Bandwidth blues: is a leased line the answer?

These days, an Internet connection is essential for even the smallest business: no one would argue with that. But in focusing on basic connectivity and cost, are businesses missing a trick? Could a leased line serve their needs better?

That might come as a surprise. These days, klutzy dial-up connections are a thing of the past. As consumers, we’re all familiar with ADSL broadband in our homes, and most businesses elect for broadband packages offering the superior ADSL2+ broadband connection, which is three to four times faster.

Put another way, aren’t download speeds of up to 24Mbps and upload speeds of 1.3Mbps good enough for most typical businesses?

The answer is ‘no’—and for several reasons.

Basic broadband for business

For one thing, ADSL2+ connectivity is still copper-based connectivity: a copper telephone line connects your business to the telephone exchange. You might get speeds of 24Mbps, but if you’re any distance from the exchange you’ll probably get a lot less.

For another, copper-based ADSL2+ connectivity can be very, very unreliable, with broadband frequently ‘dipping out’ for short periods. For users, this can be extremely frustrating, and means that they experience lots of short delays.

Bandwidth is another problem. As consumers, we all know the challenges of having too many people in the household wanting to stream movies or music at the same time: our connection slows down. Businesses have the same problem, on a bigger scale—the greater the number of employees and computer systems accessing the internet, the greater the bandwidth challenge.

And let’s face it, these days it’s not difficult to make heavy use of the internet. Think video-conferencing, Office 365, Dropbox, and cloud-based backup systems for starters. On-line payments systems, VoIP telephone calls, and e-commerce systems add to the challenge.

Taken together, the result of all that bandwidth contention is lost productivity. Research published by Censuswide in November 2019, for instance, found that 85% of smaller businesses reported their productivity being impacted by unreliable internet connections. A short delay here, a short delay there—it pretty soon adds up to minutes, then hours, then days.

Faster with fibre—if you can get it

Fibre-based broadband, based on light-transmitting fibre-optic cables, is a huge step forward. It gets rid of the copper wire connection, replacing it with fibre-optic cable.

Well, that’s the idea. In practice, many businesses can only get what’s called FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) broadband, where the fibre-optic connection goes as far as the nearest telephone cabinet—those green boxes as the side of the road—and then copper takes over for the final few hundred metres or so.

It’s a lot faster than copper-based ADSL2+, to be sure: download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of 20Mbps are possible. The trouble is, it’s not available everywhere. Many businesses can’t get it at all, although availability is getting better.

And even less widely available is a ‘pure’ fibre connection, FTTP (fibre to the premises), where a single fibre-optic cable goes all the way from the telephone exchange to your business. Replacing those few hundred metres of copper wire makes a huge difference: users typically experience fairly consistent speeds of up to 330Mbps download and 30Mbps upload.

Bandwidth bottlenecks

So what to do if an ADSL2+ connection is too underpowered for your business, and you can’t get a fibre-based FTTC connection?

Or what to do if you have been lucky enough to get an FTTC connection, but find that it isn’t giving you the bandwidth you need, being throttled back by that final few hundred metres of copper?

And what to do if the nature of your business involves dealing with massive amounts of data—large files, videos, design blueprints, presentations and the like? On top of things like video-conferencing and everything else?

In my experience, all of these scenarios are surprisingly common. And the direction of travel in business technology is only going in one direction. Microsoft Teams, Microsoft 365, cloud backup, e-commerce systems and cloud-based CRM systems: these aren’t going away.


Leased lines to the rescue

A common misunderstanding is that businesses need to progress through these various connectivity technologies, experiencing bottlenecks and bandwidth contention at each stage before moving on to the next technology in line.

Not so. A growing number of businesses are seeing the writing on the wall, and short-circuiting all of that frustration by simply electing to go straight for what is currently the best option on the market: an Ethernet leased line, straight to the business from the nearest Point of Presence, which can be up to 35km away.

So far, we’ve been talking of internet speeds measured in Mbps. Leased lines take businesses into gigabit territory—an order of magnitude faster. And far more resilient, with dual circuits along diverged paths, and automatic failover between circuits.

It’s more costly, yes. But the costs are coming down dramatically. And many businesses are finding that for speeds of up to 10Gbps, the price is worth paying for.

Expert advice

The first thing to say is that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution to all this. If the internet—and fast, reliable, high-bandwidth internet connectivity—is important to your business, it’s important to seek expert advice.

At Aspire we offer a wide range of connectivity solutions, and our team of experts can help you to identify which would be the right option for your business.

We won’t blind you with jargon, or baffle you with acronyms. We’re business people too, and will tell you what’s best for you in business-friendly language—so that you can make the best choice for your business, and best choice for your budget.

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Avatar photoChris Ellaby

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