When thinking about connecting your business to the internet, broadband comes to mind.
You probably already have broadband at home. You understand how it works, and all broadband is the same, right? Not quite. There are a number of different types of broadband internet connections and what is right for your use at home may not necessarily be good for your business. To understand why this is, we need to take a look at how broadband works and at the different types of broadband available in the UK.
Speed is crucial for most businesses, and in this increasingly digital age, a fast connection is essential to take advantage of the latest technologies and keep up with competitors. Many businesses are suffering from slow broadband speeds, but there are a number of connectivity options available and choosing the right option could significantly improve the performance of your business.
Back in the 90s, we had to dial-up connection through our phone lines which ran at around 56 Kbps. For comparison, an 8 Mbps connection is equal to an 8,000 Kbps connection.
Dial-up was slow and unreliable and prevented users from being able to browse the internet whilst using the phone. In the early 2000s, broadband started to become widely available. Compared to dial-up it was fast – around 512 Kbps compared to the 56 Kbps you might get on a dial-up link. It worked by effectively splitting the phone line in two, so it was on all the time and it didn’t stop you using the phone.
ADSL broadband gradually became faster over the next few years with speeds increasing to around 8 Mbps, but because it was still delivered over copper cables, the performance would drop off the further away you were from the telephone exchange. It was also affected by the age and quality of cables in your area so speeds were variable.
ADSL broadband delivered over copper cables is still available and light internet users will probably find it adequate for their needs. As with all broadband services the speeds are asymmetrical, which means that uploads will be slower – usually around a quarter the speed of downloads.
As we moved into the second decade of the 21st century, the rollout of fibre optic broadband began. This is delivered in most places using fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) technology. What this means is that the fibre optic cable terminates at one of those green boxes you see on street corners and the signal then continues to your home or business premises via copper cable as before.
Compared to other types of broadband internet connections, the use of fibre meant much faster links – up to 20 Mbps in the early days of fibre and up to 38 Mbps in most areas today. There is still some effect on speed depending on your distance from the street cabinet, but speeds are far higher than with ADSL. This means that tasks like streaming media, making VoIP (voice over internet protocol) and video calls and using cloud applications can be carried out much more smoothly.
Of course, not everyone can yet get these sort of speeds, but the government is committed to making broadband with at least 10 Mbps available to every home and business in the UK by 2020. According to Ofcom, superfast broadband was available to 91% premises in the UK in December 2017, up from 89% the previous year.
The advent of fibre and improvements in the network have meant that even faster types of broadband internet connections are now available in many areas, with many users now getting superfast speeds of up to 76 Mbps. As before, the actual speed you can get is determined by how far away you are from the cabinet and therefore how much copper cable is involved in delivering the service.
For businesses and those that rely heavily on the internet, there are now ‘ultrafast broadband’ services available too. Using fibre to the premises connections (FTTP) or technology called FTTC G.Fast, you can receive download speeds of up to 300 Mbps with uploads of 48 Mbps, giving greater speed and reliability for bandwidth-intensive applications like VoIP or real-time cloud applications.
G.Fast works by adding ‘distribution points’ – either underground or in mini cabinets – to bring the fibre connection closer to the customer’s premises than the existing large street cabinets. Trials of G.Fast began in 2015 and Openreach expects to roll it out on a larger scale, making it available to around 10 million premises by the end of 2020. To find out what broadband speeds your business could receive, click here.
Business broadband considerations
Of course, when looking at different types of broadband internet connections for your business, there are some things you need to consider beyond the speed of the link. If you are relying on the connection for your commercial operations you need to ensure that it’s reliable and there when you need it.
When looking for a business broadband provider, there are a number of important factors which we would recommend you consider to ensure it works for your business. Firstly, make sure there are no limitations on the amount of data you can transfer or caps or a fair use restriction in place. Another important question to ask is if there is 24/7 support and what the guaranteed fix times are to ensure that you are up and running again as soon as possible. Downtime costs businesses money, so it’s worth investing in a provider that can get you up and running as quickly as possible if a problem arises. Some packages come with protection against costly distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which is worth looking for if your business wants to experience peace of mind.
Whilst a fast business broadband service is all that many businesses need, for larger organisations it may prove restrictive. Companies are using the cloud more extensively and this can mean that once you have lots of users, the asynchronous connection and the contention from other users in the area can become restrictive. This is particularly true at busy times or if your business is heavily reliant on as-a-service applications or VoIP telephony.
If you’re in this position then you may want to look beyond broadband to installing an Ethernet leased line. While this is more expensive, for businesses that rely on the internet for essential activities, it can be worth the extra cost in terms of improved performance and dependability. This is because a leased line delivers a fully synchronous connection and is dedicated to your use so there is no contention to worry about.