Learn about different types of broadband to help you choose a solution to benefit your business.
The internet has changed many aspects of our everyday lives, not least in the way we do business. Today, it’s a rare company that doesn’t rely on the online world for at least part of its day-to-day activity, whether it’s using email, ordering products online, or making use of cloud-based storage and software.
For all of this to work successfully, it’s essential to have a reliable internet connection. Businesses use the internet in a different way to domestic consumers, so you need to look for a service that’s geared towards commercial use.
Before we start looking specifically at business needs, it’s important to understand a bit about what broadband is and how it works. Broadband first began to be widely available in the UK in the early 2000s. It was still delivered entirely over copper cable and, while much faster than the previous dial-up internet access, it was a lot slower than today’s fibre offerings. Partly this was because copper cables suffer degradation of the signal over long distances. So the further you were from the exchange the slower your connection would be.
While copper broadband connections are still available, over the last decade or so fibre-optic broadband has been rolled out across the UK and it should be possible to get it in 95 percent of locations by the time we reach the end of 2017. Fibre offers speeds that are a lot faster than copper and is generally more reliable than the older technology.
Fibre broadband, as you might have guessed, uses a fibre optic cable to deliver the service instead of copper, this means there are almost no transmission losses so it’s able to give you much faster speeds. Fibre optic backbones have been used to connect exchanges and data centres throughout the country for many years, but the spread of fibre into the wider community is more recent. In the UK there are two main types of fibre optic broadband although these are not available everywhere. What you can get depends on where you’re located.
The majority of the country now has access to broadband using a technology known as fibre to the cabinet (FTTC). This means that the optic fibre cable from the exchange terminates at a street cabinet; those big green boxes you see at the roadside. The final stretch to your property arrives on copper cable just as it did when the circuit was all copper. This means that there are still some losses the further you are from the cabinet, but the effect is much less pronounced than it was when the entire circuit from the exchange was being provided over copper cable.
In some city areas and in places served by cable TV providers, it’s also possible to get fibre to the premises (FTTP) broadband, where the fibre comes all the way to your home or business. This delivers much faster speeds but isn’t yet as widely available as FTTC.
The different technologies in use and the location restrictions mean that there are variations in speed. A typical FTTC installation can deliver up to 80Mbps download speeds and 20Mbps upload speeds. The slower uploads are due to the asynchronous nature of a broadband circuit which is designed to deliver fast data into your home or business. The slower upload speed isn’t likely to be a problem unless you’re a heavy user of services such as cloud storage in which case, for business users, there are alternative types of connection such as leased lines available, offering equal speeds in both directions.
FTTP connections can deliver much higher download speeds, making them an attractive prospect for heavy users of services including streaming or video calling. However, these connections are not available in all areas.
Domestic vs business broadband
There are some key differences in the broadband packages offered for home and business use. Domestic broadband will usually have a dynamic IP address, one that changes each time you connect.
Business broadband offerings usually offer better SLAs. They also come with a fixed IP address; we’ll look at this in more detail later but it’s important if you intend to use certain internet features.
Like domestic broadband, you’ll find that business packages come in different types and combinations of copper and fibre connections. A router is generally supplied as part of the deal too. You’ll also find that broadband can be bundled with business phone line deals to give you an all-round communications package.
What’s more, in a bid to make fast, reliable broadband connections more easily accessible, 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.
Let’s return to the issue of IP addresses for a moment. An IP address is the string of numbers which allows computers on the internet to talk to each other. Every device that connects to the net needs its own address, but the problem is that we’re starting to run out.
In order to get around this problem, standard broadband connections use dynamic addresses. These are allocated each time you go online, allowing ISPs to recycle them among many users to overcome the shortage.
Dynamic addresses can be a problem for business users, however. If you want to host your own servers – for a website, email, FTP, Voice Over IP Services (VOIP) or a VPN – then you need to have an address that doesn’t change in order to facilitate this. For this reason, business broadband packages generally offer a static IP address that will remain allocated to you all the time.
Static addresses make it easier to configure networks and to connect to the internet. It’s easier to configure domain names for external access too, making it simple to switch to backup servers with minimal disruption, for example.
Another difference between domestic and business broadband is that businesses require DDoS protection. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are rising in frequency across the UK and all businesses – no matter what size or industry – are potential targets, making the attacks a major concern for businesses. The scale and intensity of these attacks are increasing with almost 278 DDoS attacks taking place globally every hour. A DDoS attack can not only damage brand image but also cause a loss of revenue, business, data and productivity. DDoS attacks aim to cripple online services, compromise personal data, steal credit card data, deface brands or even act as a smoke screen for other attacks − for political, financial or other malicious reasons. DDoS attacks also swamp your Internet connection, blocking traffic from legitimate sources. Daisy offers free DDoS protection as standard with all its connectivity solutions.
For business users, a fast, reliable broadband connection has a number of advantages. Increasingly business users are turning to cloud services. While it started out as a way of accessing convenient storage for backups, archives and for sharing files, the cloud has now spread into many other areas. Software for almost all types of application is now available on an As-a-Service basis via the cloud. This has many advantages in terms of licensing and controlling access, as well as making it possible for remote workers to use the same systems as the rest of the business.
Voice over IP phone calling is also increasingly popular for companies seeking to keep down their call costs. Many businesses are also turning to video conferencing to cut down the time staff need to spend travelling to meetings.
There are also moves towards integrating supply chains. If you supply or buy from larger businesses you may find you need to access their systems in order to be able to take advantage of smoother ordering and delivery processes.
All of these things mean you need a reliable and fast means by which to access the internet. Broadband is the solution which delivers this for many businesses, but increasingly the standard offerings aimed at home users will not quite cut it in the business world. A broadband package targeted specifically at business users, offering unlimited data, static IP addresses and professional levels of support is becoming essential.