No business can operate without the internet. Even if you don’t work or sell online, banking and many transactions with government and other agencies now require an online connection. However, there are different ways of connecting to the internet and often variations in coverage can make a good connection a postcode lottery.
First of all, it’s important to use a business rather than a residential connection. While some residential packages might look cheaper at first glance, they won’t provide the level of service many business require. Business packages will usually offer higher speeds and greater bandwidth, important if you regularly transfer a lot of data, e.g. accessing cloud systems. They also offer fixed IP addresses, not usually available for domestic users, which can necessary for accessing corporate IT systems.
Business packages often come with a service level agreement from the internet service provider (ISP) guaranteeing almost constant up-time, a response within 24 hours to resolve faults and even an account manager. As a business customer, you’ll receive priority, while residential customers are often left at the bottom of the pile.
The fastest connections in the UK are provided over fibre or cable networks. The original BT copper network still delivers ADSL broadband, but the speeds are likely to be too restrictive for business, with ADSL1 providing a maximum of just 8 megabits per second (Mbit/s) and ADSL2+ a maximum of 24 Mbit/s. Most businesses will require what is referred to in the UK as superfast broadband, starting at a minimum of 36 Mbit/s.
Much of the UK fibre network is delivered to a cabinet in the street (fibre-to-the-cabinet or FTTC) with a copper connection from the cabinet to the premises throttling the speeds to 40 or 80 Mbit/s maximum. Also, the further you are located from the cabinet, the more your speed will drop due the longer copper connection. Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), although more expensive to install, delivers genuine superfast broadband at speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s (or 1,000 Mbit/s). Cable broadband, delivered over fibre and coaxial cable, offers up to 300 Mbit/s, although coverage is restricted to areas where the network has been installed.
Other broadband options include mobile and satellite services. Mobile 4G connections are widely available now and can be very useful for business people who are constantly on the move. Mobile broadband often delivers speeds of between 20 and 30 Mbit/s, but availability can be patchy, generally varying between 60% and 80%. If an always-on connection is important to your business, then mobile broadband is not the best option if you work from an office or fixed location.
Satellite services are often the last resort where there is no reliable land or mobile network, rarely a problem around London. Speeds of 30 Mbit/s are available, although latency – the delay in sending and receiving the signal – often prevents logging into remote systems.
While price will be a key concern to businesses when choosing an internet connection, speed, reliability and customer service are important aspects to consider, especially when signing up for a contract of 12 months or more. Also remember that advertised maximum speeds are not the speeds you will necessarily receive – for FTTC superfast broadband the speed will vary according to your distance from the cabinet.
If you’d like advice on what internet services are available to your business, FX7 Solutions will be pleased to discuss these with you and assess the pros and cons of the different types of connection.