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Business Broadband

A business’s internet connection isn’t just used to stream Netflix, digitally window shop, and keep friends/neighbours/second cousins abreast about your breakfast/promotion/engagement. A business needs a secure, fast-paced connection that can handle multiple simultaneous users, host a server and a website, backup and keep secure information vital to your company and sensitive for your clients, allow remote access for teleworking, and stay live, even outside of business hours. So it makes sense that a domestic broadband package, designed for entertainment and leisure, won’t be enough for your business.

A number of internet service providers, from domestic mainstays BT and Virgin Media to B2B experts XLN Telecom and Toople, offer broadband tariffs aimed directly at businesses. They come with lightning fast speeds, unlimited downloads, customer service guarantees, and a host of extras from VPNs to guest wifi, that ensure the internet can working for your business and its staff and clients.

Let’s take a closer look at the specs and selling points of a business broadband connection.

Guaranteed, Priority Customer Service

When your home internet falters or isn’t up to speed, it’s an inconvenience. When your businesses connection fails, you’ll see the effects on your bottom line. Providers know that businesses can’t afford to be disconnected from the internet for long: you have emails to exchange, clients to contact, a website and server to keep live. That’s why business broadband tariffs come with higher levels of customer service than domestic connections, offering support ranging from priority, dedicated tech support freephone lines, some of them manned 24 hours a day, to same-day engineer call-outs. Higher-end packages can even guarantee repair visits within a few hours.

A dedicated, always available customer service line and repairs team ensures your connection can be fixed as soon as possible—usually today, not after four hours in a phone queue and after seventeen customers have had their home routers rebooted. This responsiveness is crucial when every minute disconnected and every second spent pursuing a fix is costing you money.

Some broadband tariffs, especially those offered by come with service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee you limited downtime and outages, quick service response, and download speeds above a certain level. If your commercial broadband provider isn’t meeting these standards, you may be entitled to compensation and/or to exit your contract early without penalty. For example, BT’s Business Broadband packages guarantee faults will be repaired within 24 hours of being reported and their premium business tariffs ensure faults will be fixed within 8 hours—or you’re eligible for compensation.

Guaranteed Speeds and Priority Network Access

Businesses not only need fast downstream and upstream connections, they need to be able to rely on those speeds. Business broadband connections are not only, on average, faster than their domestic counterparts (most connections in the marketplace exceed 50 Mbps, all business broadband offered by Virgin exceeds 350 Mbps), they’re more stable. Business broadband connections aren’t hampered by network contention, peak time congestion, and fair usage policies, ensuring that your 76 Mbps is there when your business needs it.

The same service level agreement that entitles you to same-day repairs will also give you iron-clad speed guarantees. Additionally, business broadband tariffs often have a committed information rate that the connection will always support, as well as allowances for data bursts—for instance times when you’re uploading large files to your server or your website is receiving a lot of traffic.

Furthermore, most suppliers prioritise business over domestic broadband traffic, so your speeds won’t suffer when network usage is high and the lines are crowded. Your speed also won’t be curbed by fair usage policies or traffic management practices that affect heavy domestic users.
Business broadband also has much lower contention ratios than domestic broadband, where typically 20 to 50 users share the same bandwidth (a contention ratio of 20:1 to 50:1). Business broadband can boast contention ratios of just 5:1 or, with a leased line, 1:1.

Leased Line

A leased line—also known as a data circuit, dedicated line, ethernet leased line, or private line— runs an internet connection directly, and exclusively, from your local phone exchange to your commercial premises, meaning you won’t be competing for bandwidth with your neighbours. A leased line offers symmetrical downstream and upstream speeds, essential for businesses that need to upload as much content as they download, and can support speeds of up to 10 GB.

Leased lines are pricy, however. Packages start at more than £150 per month and installation, which involves running a dedicated fibre optic cable to your building, will set you back anywhere from £500 to £1500.

Bonded Broadband

Bonded broadband bundles multiple ADSL lines to double, quadruple, or even octuple broadband speeds. It sounds deceptively simple—two ADSL lines equals double speeds, four equals quadruple speeds—but in practice bonded broadband requires a complex splitting and rejoining of data streams that makes it unfeasibly expensive for everyone but business customers.

Even octuple bonded broadband connections are often outpaced by standard fibre optic packages so it’s generally only a good alternative for businesses in places without fibre optic infrastructure, such as those located in rural areas. Additionally, bonded broadband can only multiply existing ADSL speeds, so if your business is miles away from a phone exchange and struggling with 2 Mbps ADSL, bonded broadband may be a lot of faff for little improvement in speed.

Static IP Addresses

Domestic internet connections have dynamic IP addresses, meaning each time you launch a browser you’ll have a different IP address. In contrast, many business broadband tariffs offer users static IP addresses, meaning your commercial connection will always have the same IP address. A static IP address serves as the digital address of your company and its computers and allows you and your staff to access them remotely, enabling teleworking.

A static IP address also allows your business’ computers to host a server, which can then host a website for your company or your email. You can also host an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server, which allows clients to upload files directly to you, rather than sending them via email clients, which often have data limits.

Fixed IP addresses do make computers more vulnerable to hacking, however, meaning you’ll need beefed up security. Luckily business broadband providers have that covered too—see below.

Web Space and Domain Registration

Many business broadband providers throw web space and domain registration into their contracts, enabling you to create a professional-looking website on its own domain for your company.

Professional Email

With your own domain name and an email server supported by a static IP address, you communicate with clients from a professional-looking email address—you@yourbusiness.co.uk rather than you@hotmail.com.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

Some business broadband tariffs include VPNs. A virtual private network is a secure, encrypted connection created between computers in multiple locations. A VPN can allow staff in various locations—in another branch or at home or in an airport or even on holiday (not that you should but it’s a comfort to know you can!)—to securely transfer files and data between each other and to privately access your main office’s systems and intranet. Wherever your staff can access the internet, the VPN allows them tap into your business’ network as if they were in the main office.

A VPN is particularly useful if you’re connecting multiple geographically separated offices, have some staff teleworking, and/or have staff who frequently travels for work.

Security and Backup

Your business’ computers and private networks host a lot of invaluable information: data needed for daily operations and trading, accounts, and the private details of clients. The loss or the hacking of data can be catastrophic, costing a business not only money but also reputation. Business broadband contracts come with more extensive security packages than domestic contracts, protecting your business’ devices and networks from hackers, phishing scams, viruses, and malware.

Some providers also offer off-site backup, ensuring that your data is accessible in all disaster scenarios, from hacking, to electronic faults, to fires and natural disasters.

VoIP Services

Many business broadband tariffs come with landline calling plans but those won’t ease the financial pain of phoning clients and business partners halfway across the world. A VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service can however. A VoIP, which comes as an extra on many commercial-grade broadband contracts, uses your broadband connection, rather than the in-ground phone network or mobile phone network, to make cheap or even free calls anywhere in the world. VoIP services also support conference and video-calling, allowing you to connect far-flung staff and clients in virtual meetings at low cost.

Guest WiFi

Business broadband contracts often come with routers that support public or guest WiFi networks for customers and clients. A guest WiFi network allows visitors to your shop, cafe, or office to get online without compromising the security of your private network. Furthermore, a guest WiFi network can automatically block illegal sites, meaning you don’t have to worry about visitors hijacking your WiFi for nefarious purposes and possibly leaving you criminally liable.

Contracts

Contracts on mobile broadband are typically 12 or 24 months. Some providers like Virgin will charge you extra—£5 per month—for the flexibility of a 12-month contract.

Moving Premises

Businesses grow and change quickly and their office and commercial space needs change too. Business broadband providers recognise this and may offer customers free relocation of their broadband services when they move premises. However, this is dependent on the local infrastructure and availability of the service, and you may have to pay to have a line reactivated on your new site. Moreover, if you have a leased line, it will have to be installed to your new premises and you’ll have to foot the bill for that.

Mobile Broadband

Many business internet providers also offer mobile broadband services which, with SIMs and dongles, can allow your staff to access the internet wherever they are and have phone service, such as client meetings, conferences, trains, and airports. Sometimes these mobile broadband services will be bundled with fixed-line packages.

Business Broadband Providers

There are two tiers of business broadband providers: those which offer business broadband packages in addition to domestic tariffs and those which exclusively provide commercial broadband. You’ll recognise the former from your search for a home internet provider: they include BT, Plusnet, TalkTalk, and Virgin. Business-exclusive providers include Toople and XLN.

Traditionally, the business-exclusive providers offer more comprehensive plans with service level agreements guaranteeing same-day repairs, stronger security defences, and extras including VPNs and VoIPs. They’re usually targeted at large and mid-sized businesses and offer space for growth, as a business expands and its broadband needs change. But they come with a cost to match their full schedule of services.

Less specialised providers offer business broadband without some of the bells and whistles and often for cheaper prices. And today their high-end business packages can rival those offered by the specialist B2B providers, with SLAs and same-day fixed times. Meanwhile, their low-end packages offer a budget alternative for smaller businesses who may need responsive customer service but have no need for a VPN, for example.

What to Look for in a Broadband

There’s no one size fits all broadband package for domestic users and that’s doubly true for commercial broadband.

Larger corporations will want leased lines to all their offices and locations, a VPN that connects workers across the country, and VoIP services to match their global reach. Medium-sized business may want an SLA that guarantees 8-hour fixes, an FTP server for clients, a VPN for teleworkers, and heartier internet security to protect them. Small businesses may prioritise a dedicated customer service hotline, 24-hour call out guarantee, webspace, and a domain but easily do without a VPN, leased line or VoIP. SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) should also consider if their broadband packages allows room for growth.

It’s important to consider the carefully consider inherent needs of your particular business, its size and sector, as well as its future, before committing to a business broadband provider and tariff.