Broadband for business - the complete guide
Thursday 10th September 2020
Broadband is now regarded as important as gas or electricity at home, and businesses need to view it in the same way. Every business of every size and scope needs to be connected. Whether that's to answer customer queries online, answer emails, use VoIP to contact suppliers or maintain a web presence, if a business isn't online it may as well not exist.
It sounds melodramatic but it's true. Customers expect to be able to contact you in multiple ways, for emails to be answered quickly, for social media contact to be responded to promptly and to read about new products, news and business in a timely manner. All things that require you to be connected. Jamie Kavanagh, a contributor at Broadband Genie has provided this guide to weigh up the benefits for upgrading to a business package.
Home broadband vs businesses broadband package
For businesses that depend on being connected, there are several advantages of choosing a business broadband package over a home broadband contract. They may cost a little more but they also offer more. If you're a freelancer working from home, you may not need business broadband but if connectivity is an integral part of your business, you do.
Some of the benefits of businesses broadband over home broadband include:
· Traffic prioritisation - Business internet traffic is prioritised over residential. If your area is busy, your traffic will always be prioritised.
· Lower line contention - If your broadband uses the use BT Openreach network, you will be subject to contention. This is the measure of how many people use the internet at once. Contended lines can run slower at peak times. Business broadband customers experience much less contention.
· Static IP addresses - A standard broadband customer has a dynamic IP address, meaning it can change. Business customers can opt for a static IP address which can help when using cloud applications or running your own web applications.
· Customer and tech support benefits - Residential broadband will usually be supported during weekdays with limited out of hours and weekend cover. Business broadband usually has dedicated support that is often 24/7 and trained to a much higher standard.
· SLA, uptime guarantees, and compensation - Service Level Agreements are standards that outline how quickly a fault should be resolved and how quickly the provider should respond to complaints and issues. SLAs for home broadband are usually 'best endeavour' which means whenever they can reasonably fix the fault. Business customers get guarantees of restoration times, usually within 24 hours and can often qualify for compensation for faults that exceed those guarantees.
· Higher quality router - Some business broadband customers will also have use of a higher quality router from the provider. It will be faster, have more ports, more features such as VPNs and more robust security to keep your network secure.
Different types of business broadband
As broadband in Britain has evolved rather than just appeared, there are a range of broadband technologies available. Some have been around for years while others are much newer. Here is a brief outline of each type of broadband technology you may come across.
ADSL & ADSL2+
ADSL stands for Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line. ADSL2+ is the second generation ADSL. This is a legacy technology that has been around the longest. It uses copper telephone lines to deliver speeds up to 20Mbps, though the average is around 11Mbps. It is available most places in the UK but is slow compared to other connection types.
FTTC stands for Fibre To The Cabinet. This means the network is all fibre optic within the provider network until the green street cabinet near your property. It then switches to copper phone lines from there to your home. It is faster than ADSL by a significant margin but it still limited by that last copper connection.
FTTP stands for Fibre To The Premises and means you have fibre optic cables running into your property. This is many times faster than ADSL and can offer significant speed improvements over FTTC. FTTP is currently limited by its availability as it is mainly available in new developments or cities. BT Openreach and third party providers all offer FTTP fibre broadband. For more information read this guide to fibre broadband.
Virgin Media HFC fibre
Virgin Media uses a hybrid fibre and coaxial cables to provide a much faster connection. Coaxial replaces copper telephone lines from the street cabinet which can deliver speed improvements over ADSL or FTTC. It is currently limited to Virgin Media cable areas which is the only real downside.
Leased lines are dedicated business broadband connections. These are mainly suitable for larger organisations as they can be expensive. They are available in many areas and provide a dedicated line with guaranteed bandwidth. They offer faster speeds and secure connections but you do pay for those features!
4G and 5G mobile broadband is becoming a much more viable option for business. With some providers offering unlimited data and networks becoming faster and more reliable, it is an option if you cannot access any of the above broadband options. It may not be suitable if you depend entirely on being online but is useful in slow ADSL areas or as a fallback option.
Rural solutions for broadband
If you run a rural business, you won't need us to tell you there is still work to be done to provide true equality between our cities and countryside. That does not mean you're out of options though.
ADSL line bonding
ADSL line bonding is where multiple ADSL connections are joined together to provide a faster connection. This does require multiple phone lines, multiple line rentals and different modem hardware but can overcome the slow speed problem with existing technology.
Satellite broadband is another option for rural businesses. It uses a satellite dish connected to your modem and will beam your internet traffic into space and back to a receiving station. This is a two-way connection for receiving the same data. The benefit of satellite broadband is that it is available anywhere. The downside is that it includes very high latency due to the length of the journey, and is quite expensive.
Fixed Wireless Access
Fixed Wireless Access, FWA, is a relatively new broadband option for rural areas. It uses the same principle as a home wireless network but on a commercial scale. Providers set up a secure wireless network in a given area and you can use a wireless router to connect to it. The upside is that many more providers are offering FWA in rural areas but the advertised speeds are far from guaranteed.
Mobile broadband is a very viable option in rural areas with a good 4G signal. Mobile providers have invested heavily in providing rural locations with better mobile coverage. You can leverage that to access faster internet speeds using a 4G modem. Mobile broadband is susceptible to weather and can include data caps but is available anywhere with a decent signal.
Leased lines are also an option in rural areas, especially if a number of businesses can combine resources to pay for one. They are offered by multiple broadband providers and can overcome many of the speed limitations of other technologies. They use FTTP connections to deliver faster speeds but are expensive to install and to run.
Securing a business broadband connection
Once you have your business broadband up and running, there are a few practical suggestions for keeping it secure.
Use antivirus software on all computers
Both Windows and Mac computers should always have antivirus running at all times. Make sure the program starts automatically and updates automatically to provide maximum protection. Cloud 4 Sure highly recommends BitDefender GravityZone.
Ideally, every computer you use should have a software firewall and your router should have one too. Make sure you have both functioning and set to automatically run and update the same as antivirus. Larger businesses can use dedicated hardware firewalls like WatchGuard but these can prove too expensive for smaller organisations.
Securing the router
Routers are provided with default logins at the factory to allow any customer to access. Your first task when your router is set up is to log into it and change the default name and/or password. The login should be on a sticker on the router. Some routers allow you to change both username and password, some just the password.
Password protect WiFi
Your second task while you're logged into your router is to make sure any WiFi network you use has password protection. It should be configured to use WPA2 encryption and have a unique and difficult password to access it otherwise anyone will be able to log in and look around.
Limit network and internet access to employees
Some business broadband packages come with tools you can use to limit internet access. While it may sound draconian, this limiting of access is an essential protection. It stops employees accidentally downloading malware or visiting infected websites which can help keep your network safe.
Securely using the web and sharing data
Businesses are much more liable for data loss than home users and with GDPR now fully in force, you have to protect customer data at all times. That includes having data encrypted while on the move (using a VPN) and at rest using disk encryption. It includes training staff in the requirements of GDPR, safe internet use and data protection. It also includes having clear, accessible policies on all areas of internet use.