How to get the best business broadband deal
It’s extremely rare for a business to be totally offline (let’s face it you wouldn’t be reading this if you were!) and if you’re in business you’re probably highly reliant on your broadband connection. But when was the last time you really considered what connection you’ve got, what you’re getting from your provider and whether you’re paying over the odds?
With business broadband price is always going to be a big consideration but reliability, speed and support are at least as important as the cost, if not even more so. After all, there is no point having the lowest priced service if the connection is slow or keeps dropping out and you can’t get hold of anyone to fix it.
What’s the difference between home and business broadband?
One question we often get asked is, apart from price, what are the main differences between the broadband you have for your business and the broadband you have at home.
The first differentiator is speed and the way that is described. With a home broadband connection you’ll have seen advertised speeds of ‘up to’ but with business broadband you should be guaranteed a set speed.
So standard ADSL Broadband, which comes through the telephone line will be ‘up to’ 17Mb – but you’ll get less than this as this type of connection is not very efficient.
Your business contract will generally give you a confirmed speed, a minimum rather than maximum upload and download speed which will probably be a faster connection than offered on a home broadband package. In addition you’ll experience a lower ‘Contention Ratio’: simply speaking you’ll have fewer people sharing your connection. On a home network there may be as many as 50 users sharing the server at one time, which equals a contention ration of 50:1. Business broadband may only accommodate 20 on the same server (20:1) and a lower contention ratio means a faster connection.
A further main difference you’re likely to encounter is the use of static IP addresses. An Internet Protocol (IP) Address is a unique identifying number that identifies a piece of hardware e.g. a computer, printer etc. on a network. Similar to the way that your home or businesses address supplies that specific physical location with a unique, identifiable address, devices on a network are differentiated from one another through IP addresses.
Generally, a home broadband package would come with a dynamic IP address, so your IP address constantly changes. As not every piece of hardware is in use all of the time dynamic IP means that you are allocated the next available IP address. This stops us running out of available IP addresses by rotating them.
A static IP is, as the name suggests, an IP that never changes. A static IP might be needed if you maintain your own webserver or other Internet servers, such as an email server, that requires users to connect from the Internet. You’ll also benefit from a static IP if you have external devices or services that must connect to your network via an IP address rather than by name or you use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or another service to remotely connect to computers in your business.
As a static IP address requires additional security business broadband will also have enhanced security provided by the Internet Service Provider and this should be far more comprehensive than any package supplied with a consumer deal.
You can also expect a much better level of support. Obviously, if something goes wrong it can be very costly rather than just meaning Netflix is buffering! With consumer broadband, the support is often fairly basic whereas a business provider will give you access to a specialist support centre and engineers. A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is also common. This commits the provider to fixing problems within a specified time frame, with a partial or full refund possible if they do not deliver.
You should also receive a better quality router and you might well get email and website hosting thrown in.
Reviewing your current arrangements
Firstly, don’t just renew! Much as with gas and electricity customer apathy can be costly, spending just a little time can get you some great savings and a better service.
The first thing to check would be the length of your contract. Deals are often 24 months or more so ensure that you know when your deal ends and that you’ve scheduled some time in your diary about 3 months before to look at the options.
Speed is likely to be a consideration so you’ll need to know what you’ve already got. Firstly, check your agreement as it should tell you what you’re getting, however it’s also worth running a speed checker to check you’re getting what you’ve been promised. There are several reputable checkers including ones from Which and Uswitch, however we like Broadband Speed Checker as it’s so simple to use.
When you’re using a speed checker try and ensure that you’re plugged into the router rather than using a wireless connection in order to ensure as accurate a result as possible.
The easiest way to find out if you have a static IP address is to ask your current provider however you can use the command prompt to find out if you’re a reasonably confident computer user.
Any other information should be included in your contract or agreement. This will include support and security arrangements. If you can’t find the original agreement ask your ISP.
Sourcing your new deal
Once you know what you’ve got you need to decide what exactly you want and this means looking at the different available features and prioritising the ones that are business critical.
Generally, faster is better however whilst superfast 100mbs broadband sounds great if your activity stretches to the odd email and reading a superbly informative Your IT blog at lunch then save yourself some money!
Below is a graphic from Which? that gives an idea of the differences in speed when it comes to downloading.
It may also not be quite as simple as paying more for a faster speed. Although fibre connections are more prevalent they may still not be available in your area which will restrict the speed you can get.
As well as speed there are the other considerations we’ve already mentioned.
Do you need the aforementioned static IP addresses? They tend to command a price premium but vital if you want to access your computer remotely, run a website, or host any kind of server.
What about security? If you’ve got a security package already do you need something provided by the ISP? You might end up paying twice!
Support should also be considered. BT, for example, is a big company but the service they provide is often criticised. Would a smaller reseller suit better? Maybe they don’t offer 24/7 support but if you’re a 9-5, Monday to Friday type of business then this really doesn’t matter.
As with any business decision, it’s difficult to provide any blanket advice. The solution needs to fit specifically to the needs of your business and we’d recommend talking to your IT Support Provider, most will offer their own solution but should only recommend it if is the best solution and/or can save you money.
There are also comparison websites you can use which list prices and features. Most the big players in the comparison market include business broadband amongst their products so have a look at Go Compare, USwitch and Confused.com but also have a look at other options such a more specialist broadband comparison sites such as Broadband Choices and Broadband Genie.
Take your time, ensure you know exactly what you need (and what you don’t) and you should be able to secure a great deal.
Your IT Department provides flexible, affordable broadband solutions for businesses of any size. For a free, no-obligation conversation about the solutions that we offer please give us a call on 0115 7980704 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be delighted to meet with you.
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