If you are just starting out as a business, one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make early on is which broadband supplier you should choose. You might imagine that this would be quite easy – and might not matter that much in any case. Broadband is broadband after all, isn’t it?
Of course, it is not quite that simple. Even so, the temptation might be to select the option that gives you the best combination of speed at a relatively low price. In this case, you might be persuaded to opt for a consumer-oriented service that is designed to appeal to home users. This might be a good choice, but only if your needs really are very undemanding.
For most fledgling businesses – whether it’s a simple local service, such as window-cleaning or clothing repairs, or a business that’s going to be highly dependent on its broadband connection, such as a home delivery service, or online sales – it’s always going to be best to choose an option that is specifically designed for business use.Back to top
How business broadband differs from consumer services
Ask some suppliers about the difference between their business and consumer offerings and they may tell you there is no real difference. While this is true in one sense (broadband is broadband), in other respects, there are vast differences. Businesses’ connections – and especially the faster ones – will be provided in a way that will maximise performance and reliability throughout the day. And they will come with more additional options and services that are specifically designed for businesses.
For businesses, the availability and consistency of broadband is vital. With business broadband services, there will be less contention. What this means is that there will be fewer connections, i.e. fewer businesses trying to use the shared main line at the same time. All broadband services are ‘contended’ which means that a group of users within a close geographic location will share a central broadband line.
Unless you are located in a relatively new business park, you will almost certainly have a standard copper line that connects your premises to the green junction box that will be situated outside on the street somewhere (it usually won’t be far away if you look for it). This is your interface with the main national network. From this point on, all the broadband traffic will go down a fibre optic line. But, of course, there are only so many of those, and to make sure the network has enough capacity, these lines are shared.
Service providers can decide how many local connections they put onto each line. This is one of the main ways in which they can vary what they offer both in terms of potential speed and cost. Obviously, the more connections there are on each line, the most potential there is for congestion, or ‘contention’ as it’s called in the broadband world.
Basically, business services will have fewer shared connections and, therefore, less potential for contention and higher levels of guaranteed performance. This is also one of the main reasons they cost more; but most business services also offer a good deal more as well.Back to top
What business broadband services can offer
In addition to a good connection, speed and higher levels of assured performance and service, a business broadband service will usually offer you several added features and benefits. Many BT services, for example, come with a 4G backup connection that will take over should the main line become unavailable for some reason.
A Business VoIP option may also be available, offering you a simple way to access voice services and extend the value of your connection. It should be easy enough to expand this to several users.
Wi-Fi is also provided as part of most business broadband options. To ensure good Wi-Fi in the office, it is worth looking in detail at the router or hub that the service provider offers you with the business broadband package. If you want a really good signal for everyone across a fairly big area, you’ll need something quite powerful, and preferably something that supports the latest Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) standard. While this is not in widespread use right now, it will become more important over the next couple of years.
If you also want to offer secure Wi-Fi to guests and visitors, you’ll need a hub that is capable of supporting those additional connections.
Some business packages will also offer free Wi-Fi for use not only on your premises, but also when you are out and about. A number of BT services, for example, will give you the ability to connect for free to hundreds of hotspots located all around the UK.
Another benefit available with some business broadband services is that of a static IP address. This is really useful if you want to run virtual private networks (VPNs) for secure remote access (this is increasingly important for many businesses now) and if you want to make use of VoIP services.Back to top
Further considerations when selecting a business broadband service
Depending on how techie you are, you may want to consider the level of support and service you are likely to get from your supplier. Businesses tend to need immediate and high-quality fixes to problems because they heavily depend on their broadband connection. That’s not really the case with consumer services, so if you want to get a business-grade support service, you need a business-grade connection.
Another reason why a start-up business should select a business broadband service – and specifically one that has more capacity than you initially need – is that it will give you more options and scalability. If you are just starting out, then you will be hoping to grow within the next couple of years. Broadband contracts normally cover a period of 24 months, and some suppliers may offer the ability to upgrade within that timescale without incurring any additional cost.
Making sure that the broadband service will meet your capacity requirements over the contract period is important, because the last thing you’ll want is to have your growth potential limited by your broadband’s inability to scale-up and meet your needs.Back to top