The Broadband Option
Many businesses buy broadband on price alone, failing to recognise the true value of a robust data connection. Only when they lose the connection or experience poor performance does this value become all too clear. In simple terms, connecting your business to the Internet comes down to a choice between Broadband and Ethernet technologies. To help determine which is the right option for your business, it’s important to understand how each of these technologies works. So let’s look at Broadband and Ethernet in turn and assess what each one has to offer.
A number of different broadband technologies (such as fixed line, wireless, mobile) have been developed in recent years, the two most prevalent in the UK being ADSL and cable modem services. Both deliver highspeed data connectivity typically used by business and homes to connect to the internet. In the UK, cable modem services are provided by one or two suppliers, while ADSL is delivered over phone lines connected to the local telephone exchanges and is widely available from a range of suppliers. And, there’s a bigger choice of providers. It is this fixed line ADSL technology we will focus on in this guide when referring to ‘Broadband’. ADSL, which stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, has two main characteristics – it is provided over a phone line and offers more bandwidth to download data than it does to upload it, hence the label ‘asymmetric’. This asymmetry stems from the technology originally being developed for the residential market where users are ostensibly more interested in downloading information than sending it. Over time, it has become widely adopted by businesses as well, owing to a number of inherent advantages.
Broadband – the pros and cons:
One of the main advantages of Broadband is its wide availability throughout the UK compared to cable services. This is because it is delivered via the existing telephony infrastructure. So almost every business and home can access it. It also offers the potential for fast speeds – up to 24Mbps download speeds – at an affordable price.
However, while the headline download speed may look fast, do remember this will be limited by your distance to the exchange and by general internet traffic volume. Upload speeds will be slower. The way Broadband is delivered is one of its key disadvantages. Copper telephone lines are susceptible to signal loss – so, if your business is a long way from the exchange, you may get a very slow service. Adverse environmental conditions (storms, flooding etc) can also disrupt services. Progress has been made on this front and Broadband remains the most popular way to connect to the internet. However, it is not as reliable as Ethernet – something that is reflected in Service Level Agreements and fix times.
The other major drawback of Broadband is the fact that it uses a shared public network. So, while fast speeds are achievable, there are times when the sheer volume of traffic slows everything down. For instance, on a typical weekday, there’s often a sharp increase in traffic around 3.30pm – 4pm. Why? Because when children get out of school, they jump on the nearest device to start gaming, streaming music or watching YouTube. Business users will suffer if their Broadband provider is focused on residential users. wrong, fix times tend are much shorter than ADSL. Ethernet SLAs (Service Level Agreements) might typically feature fix times of just a few hours, compared to fix times of one to two days (possibly longer) for Broadband. It is also likely to be supported by a 24-hour support desk.
For the price, Broadband provides value for money and is available almost everywhere. But most packages, even those marketed as ‘Business Broadband’, may not offer very reassuring service level agreements (SLAs). If your business, like many others, is becoming increasingly data dependent, you may want to look at options beyond the basic Broadband package.