Business broadband: What businesses need to know

Businesses are often told that the only way to succeed is by embracing the newest, most innovative technologies. The Internet of Things, wearables, 3D printing, augmented reality, the list of disruptive technologies that will make or break your organisation is never-ending. However, it is often the less glamorous, but more fundamental technology, that actually determines everyday success. Business broadband, although hardly cutting-edge, is vital in the ‘always-on,’ connected world that we live in. No matter what industry you work in, broadband Internet connectivity is likely to underpin many of your daily tasks. Whether you need to stream video files, access cloud applications or simply look something up online, reliable and fast broadband is an essential part of any modern business.

The old ones are the best

It may seem strange to describe fixed-line broadband as old given that it only entered UK homes in 2000, but in technology terms those 16 years seem like a lifetime ago. That being said, businesses can’t afford to neglect their broadband infrastructure. Unreliable or slow Internet speeds can mean that employees struggle to access the work resources that they need, leaving customers with a poor level of service. According to a recent study carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, slow broadband speeds cost London businesses as much as £37 million each year. As well as falls in productivity, unreliable broadband can make your business uncontactable, which leads to longer term reputational damage.

In addition, as the amount of digital services in the workplace have increased, the importance of business broadband has also grown. In the past, many software packages were purchased outright and stored locally on each employee’s particular device, but the rise of cloud computing and smartphones means that your network infrastructure is under greater strain than ever before. Your broadband package must be able to handle all of your online business processes, which may encompass video conferencing, high data flows, unified communications and a huge number of devices. Poor quality broadband may not simply slow your business down, it could bring it to a standstill.

The government gets on board

Recognising the importance of broadband connectivity, the UK government launched a scheme between December 2013 and October 2015 to encourage the adoption of high-speed Internet. Supported by a £40 million fund, the Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme provided businesses with grants of up to £3,000 to cover the costs of installing faster and more reliable broadband. In excess of 55,000 SMEs took advantage of the scheme, with each business reporting a £1,300 increase in profits on average per year. For every four new broadband connections, a new job was also created, demonstrating how improved connectivity benefits the wider UK economy.

Although, the government voucher scheme has now ended, it has had a long term impact on the business broadband market. Many Internet service providers (ISPs) are now offering additional support to their business customers, such as free hardware and installation. In addition, the scheme is just a small part of wider government initiatives to make the UK a major player in the global Internet race. Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, has set aside £1 billion to achieve the following aims:

  • Provide superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017
  • Explore options to provide superfast coverage to the hardest to reach parts of the UK
  • Create 22 ‘SuperConnected Cities’ across the UK
  • Improve mobile coverage in remote areas by 2016

Evidently, the UK government realises that without reliable, fast business broadband, it is not just individual companies and consumers that will suffer, the country as a whole will be unable to compete on the global playing field and the economy will suffer as a result.

Business broadband exclusives

Although they will not be useful for all companies there are a number of features exclusive to business broadband that are worth keeping in mind. Whether or not businesses have access to these will depend on their particular ISP and broadband package, but some common features include:

Static IP

Unlike the dynamic IP address used by home broadband connections, many business packages will offer companies a static IP address. This means that even when they disconnect from the network, their IP address will remain the same, making it much easier for external devices to locate it. This is crucial for organisations that wish to manage their own website, servers or virtual private networks (VPNs).

Faster speeds

Many ISPs recognise that being able to work at pace is essential for companies to remain productive and so often deliver faster speeds to their business customers. Internet providers may also give businesses data priority, which means that, unlike home customers, their speed will not drop during peak periods of activity. Business broadband is also likely to feature higher upload speeds, in particular, due to the fact that companies are more likely to conduct large file transfers than home users.

Reliability

Businesses should check their ISP’s service level agreement, before signing up to their broadband service. Internet outage can prove hugely costly and an unexpected disruption is the last thing that your company needs.

Customer support

When it comes to customer support, you may find that once again, businesses take priority. A dedicated team is likely to be on hand should a problem arise – and this is entirely understandable. An Internet disruption could cost a business millions of pounds if left uncorrected, and this bill is likely to be passed onto the ISP if the fault lies with them

Make broadband a priority

Even with all the other technological considerations facing businesses, broadband connectivity should remain high on their list of priorities. Think of your business broadband as the foundation underpinning all of your other operations. It’s all well and good having the latest suite of cloud services, tablets for every employee and a smart TV in the boardroom, but without a reliable broadband connection, there’s not much you’re going to be able to use them for.

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