Guide to broadband for small businesses
Your business matters. And whether you produce tools, develop software, or run PR for a local trade union, your small business’ broadband internet speed matters too.
But is your broadband up to scratch? All too often small businesses rely on home broadband when a business-level connection would offer faster speeds. Jamie Kavanagh, a contributor for our friends at Broadband Genie, tells us why it may be worth investing in a business broadband connection.
Why a decent broadband connection is important for a business
A domestic internet connection simply isn’t good enough for most small businesses. With multiple employees, all requiring internet access, a standard home broadband line simply doesn’t have the bandwidth you need.
Instead, a suitable business broadband package, scaled to the requirements of your operation, is the answer. It’s as important to your business as recruiting the right staff, retaining a lawyer, and having a business plan.
With business broadband set up, you can rely on speed, increased bandwidth, and improve working practices and workflow.
Home broadband vs businesses broadband packages
It may not be immediately obvious that home and business broadband are different because they very often use the same technology. However, you’ll find several distinctions between the two, from the speed and bandwidth available to the billing, and even the hardware required.
Home broadband is really a plug-and-play experience. You sign up, get the router through the mail, plug it in, and start enjoying broadband internet around your home. Run into problems? Simply contact the Internet Service Provider (ISP) via phone or through the support page for assistance.
Business broadband, on the other hand, steps things up a bit. To start with, you can enjoy faster speeds and greater bandwidth. Customer service is geared towards offering around-the-clock support. Meanwhile, a standard domestic-style router isn’t enough for most businesses. Even small businesses need a router that supports more than 12 concurrent connections. If you have 12 people online in your office, you’re already maxing out the router. A business router is the solution.
Which broadband is right for my business?
Four different types of broadband are widely available for business use across the country. These are ADSL, FTTC, FTTP, and HFC (Virgin Media fibre). But which is more suitable to your business?
ADSL: Asymmetric digital subscriber lines relies wholly on copper cabling, from premises, to cabinet, to the local exchange. The slowest option, top speed for ADSL is typically around 20Mbps – not enough for most small businesses.
FTTC: Fibre-to-the-Cabinet is faster than ADSL, with high-speed internet running from the exchange to the cabinet in the street. From here, copper cabling connects to the business premises. Top speed is around 80Mbps.
FTTP: Fibre-to-the-Premises is faster still, with fibre cables running directly from the exchange to the business premises. FTTC can provide gigabit speeds (1Gbps+)…if you’re willing to pay for it.
Virgin Media fibre (HFC): businesses in Virgin Media-connected areas can benefit from Hybrid Fibre Coaxial, a line comprising copper and fibre cables. Top speed here is around 500Mbps, making it a good mid-point choice where available.
Your selection will depend on what is available to the location of your business.
Traffic prioritisation explained
Simply signing up to a new business broadband package isn’t enough in some cases. This is where traffic prioritisation comes into play.
The Openreach (BT line) network prioritises business traffic over domestic internet use. So, if there is a residential area near to your business premises, anyone boxsetting the latest Netflix shows won’t impact the speed and quality of your broadband. Traffic prioritisation makes sure of that, assuring your operation enjoys stable, reliable speeds day and night.
Do you need a static IP address?
Many businesses can run their internet account much like you might run domestic broadband. However, if you require dedicated VPN access to your business server, or plan to self-host your company website, then a static IP (Internet Protocol) address is a good idea.
Think of the IP address as your broadband connection’s postal address. With residential broadband, the IP address is dynamic, which means it can change. But with a static IP you get a permanently assigned address.
Static IP addresses are available for residential users, but these come at a premium. Business broadband users won’t need to pay extra – static IP addresses are part of the package.
While business broadband might come with some basic security, it is important to take steps to secure your connection. This means using anti-virus software on any internet-facing servers and computers, as well as securing your business router.
For small businesses, it might be tempting to rely on existing domestic security software. This can be particularly appealing for a business that has recently expanded from a much smaller operation. However, security software for businesses is usually scalable, typically paid for on a per-user basis. Software is designed to detect and protect a different class of threats, too, in addition to standard online risks.
With routers, it is worth having hardware configured to dispense with all default options. Hackers know (or can quickly research) what the default setup is for any wireless router or rack-mounted switch on the market. Specific configurations (including a hardware firewall and VPN) will help to secure your business network.
Customer and tech support benefits
Broadband providers understand how important your business is. They offer services at a higher price so that you might benefit from uptime guarantees and improved support – not to mention compensation when things go wrong.
The underlying aim of business broadband support is to retain your custom. Business broadband packages are more expensive than domestic subscriptions, so it makes sense for an ISP to retain as many accounts as possible. As such, you can expect good customer service on the phone, fast responses, and site visits from engineers. Their priority is to ensure your business broadband runs as expected.
One thing to avoid is signing up to domestic broadband. While it might appear cheaper, you won’t benefit from fast customer support, compensation for prolonged outages, and other advantages.