As broadband speeds increase, the price of leased lines has decreased. As a result, leased lines are now becoming a more accessible and affordable way for businesses to gain connectivity.
In short, a leased line is a permanent network connection between two points, typically being the local telephone exchange (also known as the PoP – the Internet Service Providers Point of Presence) and a company’s premises. They are commonly described as an ‘uncontended service’, meaning that the connection is completely dedicated to you.
However, just because the price has fallen, they’re still slightly more expensive compared to other forms of connectivity. Whether or not your business chooses to opt for leased lines really does depend on three main factors:
Users: Start by counting how many employees will need to access your company’s network (i.e. email or shared documents/storage). A leased line is usually recommended for organisations with 20+ users in order to give them an improved user experience.
Internet Usage: If your user count is below 20, a leased line may still be a good idea if your internet usage is high. If this doesn’t stretch to more than general internet browsing, sending emails or uploading images, then it’s likely a fibre broadband would be a suitable option. Leased lines would be fit for purpose if you use high bandwidth applications such as video conferencing or have employees accessing your network from various locations, i.e. remote workers or multiple offices.
Back-up Plan: Finally, it’s worth asking yourself what would happen to your business if the internet connection was to fail. If your business would lose money, it’s highly recommended that you opt for a leased line as it should come with Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Service Level Guarantees (SLGs). Other connections such as ADSL do not come with these and as a result, leased line problems are usually fixed quicker than ADSL ones.
The last factor you should look into before opting for a leased line is price. As mentioned previously, the cost of having a leased line isn’t as expensive as it once was; this has been driven by increasing availability of FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet). Therefore, if you had a leased line 3-5 years ago, it’s worth checking the current price for a comparison. The cost of a leased line is usually calculated using the following factors:
Location: If you have multiple sites using the same provider at each may prove more expensive as the price is driven by the distance the provider is from their building. So, the same provider might be near to one and further away from another.
Competition: With the growth of dark fibre there are many new providers, especially in city centres, so it is worth talking to a supplier that works with a wide range of potential networks to ensure the best search of the market takes place. In rural locations there will be fewer suppliers and possibly less competitive rates.
Bandwidth: Of course, the more bandwidth you require the higher the cost. Some suppliers will have deals on certain speeds so it’s worth asking for a variation of speeds on your quotation.
Technology: Leased lines would traditionally be provided using fibre optical cable, however there are new technologies which are changing this. EFM (Ethernet in the First Mile) and GEA (General Ethernet Access) are newer options which provide the same service at a smaller cost.
Once you’ve addressed these points, next look at the overall advantages of opting for a leased line in comparison to other broadband connections. Here are some examples:
Leased lines offer far higher speeds; they can be bought at speeds of 10Mbps, 100Mbps, 1000Mbps or even 10,000Mbps. Other connectivity options such as ADSL simply can't compete with that. For example, ADSL is advertised as being 'Up to 8Mbps'. ADSL2+ is advertised as being 'Up to 20' or Up to 24Mbps'. However, these speeds are only available if you live very close to your local telephone exchange. The speeds available to you drop dramatically the further you are from the exchange.
No Slow-Down at Peak Times
Rather than being an uncontended service, ADSL is usually a 'contended service'. In other words, the bandwidth from your local exchange to your ISP is promised to 20+ customers. As long as only a few customers use their connections at once, this over-selling can go unnoticed. Unfortunately, at peak times when many customers are surfing the web, this lack of backhaul capacity causes your Internet connection to slow down. Leased lines, in contrast, are dedicated to you. If you have a 10Mbps connection, there's dedicated bandwidth from you to your ISP. There's no need for you to fight other customers to get a share of that 10Mb of backhaul.
Many people think they have a 4Mbps connection or a 6Mbps connection. However, that's just the download speed. The upstream speed is usually much less, on average it's just 800kbps. If all you're doing is surfing the web, this doesn't matter. However, businesses often find this limited amount of upstream bandwidth to be inadequate for their needs. This is particularly true if they want to use online backup, transfer files via FTP, or let staff connect to their work PCs from home using Remote-Desktop-Protocol. Leased lines are symmetric, so they offer a much faster upload speed.
Some broadband connections run over a standard copper phone line. After leaving your office, your phone line ends up in a bundle of other phone lines that are going to the same telephone exchange. Unfortunately, the transmissions in these other phone lines can induce currents in your one, causing transmission errors on your connection. Leased lines are more reliable as they use fibre-optic cable, which doesn't suffer from this type of electrical interference. Secondly, they come with higher-grade more-expensive hardware, which is more reliable.
After deciding to go for leased lines you will need to choose your supplier and there are a few key points to consider whilst you shop around:
Protection: As previously mentioned, bespoke SLA’s for your business are a real selling point when it comes to leased lines. Ensure you’re receiving this service when signing up.
Contention: All good leased line providers should be able to provide you with an uncontended service and be able to put this in writing for you. Always check this before signing with a supplier.
Ability: By going direct to an Internet Service Provider for a quote you’ll only be provided with one rate. It’s worth going to an independent telecoms supplier who can look around for you and find you the best quote from a variety of suppliers. When doing this it’s important to check that the supplier will be able to resolve any issues should they arise.
Leased lines can provide an unbeatable level of internet connectivity, although it may not always be necessary for your business. As is the same with any kind of IT or telecoms product, always ensure the solution is bespoke to your business. Any good telecommunications supplier should put your business and its needs first when recommending a broadband connection, but it’s always handy to know the basic facts.
Nolan Braterman, Business Development Director at Frontier Voice and Data
Image Credit: Nanantachoke / Shutterstock