We all now take super-fast connectivity for granted both at work and at home. So much of what we do nowadays depends on fast reliable internet whether it be accessing Cloud based applications, researching on the internet, making VOIP calls or streaming media. When we lose the ability to do this or the internet is not working as it should it feels like the world is about to end.
So the question is what is the right connectivity for my business and how do I choose the right provider and right package?
Types of Connection
There are a number of different types of connectivity you will hear mentioned and it can be very confusing as to what the terms all mean. Below are some of the main ones with a very brief explanation of what they are.
Business Broadband – this is a traditional type of connection that uses copper wire (effectively a telephone line) to deliver internet connectivity. The thing that makes it “business” is that there will normally not be any download limits and you will get IP addresses (unique addresses that identify your connection and allow things like Virtual Private Networks to be created). You would not normally expect a home connection to come with IP addresses and often there will be some form of download limit. Broadband connections have greater download speeds and much more limited upload speeds. General web browsing uses mainly download, things like offsite backup use upload bandwidth.
ADSL / ADSL +2 / SDSL – Variants on Broadband with ADSL +2 being a faster version. SDSL offers equal bandwidth up and down (Symetric) so giving faster upload speeds than traditional ADSL. It is very rare to get an SLA with any of these services (with the exception of SDSL) and fix times can often be frighteningly long (days!). This is often not appreciated when taking out the contract.
Etherstream – this is a modern version of a traditional Leased Line and generally has replaced the lease line for delivering high speed, reliable, symmetric and flexible bandwidth. The services can be delivered over both copper or fibre and when ordering you choose either a 10Mbps bearer or a 100Mbps bearer. You then choose how much internet bandwidth you require up to the limit of the bearer. This makes it very flexible so you may start with 20Mbps but if you decide this is not enough the ISP can easily and quickly increase that. You will get a full SLA with Etherstream services. To improve redundancy you can get a “failover” line which would normally be an ADSL line so that should the primary line fail your service automatically fails over to the back-up line to maintain connectivity all be it at a slower rate.
Leased Line – traditional dedicated symmetric connection delivered over fibre which means it is very reliable but also expensive to both install and on an ongoing basis. These types of line have largely been replaced by Etherstream services.
Bonded DSL – bonded DSL services are a relative new technology where the ISP (such as Fluidata) take a number of DSL lines from different carriers and “bond” them together to provide both more bandwidth as well as built in redundancy. Should one of the lines fail the other continue to run as normal and you just lose some speed from the service while the line is down.
Fibre to the Cabinet – this is a new service being rolled out by BT whereby the connection from your office is on fibre to a local cabinet or hub. This allows the delivery of super-fast services for relatively low cost. The connections are asymmetric but the download and upload speeds are much faster than traditional DSL services.
What connectivity is right for my business?
When deciding what type of connection is right for your business you need to ask yourself a couple of key questions. These include the following:
- What is the impact if I lose my internet connection?
- What do I use internet for?
- Does your IT support company have line or router requirements?
Impact – before deciding what your budget is for internet services you need to ask what the impact and cost to your business would be if you lost your connection for say a day. While all of the services detailed above are generally reliable the issue comes when there is a problem. The lower end services rarely come with any form of useful SLA (standard DSL products in particular) so the response you should expect from your ISP when there is an issue will be surprisingly low. If the cost to your business of losing your internet for a day is thousands of pounds you should think about more resilient services with a proper SLA or even a redundant link. Yes these will cost more on a monthly basis but you are getting a better more reliable service that is a lot less likely to go wrong.
Use – what you use your internet connection for will determine what type of service you need to go for. If you utilise off site backup services and have a lot of data changing on a daily basis you will need to go for a suitable line that gives good upload speeds. Equally if you have a lot of remote users accessing your systems you need to go for a suitably fast line both in and out. Your Managed IT Support Company should be able to advise you on this.
Cheap services can be a false economy
While it is possible to get what appear to be very cheap internet services this can often be a false economy. If your users are struggling because they do not have a reliable or sufficiently fast connection they will become less productive and your business suffers. Where a cheaper service has a fault you can lose many hours if not days and the cost to both productivity and reputation of your business can be massive. The advice is really to consider your requirements carefully and to not just go for the cheapest service. A good ISP such as Fluidata can make a massive difference to your whole business. Spending that bit extra is definitely worth it.