Keeping your business connected via a reliable, efficient internet service is deemed to be absolutely key in this digital age and highly competitive marketplace. But is it really worth investing in superfast broadband? Will a quicker connection actually help your company make a profit? How can you work out exactly what your business needs from its internet service? How can you ensure you are making the most of all the features associated with your broadband?
This may seem like a strange place to start - and you may already be clear on the answer - but there is method in our madness: not every business needs extensive WiFi connectivity, but most businesses need a reliable broadband connection.
So, to set the record straight, broadband is a type of high-speed internet connection that is never switched off, can be accessed at any time, and is transmitted along phone (or fibre-optic lines) including 3G/4G (known as mobile broadband). Broadband packages come in all shapes and sizes. WiFi is a technology that uses radio waves (which connect devices to frequencies) to provide wireless network connectivity in the vicinity of a wireless router.
If you have a broadband connection, you can use a wireless router to make this accessible (within a certain area) to devices via a WiFi frequency/connection. In doing so, you may experience variations in speed depending on the number of devices connected, the frequency that the router is set up on, how far you are from the router etc. You can also link devices - a computer or a TV, for instance - to your broadband connection via an Ethernet cable. This typically delivers a more reliable, consistent speed and service than via WiFi.
Unlike the majority of broadband connections, which use telephone lines, the fastest broadband connections are actually serviced via a cable such as a fibre-optic. These are made from glass and plastic, which is said to help data to move more quickly than traditional copper lines.
The material the line is made from is the only significant difference between standard broadband connections, and those that offer higher speeds.
There are loads of different broadband providers - and sometimes if you’re in a serviced office space you don’t pick your provider, just your package - all promising different speeds. But what can you actually expect?
In order to be classed as ‘super-fast broadband’ a connection needs to be at least 24Mbps according to Ofcom. Some providers can deliver speeds in excess of 900Mbps, although that is quite rare - a maximum of 150Mbps is what the most web-hungry businesses will require.
Typically, the quicker the connection speed, the more expensive the package, although you still need to check that you can actually hit those speeds in your area, as we outline below.
Below are some examples of the download times you can expect for different documents and files based upon a range of broadband speeds:
|Estimated Download Speeds for Different Files Across the Web|
|10 Word Documents||15||0.9s||0.6s||0.2s||0.1s||0.1s|
|10 PDF Documents||20||1.3s||0.8s||0.3s||0.2s||0.1s|
|10 Powerpoint Presentations||30||1.9s||1.3s||0.5s||0.2s||0.2s|
|5 Music Albums||500||31.3s||20.8s||7.8s||3.9s||3.3s|
|1 Film (HD)||1500||93.8s||62.5s||23.4s||11.7s||10.0s|
The table above assumes that there is only one download occurring at a time from your broadband connection – it’s worth bearing in mind that your business will likely be making more than one connection at once.
Exactly what speed you can get does tend to depend on your area. Speed is reliant on the quality of wiring and distance from the exchange - in most cities or built up areas, you can realistically expect to hit that 24Mpbs mark though. You can check broadband speeds in your area via https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/postcode_checker/
Figures published by www.thinkbroadband.com confirmed that more than 19 out of 20 UK homes and businesses now have access to internet connections with ‘superfast’ speeds of 24 Mbps or more. This was particularly impactful in rural areas, where an effort to close the ‘digital divide’ has been most evident.
There is a new pledge too, to make high speed broadband a legal right to everyone by 2020.
In the meantime, anyone that still falls into the unfortunate 5% who have sub-24 Mbps speeds may be able to boost their broadband speed by upgrading a ADSL line to a ADSL2+ line.
ADSL2 or ADSL2+ can be a good option in the absence of fibre broadband services in your area, where copper wires can be made more efficient to give as much as four times as much bandwidth as you’d receive with a basic ADSL line. This is commonly offered by business network providers in non-fibre broadband areas – it can be a good idea to ask if it’s available before you commit to a package to boost your broadband speed.
It’s no secret that superfast broadband helps us to surf the web, download, and stream more efficiently.
A 2013 Government report suggested that for every £1 invested in broadband, the UK economy is benefiting by £20. But how exactly does this translate into a day-to-day business environment?
Well, if you’re a Skype user, a superfast connection will reduce dropped calls, provide clearer video and sound, and offer less delay or ‘lag’. If you regularly hold meetings this way, then these efficiency and reliability benefits are clear. If you don’t, then having this improved connection could give you more trust to hold more communication online - thus reducing potential costs associated with physical face-to-face meetings, such as travel and employee time out of the office.
Another great benefit is increased flexibility to work remotely; with employees having access to company systems wherever they are (via cloud-based services for example). This can not only improve day-to-day efficiencies, but also save money, and reduce your carbon footprint.
A great connection will also make digital invoicing possible which in-turn can help with financial tracking and planning.
Overall, if you’re running a business, the last thing you need is to be forced to slow down or stop work altogether because your broadband just can’t keep up the pace. The technology - in this instance the fibre optic cables - behind superfast broadband are not impacted by interferences like copper cables, so your signal will remain stable.
What’s even better is that, as it stands, superfast broadband is now only slightly more expensive than regular broadband - so the increased efficiency alone typically justifies the cost; making it more than worthwhile.
While feedback about superfast broadband has typically been very positive, there are a few reported issues following migration; mostly that speeds are lower than expected. With Ofcom’s Code of Practice coming into play in on the 1st March 2019 the issue of expectation not matching reality should so no longer be a problem that businesses face.
Some other user-issues associated with broadband - fluctuating speeds, range - are often due to connectivity via WiFi rather than an Ethernet cable. At the beginning of this guide we asked if you understood the difference between broadband and WiFi - well this is when it really comes into play. Essentially, you may not be getting the most from your broadband because you’re always trying to access it via WiFi. The reality is that the higher your broadband speed, the more challenging it is to deliver a consistent WiFi connection to multiple devices. So, how can you get around this?
So, we’ve talked about how it works, the pros and cons, and how widely available it is, but you may still be questioning if YOUR business actually needs superfast broadband.
Well, we can’t give you a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer either way really, as your individual needs will vary so much depending on how many people you have using your connection, what they use it for etc.
However, if your business relies on the internet day-to-day, you are downloading large quantities of data, streaming videos or hosting documents online then a fibre optic connection would make sense.
But, if you only occasionally use the internet for emails and the odd bit of online browsing, then a fibre optic connection could just end up being an unnecessary expense for you.
Before you invest, sit down with your team and pull together a list of all the things you use the internet for daily, rank these by importance, and then review this against the broadband benefits to see if you’ll actually use them.
So, you’re all set up and you’re using your internet for day-to-day tasks, but what more is there that you can make use of? Well, if you think a router’s only job is to connect you to the world wide web, then you’re potentially missing out on a lot.
A lot of these features apply to wireless routers specifically so run over a WiFi frequency. We’ve listed just a few of the features that we think most businesses would find useful:
Wireless security is really important, but we often forget to give it much attention. Did you know that not all encryption options are the same? Well, you’ve probably noticed on your router settings that there are WEP, WPA, and WPA-2 security options. WEP is the weakest of them all while WPA-2 is the strongest (but slower and more resource intensive than WPA). In brief, play around with WPA or WPA-2 on your network to see which one works best for you. Keep tabs on your router’s security too - checking you recognise all connected devices.
Quality of Service
Quality of Service allows you to prioritise certain ‘data packets’ (aka internet activity/sites/tools) over others. This is useful if you have a lot of people connected to your broadband doing things like streaming video, and you have something really important to , such as holding a meeting via Skype, and are worried that the connection won't be as good as you’d like/need on your device.
With Quality of Service, you can essentially grant greater bandwidth priority to your device or activity - so your internet requests are put at the front of the queue.
When office guests drop in and ask to use your Internet, do you just hand out your router password to them? If so, you’d better hope they’re very trustworthy because you’re letting them connect directly to the router and to all other devices connected to that router as well. Don’t panic though - there is a safer and easier alternative.
Guest Access is a feature that lets you control connections to your router, in a guest capacity. Guest users will have internet access, but not access to other devices on the network.
The majority of devices that will connect to the internet will be using a dynamic IP address (i.e one that changes every time it connects). This is so IP addresses can be reused or allocated to large groups of people, solving the IP address scarcity problem. However, for businesses setting up an unchanging, static IP address is actually much better.
You’ll need a static IP if you want to…
If you’re interested in getting a static IP, you’ll need to ask your business broadband provider to set this up for you (some providers do charge extra for this service).
You may have heard about WiredScore, but not be 100% sure what it is. Well WiredScore is the organisation behind Wired Certification, which is an internationally recognized digital connectivity rating system for commercial buildings - such as offices - that helps landlords deliver great connectivity solutions for potential (and existing) tenants.
According to WiredScore, ‘in an increasingly tech-driven economy, connectivity is fast becoming the most critical requirement for tenants when selecting office space. The widely recognized Wired Certification seal is a trusted symbol that identifies buildings that have been independently certified to provide the best-in-class connectivity infrastructure that businesses require to thrive.’
WiredScore launched Wired Certification in 2013 in the US, and it is now linked with 1,400 building globally, a benchmark for best-in-class office connectivity.
You can find certified buildings near you via https://app.wiredscore.co.uk/public/map
We hope this business broadband guide has given you all the information you need, so you are now able to estimate your business broadband needs.
Finally, if you’re in the process of looking for office space that suits your business needs, search flexible workspace through Workthere here.
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