The last decade has seen an ever-increasing number of business applications, tools and services being accessed online via cloud computing. As a result, your business is likely to be more dependent than ever on a fast internet connection.
As a matter of fact, 83% of businesses identify communication services to be critical to their business. However, surprisingly for a fundamental component of their business, many businesses use a standard residential connection to save money and as a result, not necessarily choosing the right internet connection for their business.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) highlighted that lack of broadband access reduces productivity, stifles innovation and restricts the ability of British firms to grow and compete in global markets.https://www.fsb.org.uk/resource-report/lost-connection-how-poor-broadband-and-mobile-connectivity-hinders-small-firms.html
So, how can you get the right broadband internet service for your business? How big should your business become before you decide to buy a business internet? Likewise, what speed do you need—and how much does it cost? This guide will tell you what to look for to make the most of your investment.
Do I need business internet?
A residential connection may work perfectly for a home-based eBay store. But if you just get a few emails a day, splashing out on a super-fast 1Gbps fibre internet connection is unnecessary. However, a full-service company with a number of clients is likely to require a more scalable and reliable business internet broadband setup.
The key questions you should be asking are:
- How many users will be in the office?
- Do you want to provide free Wi-Fi to your visitors?
- What sort of applications will your users be using the connection for?
- How much down-time can you afford? If you were without a broadband connection for a day, how would this affect your business? What about a week?
Answers to the above questions will as a result help you determine if your company is ready for business internet. Most importantly, it will help you narrow down the type of packages suitable for your business.
Most businesses decide to move to business broadband due to reliability and speed. That is to say, the need for an increase amount of support and service and higher bandwidth and speed requirements usually offered by business internet packages.
Several benefits exist from having a business internet package and may certainly well be worth the extra advanced services on offer.
Read on to see what how your business can leverage the benefits of a business internet package.
26% of businesses lost sales due to broadband connection issueshttps://www.fsb.org.uk/resource-report/lost-connection-how-poor-broadband-and-mobile-connectivity-hinders-small-firms.html
What can my business gain from business broadband?
The way we interact with the internet has evolved. For instance, we used to be concerned about how fast a movie would download or how quickly could we load a website. Moreover, these activities predominately relied on a decent download speed to provide acceptable performance. However, with an increase in cloud computing the need to store files online has increased, making upload speeds vital too.
Most importantly for businesses, the majority of business essential software will certainly require a decent upload and download speed for adequate performance of certain features. In general, faster upload speeds means it’s easier to access work documents, upload files, synchronise data. Consequently, a business internet package will help guarantee you are not slowed down, providing decent upload and download speeds.
Advanced customer support
Certainly any business relying on an internet connection can ill afford internet connectivity issues. As such, internet service providers understand interruptions for businesses are far more critical than for families and individuals. Consequently, with business internet, you can expect advanced and prioritised support, less hold time, and faster repairs.
Static IP address
Most home based broadband packages have a dynamic IP address. A non-permanent addrees which changes whenever you connect to your router. However, most business broadband packages offer a static IP, which is always fixed (an IP address is a numerical identifier for your computer). Having a static IP is crucial for running a website, hosting VPN connections, setting up remote PC desktop access or CCTV for example.
When you’re dealing with critical, or even business confidential data, or using a static IP, online security is vital. Certainly most business broadband providers recognise this and will provide software to protect your business from hacking, malware, viruses and phishing.
Web & email
Business broadband providers will for example include web hosting, email addresses and domain names as part of their packages and service. Whilst this is usually enough for a basic web presence with your own company-branded email address, it will not be sufficient to run a full online business for example, and you may need to factor this into your package selection.
Better contention ratio
The contention ratio describes number of users sharing the same data capacity. Therefore, the lower the contention ratio the higher the quality of service. As such, 50:1 contention ratio means that up to 50 broadband customers are sharing the same bandwidth at any one time.
Although the number is often not widely advertised, for consumer broadband it is often between 20:1 to 50:1. However, the contention ratio is much lower for business broadband, depending on how much you’re paying. Certainly anything under 5:1 is regarded as being good. Contention ratios can be high in many cases, so do check in further details before you decide on your business broadband provider.
Important factors to consider when choosing business broadband
The type of internet connection available in your area will often determine the pricing, speeds and add-on services that are available to your business.
Certainly when it comes to standard broadband almost all the best known providers use the same national network infrastructure, which covers 90% of UK.
As a result, the best way to find out what’s available in your area is to use a postcode checker. Ofcom’s broadband availability checker uses availability, coverage and speeds data, collated directly from all the major communications providers. Consequently, by entering a postcode, you can determine the availability of broadband and average download speeds in your area.
Note: If you are planning an office move you may want to check the availability in the new area. Moreover, if you check the postcode and you only have ADSL2, not fibre, at the new location, this could significantly impact your internet connectivity speed.
Business internet packages typically come in one-to-two year contracts. It’s therefore certainly important to consider whether this timeline works for you and your business.
You will need to consider your business’ current needs in additon to future needs. For instance, will you pay extra fees if you need to upgrade your plan before the contract ends? Is the contract cancelled if the ISP doesn’t keep the promises outlined in the SLAs? Or are you planning on relocating your business to larger premises or a new location anytime soon?
One of the primary reason business’ make the switch to a business broadband package is reliability. There’s nothing worse than your business internet going down and seeing your employees productivity subsequently plummet as they try to complete their tasks with pen and paper.
As a result, it is advisable to ask about the business internet service provider’s average yearly downtime. Most internet service providers will state their uptime is close to 100% (99.999%), but it may certainly be worthwhile seeking to understand how your selected internet service provider has faired in your area in the last 12 months.
Moreover, most downtimes are covered in your SLAs with the internet service provider – certainly make sure your check this is the case — especially if as a result of no internet your business is detrimentally impacted.
Business’ may be apprehensive switching to a business broadband service, believing cost is a prohibiting factor. However, business internet packages start from as little as £14.49 a month ranging to over £500.
The price you pay will obviously depend on the type of connection (ADSL, cable or fibre), special features (like a dedicated line), and what speed you opt for. Therefore, we suggest you take some time to identify the amount of bandwidth your business will need, this will ensure you don’t end up paying for a speed you won’t fully utilise.
Moreover, if the offered by your business internet service provider, try to bundle your business internet with phone, VoIP or other services – this may be more cost effective. As a result, the cost per service will decrease and you will save time by having to deal with just one service provider.
If you intend to host servers within on your own premises, for example your business website or email, you will need to check with your business internet service provider to ensure they support this.
Certainly be wary of your business internet service providers’s small print – connection speeds can depend on the distance between your premises and the local exchange. In addition, the quoted speed is usually the average speed taken at peak hours and must be attained by at least 50% of their customers.
Moreover, business broadband ISPs often offer extra options, such as email addresses or advanced technical support. Whilst this can seem like a cost saving, certainly carefully consider the reliance on one provider. If one business ISP supplies your phone and internet, a problem with their network could severely hamper your business communications as a result.
Does my business need Wi-Fi?
Certainly the benefits of a Wi-Fi network outweigh the cost virtually every time. However, price and complexity can be a factor that makes business owners hesitate. Wi-Fi is beneficial for both your staff and your customers. To learn more about the benefits this can bring to your business, read our guide Why your business should have free guest Wi-Fi for Customers.
A business where customers need to wait, for example a salon or mechnics, will certainly gain from offering public Wi-Fi. Consequently, public Wi-Fi not only enhances your business’ customer service, but it can also improve employee productivity.
However, it’s important to note that offering free Wi-Fi does come with a security overhead. Most importantly, you certainly need to identify a clear-cut security policy with the appropriate level of protocols established and at the very least, ensure that WPA2-level security is enabled. To learn more about Wi-Fi security, read 10 Tips to improve your WiFi Security.
Slow internet can impact your business and your business’ productivity could subsequently decline without sufficient bandwidth. In fact, an employee can lose a week’s worth of time per year due to slow internet.
How is internet speed measured?
Internet speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). This is essentially a measure of the amount of data which can be downloaded or uploaded in one second. Consequently, the greater the megabits per second, the faster your internet is.
Be wary as this covers all of your network – so, for example, if two people are downloading documents concurrently, the download speed is shared between them. If, for example, many people – or systems and applications – will be sharing the bandwidth you will need a fast internet connection. ADSL speeds typically fall within the 8-24 Mbps range whereas the top-end fibre connections offer speeds up to 1Gbps.
Speed – The rate at that data is transmitted between two points over an internet connection. Modern high speed internet connections range between 25Mbps (megabits – 1 million bits) and 1Gbps (gigabit – 1,000 megabits) per second.
Bandwidth – The maximum capacity of a connection to carry internet data. Business Broadband providers often use speed to market available business internet packages, however, what they’re actually refering to is bandwidth, e.g. a 50Mbps plan has the capacity to deliver data at 50 megabits per second. Note, you may not experience the advertised speed regularly.
What is the average internet speed in the UK ?
The United Kingdom ranks 34th fastest in the world for average internet speed. The annual 2019 world speeds report reveals that for 2019 the UK delivered an average broadband ISP download speed of 22.37Mbps (compared to 18.57Mbps in 2018 and 16.51Mbps in 2017).
Download speed vs. upload speed
Download speed refers to the rate data is transferred from the internet to your computer. Consequently, nearly all internet activities need download speed. Moreover the amount of data downloaded will vary between activities, with some activities using more bandwidth than others. As a result, you should consider your employee growth rate, as you will need faster download speed with every employee you add.
In contrast, upload speed refers to the rate that data is transferred from your computer to the internet. As a result, this speed is imperative to uploading large files without interrupting other services like video conferencing for instance. Most importantly, be wary of applications which may be “bandwidth hungry” such as online backups.
Download speeds are typically always faster than upload speeds. Above all, ensure to consider both download and upload speeds when choosing a business internet service provider and ask for both numbers or if symmetrical speeds are available.
Note: Running an internet speed test will help determine your current broadband internet upload and download speeds, and amount of latency in a computer network (a useful measure of the time that it takes for a packet of data to travel from your router to a remote server and then back again).
How much internet speed does my business need?
In short, if you’re trying to watch BBC iPlayer, whilst backing up your accounts package, streaming Spotify to the shop floor and facetiming with relatives abroad, you are certainly likely to experience a slow down if you’re internet speed is insufficient. In addition, if you have a number of internet users (employees or customers) you’re internet lag will be significantly increased.
Certainly your first step should be to determine how much internet speed your business needs is to consider how you and your employees use the internet. However not all activities are equal when it comes to the speeds needed, and some activities are more bandwidth intense than others.
Above all, as a business owner, choosing the right internet speed is certainly critical for tasks like downloading files quickly, fostering employee engagement and productivity, ensuring your systems are backed up online, and communicating with customers efficiently. The below table provides a summary of the types of activities that can be typically completed at the different levels of bandwidth.
|Number of Employees||Suggested Internet Speed (Download)||Capability|
|2 or less||5-10 Mbps||Web browsing, research, sharing small files, checking email|
|3 to 5||25 Mbps||Downloading large files, Wi-Fi, business communications|
|6 to 10||75 Mbps||Video streaming, remote work and collaboration, regular file sharing, numerous Point of Sale transactions|
|11 to 15||150 Mbps||E-Commerce, cloud computing, video conferencing, backing up data, web hosting|
|16 to 20||250 Mbps||Hosting a server, streaming and conferencing|
|21 to 30||500 Mbps||Hosting multiple servers, regular cloud based computing, scheduled online backups|
|30+||1 Gbps||Trouble-free operations large enterprise offices with minimal interruptions|
Other considerations when selecting business broadband
Business Voice (VoIP): VoIP services can be either bundled as part of a package or available as an add-on. Typically this includes a VoIP business line for incoming and outgoing calls.
Online Storage: Most ISPs will offer some form of online/cloud storage for your employees to store and share information. However, if you plan on storing your files online extensively, make sure you understand how much storage is exactly included.
Security: Some business broadband packages come with antivirus and anti-spam software to safeguard your PC when you’re online. Try to ascertain exactly what is included so that you can take appropriate measures to bridge any gaps in your cyber security.
Web hosting and e-mail addresses: In addition to online storage, some packages may offer web hosting to help you quickly and easily set up a website for your business. However, whilst this may sufficient to get your business online, you may need a more advanced web hosting service depending on your business requirements.
Note: Static IP addresses (also known as fixed IP addresses) are great for email management, CCTV systems, accessing a desktop remotely, or running servers for websites for example. However, they do increase the vulnerability from cyberattacks.
Since the IP address remains fixed, it’s easier for hackers to track and trace the computer to which it is assigned. Consequently, most ISPs will provide appropriate softrware to protect your business, but we suggest you ensure your internet security is in line with best practices for your industry.
What type of business internet connections are available?
The primary types of internet connections are ADSL, cable, fibre, satellite and wireless. However, not all of these options are available in every area. Fibre connections are still relatively new and therefore not always available in certain areas or buildings.
Here we explain the different types of internet connections available to businesses:
One of the most commonly available types of broadband, ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. ADSL is delivered through the copper wires of your phone line, connecting your business premises to the local telephone exchange. You may be able to save money by bundling the two services, for instance phone and internet connectivity. However, if your phone line goes down, so does your internet.
Two different types of ADSL technology are currently available in the UK – ADSL1 and ADSL2+. However, ADSL1 is capable of a maximum speed of about 8Mbit/s, whilst ADSL2+ a maximum speed of about 24Mbit/s.
However, the broadband speeds via both types of ADSL will vary considerably as ADSL is proximity sensitive. As a result, your speeds will be dependent on the distance between you and the local telephone exchange.
Cable networks use fibre optic and coaxial cables to deliver business broadband services – as well as TV and phone services – direct to your premises.
In cable networks, fibre is typically installed to a cabinet from which a coaxial cable connects to the business premises. Speeds of up 200 Mbps can be attained using cable broadband.
However, unlike ADSL, speeds are not lost with distance. Consequently, cable technology can deliver very fast broadband speeds and the fastest cable broadband packages offer speeds of ‘up to’ 152Mbit/s.
Fibre broadband speeds are faster than ADSL. Delivered via fibre optic cables which means as a result it won’t slow down over long distances or be affected by power lines and other electrical currents. Fibre typically offers symmetrical upload and download speeds and therefore easily one of the fastest and most reliable network types.
There are two types of fibre broadband – fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) and fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP):
Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC)
A fibre cable runs from the local telephone exchange to your local green street cabinet. Your business premises are connected to this cabinet via a standard copper telephone line. In the UK, many providers offer FTTC services.
Most fibre connections in the UK are FTTC and are typically advertised as offering speeds of ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s or 76Mbit/s.
Fibre to the premises (FTTP)
Faster than FTTC but currently only constitutes a minority of broadband connections. Consequently, in the UK, although it’s also available from some other companies, Virgin Media is the main provider of FTTP.
The fibre optic cables run directly to your business premises. FTTP is worth considering if it is an option in your area. However, whilst efforts are being made to increase the coverage offered by fibre, you may need to check as fibre isn’t available in all parts of the UK.
Fibre cables are capable of faster connections than copper. Consquently, FTTP connections tend to offer higher speeds. For example, FTTP broadband services can offer speeds of up to 1Gbit/s (i.e. 1,000Mbit/s).
The advantages of a fixed wireless broadband connection is that it is achieves connectivity to the business premises without the need for a physical wired connection. As a result, this is best suited to difficult to reach areas and buildings.
In most cases, a small dish is connected to the side of the building links to a local transmitter which is connected to the fibre network. The dish can be purchased outright or rented by the consumer. Fixed wireless can typically reach speeds of up to 50-60 Mbps.
A preferable alternative in rural areas where other types of connections aren’t available. Satellite broadband achieves connectivity to your business premises without the need for a physical (wired) connection.
As a result, since there is no reliance on pre-existing fixed infrastructure, satellite broadband is not limited by geography and availability. Typical speeds offered to UK consumers are currently around 22 Mbps.
However, the latency of satellite services may affect the performance of certain internet applications and satellite broadband is susceptible to weather and physical obstructions – which can consequently impact your speeds and uptime.
How to choose a business broadband service provider
So, what do you need to consider to ensure you select the best business broadband package and provider for your business?
Your business needs
Most importantly, first and foremost is your business needs. Above all, consider your business growth plans and trajectory both in terms of sales, range of services offered and staff. Will any of these change your internet requirements for instance?
For example, you may be planning to move to larger premises or offer guest Wi-Fi for waiting customers. In addition, you may wish to leverage the advantage of a faster internet connection to expand your product offering online by having a dedicated website.
As a result, these will all have a bearing on the type of connection you select.
Decide if you want a ‘capped’ service with some defined download limit, or an unlimited one. Certainly remember to check what upload speed a service offers and if you don’t need a fast service, you can pick based on price.
This may restrict your options, so once you’ve determined your business’ needs, be sure to check broadband availability by using a postcode checker.
Consider bundling. As previously mentioned, this tends to be more cost effective and is more efficient as it allows you to deal with a single provider.
For small to medium businesses, it may be worthwhile identifying broadband bundles with a phone line, however, line rental tends to be included but landline phone calls are an optional extra. Larger organisations may opt for bundling advanced services such as enhanced support and security.
Most importantly remember business ISPs quote prices without VAT. So, be mindful that the first price you see is not the final cost.
Once you’ve identified what offers are available in your area, you need to look at the remaining selection in finer detail.
Most importantly, to get the best internet connectivity for your business, decide what your priorities are and how much you are prepared to pay in terms of download and upload speed and technical support.
For instance, what level of service do they provide as standard, what are response times? Certainly take the time to read through the service level agreements (SLAs) carefully to understand what downtime is to be expected and does the provider provide any backup alternatives.
Smaller organisation may want to opt for a specialist internet service provider, which has an understanding of small businesses operations, and as a result may provide a more personalised and tailored service.
Business broadband checklist
Your internet connection is a critical asset for your business. Fast and reliable internet supports your business to be more productive, engage customers, and above all, maximize profits. In short, there’s a lot to think about when shopping for business broadband services, so here’s a summary.
- Identify your business’ needs – Firstly, and most importantly, consider your business growth plans and trajectory. Identify the type of internet dependent activities your business conducts and will conduct (people, systems/applications, customers) to determine the speed you need. Consider value add services, such as Wi-Fi and the need for advanced services such as advanced security or prioritised support.
- Find the service providers and internet connection types available near you – Secondly, determine and understand which business broadband providers operate in your location by checking broadband availability using a postcode checker.
- Save money by bundling – Thirdly, maximise potential savings by bundling additional services together with your business internet connection. Common bundles include phone lines, which could work out to be cheaper and more efficient for your business.
- Review provider service and performance – Finally, opting for a broadband provider with a good track record is essential. If your business needs responsive support or a limit on downtime periods, take the time to review the SLA carefully. Look for packages with an automatic backup service which allow you to maintain a internet connection in the event of complete failure of your broadband service.