and what it means for business.
In order to understand the leased line and broadband difference you first need to understand what broadband is and how it works. Because most of us have it in our homes, broadband is familiar, and for home use (and probably for smaller businesses as well) it’s a perfectly good way of connecting to the web.
However, broadband is not always the perfect choice for business users. Firstly, it’s an asynchronous connection; it’s often known as ADSL (Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line). This means that while you get fast downloads, upload speeds are much slower.
On a typical UK fibre broadband service you might get 40Mbps or better downloads, but only 1.5Mbps uploads. While this isn’t a problem when you’re streaming from Amazon Prime or iPlayer, it is an issue if you need to send large files to another site or backup big volumes of data to a cloud service.
With broadband, once the line leaves your premises you’re sharing it with other people. This is something called contention; typical UK broadband has a contention ratio of between 20:1 and 50:1. You can think of this rather like the rush hour; if everyone’s travel was spread out through the day there would be no congestion, but because we all travel to and from work at the same times, the road and rail networks become busy and struggle to cope.
The same thing happens with broadband; when everyone else is online in the evenings, all streaming movies and ordering groceries, your connection will slow down. This is something you can check out for yourself by running a speed check (there are plenty of free sites that will let you do this) at different times of day and noting the difference.
A further issue with broadband surrounds the amount of data you’re allowed to download. Broadband contracts often have a cap on the volume of data that can be transferred, if you exceed that, you’ll be hit with an extra charge. Even when services are described as ‘unlimited’ there will usually be some sort of fair usage restriction in place which can give you problems if there are certain thermpeak times when you transfer large amounts of data.
How are leased lines different, and what does this mean for your business?
What is a leased line?
Firstly and most significantly, a leased line is synchronous so you get the same transfer speed for data in both directions. If you have systems in the cloud, it means many of your critical business processing may be reliant upon having an internet connection, so this equal speed is a significant advantage. It also makes for more reliable use of communication services such as video calling and VoIP telephony which are increasingly used to reduce business communication costs.
Ethernet first mile (EFM) leased lines use a combination of linked pairs of cables and clever signal processing technology to deliver fast speeds over a conventional copper circuit. There are also fibre carrier (or Ethernet over fibre) leased lines.
This means that you get guaranteed download speeds compared to a broadband connection. While the speeds may not seem ultra-quick in the light of some broadband offerings, having a dedicated circuit makes a big difference to everyday usability.
You also get faster upload speeds thanks to the synchronous circuit. In the age of the cloud where many of your critical business systems may be reliant upon an internet connection, this is a big advantage. It also makes for more reliable video calling and VoIP telephony.
You don’t have to worry about contention when using a leased line. The circuit is reserved for your use only, so the connection won’t slow down due to higher demand from other people at peak times. This is a key consideration for internet-based businesses, especially if you intend running your own in-house web servers where a fast connection in both directions is crucial. This also means that there are no usage caps on the amount of data you can transfer, so at the busiest times, you are not going to face an unexpected bill for going over your data allowance at the end of the month.
You need to consider reliability either. Because leased line services are business focused, they tend to come with guaranteed levels of service. The support is also designed to recognise that the service is essential for your business and that you need to get up and running again quickly in the event of a problem.
Of course, there are some disadvantages of leased lines. The first is cost, although they have become cheaper in recent times leased lines are still quite a bit more expensive than broadband services. Exact costs will depend on your location and therefore the length of the circuit involved, as well as the type of circuit required. Signing a longer contract may help you to get a better price, provided that this won’t cause problems for your business in the long term. But of course the costs have to be offset against the advantages, so you need to take a careful look at how your operation will benefit from a leased line and talk to leased line providers.
Another disadvantage is the length of time needed to install a circuit. Because broadband uses an existing telephone line to deliver its service, it can be installed relatively quickly. A leased line, in contrast, will require a new circuit to be installed. This means some work is likely to be required to hook up your premises to the service provider’s network. It can, therefore, take several months to get a leased line installed compared to just weeks for broadband. If you’re planning on relocating your business, it’s vital to plan ahead.
Business advantages of leased lines
So, why is a leased line likely to be a better choice for your business? For small businesses, it may not be, but once you have a few employees using your systems, or you have more than one location to serve, then a leased line starts to look like a more attractive proposition.
It will be able to deliver better connection speeds at all times of day, so you’ll have no concerns about slowdowns if you’re working outside normal office hours. If you’re using the cloud either to store data or to run systems – whether office systems or business packages – then you more than ever need a reliable connection. If you’re unable to access your systems then you’ll be losing trade and losing money.
Should your business have several sites relying upon a central data centre for their computing needs, then a leased line also makes a lot of sense. The asynchronous nature of the connection makes it easier and quicker to transfer large files between your sites, and it will be better for data-hungry cloud applications. It’s also good for Internet-based communication such as video calling and VoIP phone calls which are increasingly popular with businesses looking to keep down calling costs.