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Find out how a leased line could help your business keep up with increasing data demands.

Does your business rely on the cloud? Do you have operations across more than one site? Are you frequently frustrated by your current internet connection? Would your business suffer badly if you were to lose your connection? If you answered yes to any of these questions then maybe it’s time you thought about getting a leased line.

What is a leased line?

You might think that connecting to the internet means having broadband, but in fact, that’s not the only option. While broadband is widely established for domestic use, it’s geared to that environment which means that for business there are some drawbacks. On the other hand, a leased line can offer you a dedicated connection to the web that’s solely for the use of your business.

What is meant by leased line is a data circuit which connects your premises directly to the ISP’s data centre, whereas broadband routes data over a public network used by lots of other people. That’s the back of the envelope difference, but there’s more to it than that. There are differences in the speeds available and in how many people can reasonably share the connection at any given time.

A leased line, as its name suggests, is a connection that you rent for your exclusive use. It connects directly from your premises to the data centre of the service provider, or it can connect between your own sites. Today the connection will most likely be via a fibre optic connection but it can be via technology such as Ethernet first mile over copper cables.

Leased line vs broadband

The advantages of leased line over broadband are not in outright download speeds – these may well be slower – but that you can have the same speed in both directions (synchronous connection). Plus there will also be no contention from other businesses or individuals using the link, so it will maintain its performance levels regardless as to the time of day.

What-is-a-leased-line-deskLet’s backtrack for a second and look at that in a bit more detail. Being synchronous, a leased line means you get the same transfer speed for data in both directions. If you have systems in the cloud, therefore, it means your critical business processing may be reliant on having an internet connection, so this equal speed is a big advantage as you’re going to be uploading large volumes of data as well as downloading it.

A synchronous circuit also makes for more reliable use of communication services including video calling and VoIP telephony which are increasingly popular amongst business users.

There is, of course, no contention, and therefore no competition for the circuit either. This is an important advantage for Internet-based businesses, especially if you intend running your own in-house servers to host your website, where a fast connection in both directions is crucial.

This also means that, unlike with broadband, 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 exceeding your data allowance.

Remember even ‘unlimited’ broadband is usually subject to a ‘fair use’ clause that can restrict the amount you’re able to download by throttling the connection if you use it too much. This can often be geared to peak traffic times too. There’s little point having unlimited data in the middle of the night when you need it during the working day.

In a bid to make fast and affordable broadband available across the board, the government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme offers eligible UK businesses the chance to claim vouchers of up to £2,500 to put towards the cost of an Ethernet connection.

Security

If you’re working with sensitive data, then there are security issues too. By having a dedicated connection there’s less chance of information being intercepted in transit. However, you still need to protect data using methods like encryption for maximum protection.

What-is-a-leased-line-working-laptop-security

Of course, there are some drawbacks. Among the disadvantages are that leased lines cost quite a bit more than broadband because you’re renting an exclusive connection. A relatively slow leased line will likely cost more than a faster broadband link.

However, the leased line speed is guaranteed and uncontended, whereas the broadband speed can vary depending on whether there’s a good movie on Netflix. Therefore, you need to consider how important reliable, consistent connection is to your business. In addition, leased lines generally have much longer lead times for installation, because where broadband is delivered over an existing phone line, a leased line needs a new circuit to be installed. If you’re opening or relocating to a new site, therefore, you need to plan well in advance.

How does a leased line work?

Now we know what is a leased line let’s look at how it works in more detail. First of all, it’s important to understand that – just as with broadband – there are different ways in which leased lines can be delivered.

Generally speaking, a leased line service will arrive at your premises in one of three ways. The first and most common today is fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) where a fibre optic circuit runs to a cabinet at the end of the street and the remainder of the circuit to your business is provided over copper cable.

FTTC is now available in most parts of the UK and with a leased line can deliver speeds of up to 19Mbps. This is the same technology that delivers domestic fibre broadband. Don’t be fooled by the fact that broadband offers higher advertised speeds. Remember that’s the download speed only; the upload speed will be less than a tenth as high, and there’s that thorny issue of contention.

Other common ways of delivering leased lines are via Ethernet first mile (EFM); here the circuits use a combination of linked pairs of cables and clever signal processing technology to deliver fast speeds (up to 35Mbps), but over a conventional copper circuit.

Finally, there are fibre carrier (sometimes called Ethernet over fibre) leased lines which offer speeds up to 10Mbps. In city areas, it may be possible to get fibre to the premises (FTTP) circuits which offer much faster speeds, but these as yet are not widely available.

Business benefits of a leased line

So, what is a leased line going to do for your business? Where it will really come into play is in the more intensive use of the internet that’s needed for business. For example, more and more companies are now heavily reliant on cloud services for running critical business systems.

As-a-service delivery models for software ranging from office suites to more specialised applications are now increasingly commonplace. If you’ve gone, or are planning to go, down this route, then the guaranteed speed of a leased line connection is well worth considering.

While we’ve talked a lot about internet connectivity, leased lines are also a good choice where you have branch offices or home and field workers needing access to your office network remotely. High bandwidth communication services including video conferencing or VoIP calling will also benefit from using a leased line, particularly from the fact that upload and download speeds are equal.

What your business does is a key issue too. Should you regularly need to upload large files; documents for printing perhaps, or plans and designs for buildings, or instructions for machine tools, then you’re going to benefit from having a synchronous connection giving equal upload and download speeds.

It’s also a major advantage if you intend sharing information regularly with your customers and suppliers as part of an integrated supply chain. Having the reliability and speed of a leased line is going to deliver a better quality of experience while accessing your network and is likely to improve productivity across the board.

It’s important to consider the importance of connectivity to your business. If you were to lose internet access for a day or just for a few hours, what effect would it have? Would it be an inconvenience that you could work around? Or would you rapidly start to lose customers and money? If the latter is the case then consider what is a leased line and its extra cost compared with protecting your business?

Emma.Catlow
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