Secure, reliable and fast broadband is essential for all businesses – big and small – but when you compare business broadband packages, you will find there is a bewildering array of options out there and lots of jargon to pick through in order to find the right solution for your needs.
Business broadband can look confusing and different to home broadband, but really you are just looking for many of the same things, such as speed, price and whether it includes phone line rental and inclusive calls.
You will notice that business broadband deals might look similar in terms of speed to home broadband but cost more money. This is because business internet packages will offer better levels of support to ensure that your business does not suffer as a result of internet outages, so you will have things like guaranteed fix times and more access to your broadband provider’s customer service helplines.
With some deals you will also get more consistent broadband speeds, as business traffic will get priority at busier times of day, whereas regular broadband connections may be slowed down.
As with regular broadband, the two most common options for your business broadband are:
ADSL: A basic business ADSL line could be enough for a very small business. ADSL uses the same copper phone line that provides your landline phone service, and is available to approximately 99% of the UK. But its speed pales in comparison to the faster options out there nowadays.
Fibre broadband: This option is much faster than ADSL and uses underground fibre-optic cables. Fibre can be much more appropriate for businesses but is not as available as standard ADSL broadband.
Leased line: This is a third option that many businesses use and it’s sometimes also called a ‘dedicated line’. A leased line uses the same cables as business fibre broadband, but the line is reserved solely for your use and you do not share bandwidth (and therefore speed) with anybody else. An engineer will run the fibre cabling directly from the exchange to your office or site, meaning guaranteed speeds and almost no possibility of slowdown when there is lots of other traffic on the broadband network.
Leased lines are for those businesses that need really fast internet (for upload and downloads) and need to move around big files on a frequent basis. They also help if you are hosting your own server or have lots of staff that need to access their systems in your office from home or other remote locations.
Want to learn more about broadband? Check out our article on the history of broadband.
Need more information on how to select a broadband deal? Read our guide on choosing broadband.
Depending on the size of your business and what you do, you may decide just to go for a cheap regular broadband package, but there are some factors to think about before making that decision.
On regular broadband packages, your download speed (the speed at which data arrives at your laptop/phone/TV) is always faster than your upload speed (the speed at which you can data from your device), but with business broadband, upload speeds tend to be similar to download speeds.
This means that if you need to send large files to clients or customers then you need to make sure you have a decent upload speed.
When the broadband network is busy, internet speeds tend to slow down, but business traffic is prioritised over standard residential broadband traffic. If you go for a business broadband package, you are much less likely to experience slow down during busy parts of the day.
An IP address is a string of numbers used to identify your computer when it goes online, a little bit like a postcode. With regular broadband packages, the IP address is what we call ‘dynamic’, meaning that it changes every time you log in.
Most business broadband packages give you the option of keeping the IP address dynamic or making it static so that it always stays the same number.
This is important because a static IP address is needed if you want to run a server on your network, host your own website, or set up a CCTV system. So for many businesses, having an IP address that does not change is extremely important.
If your home broadband connection goes down it can be an extremely frustrating experience, but if you rely on broadband for your business it can have serious repercussions for your company or your own livelihood.
When selecting your business broadband provider, look for one that offers something called a service level agreement (SLA). This agreement means that the provider guarantees to fix problems within a certain amount of time, and if they don’t fulfil their commitment then you may be able to get claim compensation.
All broadband providers offer customer support, but these are often just during the day and difficult to get hold of. Many business broadband providers will offer you 24-hour customer support to help get you up and running again if you have a problem.
Your business data will likely be extremely important to you, so it’s important that you have the right level of security to protect you and your customers. Most business broadband providers will include an enhanced security package that will protect your data and your connected devices from viruses, malware and other internet threats.
As with standard broadband packages, you can buy business phone and broadband packages which offer a range of options and upgrades depending on your type of business.
You may just want an extra ‘business’ line for your home office so you don’t receive business calls on your home phone number, or if you have more staff in your office(s) then you might want to buy a VoIP phone plan.
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and is simply a means of using the internet to make and receive telephone calls rather than a phone line.
The advantages of VoIP are:
There is no need for a physical phone system set up – it is all hosted in the cloud and therefore it is cheaper. Also, if your business has more than one site you don’t need to buy any more hardware as it is all in the cloud.
You can make and receive calls from your mobile, laptop or tablet as well as your landline phone, meaning you will never miss an important call just because you are not at your desk.
The kind of broadband you need will depend on your kind of business.
It’s not as simple as saying ‘I work at home, therefore I only need basic broadband’, because it depends on the nature of your business. For example, you may be a sole trader who works from home but your business could be something like videography or graphic design, which means that you would need a fast and reliable business broadband connection to enable you to work effectively
Conversely, you may have an office of 10 people but they only need basic internet and email for their work, so you wouldn’t need to choose a really fast business fibre broadband or leased line connection in order for them to work effectively.
The key is to look closely at your business and think about what you need before you start shopping for business broadband deals. Consider the number of people, the kind of work you do and how much an outage would affect your business, because business broadband plans tend to deal with issues faster than home broadband.
Most of the bigger providers (TalkTalk Business, BT, etc) will have advisors on hand who can listen to your requirements and advise the best package for your kind of business. But remember to compare business broadband providers and get two-to-three quotes so that you know you are getting the best value for money.
The providers below are some of the main players in the field of business broadband.
Plusnet offers standard and fibre business broadband in both 12- and 24-month contracts, along with a free static IP and 24/7 365 UK-based support.
Its standard broadband offers speeds up to 18Mbps and its fibre up to 76Mbps.
XLN provides business broadband to small businesses, and the company was created because founder Christian Nellemann believes that “small businesses weren’t being given the value for money they deserved on their essential utilities. They paid too much, and they waited too long for support. So I made it my mission to change that.”
It offers a variety of low-cost standard and fibre broadband options, with line rental included in the cost and unlimited phone calls available as a bolt-on.
The business side of Virgin Media offers two main broadband packages for businesses of all sizes:
Essential Business Internet offers a fibre connection offering speeds of up to 100Mbps, with a 72-hour fault response time.
‘Vroom’ business fibre broadband gives speeds up to 500Mbps and a 12-hour fault response time. For those that need a dedicated internet line, Virgin Media Business offers 50Mbps, 100Mbps and 300Mbps speeds for download and upload.
BT offers a huge array of plans and options to suit all business types, from its Superfast Fibre Essential which would suit businesses who aren’t heavy internet users, to its BTnet leased line plans which offer speeds up to 10Gbps.
BT’s SLA differs depending on what you buy, but for its leased line customers it targets 100% availability and offers a five-hour target fix time.
TalkTalk offers a huge variety of business broadband packages to suit all kinds of businesses big and small. Thankfully, its packages are helpfully broken down according to business size, so you can quickly see what packages it recommends according to how many employees you have.
With TalkTalk, you can get unlimited business broadband (up to 17Mbps), fibre up to 76Mbps and superfast leased lines with speeds up to 1Gbps.
Vodafone offers an extensive selection of business packages and deals across mobile phones, business broadband and mobile broadband. Its Essentials Superfast 1 offers 35Mbps average download speeds and its Essentials Superfast 2 offers an average of 63Mbps download speed.
As its business is built on mobile, Vodafone also offers something called a GigaCube, a portable Wi-Fi device that uses 4G and 5G to provide internet to up to 64 connected devices, in a not dissimilar way to a MiFi device.
Don’t know what MiFi is? Check out our guide to MiFi to learn more.