Business broadband options for the small business
If you’re setting up your first office or launching a new venture, figuring out how to connect it to the outside world can be confusing. Knowing your FTTC from your EFM, MPLS from your IP takes more time and energy than you probably have to spare. That’s why we put the ‘business broadband options for the small business’ guide together.
Until network providers get around to connecting all of our homes and businesses to fibre, Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) is the next best thing in terms of connection speed and cost. All is not lost though, as a reliable Fibre To The Cabinet connection can seriously supercharge your business.
Newer buildings are installed with fibre as standard but if you’re in an older building, chances are you’re making do with copper for the last mile. Core networks may be running at light speed, but the last mile still has to make do with 18th century copper connections.
Nobody underestimates the cost of laying fibre optic cable to every office in the country but it doesn’t stop us wanting it. With business connectivity becoming a serious bottleneck in many parts of the country, negating its effects becomes a primary concern for the SMB. FTTC connections are as good as business broadband gets for now.
So what are the current options for a small enterprise wanting high-speed internet?
- Fibre To The Cabinet
- Ethernet First Mile
- Coaxial cable
- Leased lines
All have their benefits and drawbacks and not all of them are available in all locations.
Fibre To The Cabinet
FTTC connections are becoming quite common thanks to massive upgrade projects like 21CN from BT. The upgrade of networks to fibre is a long, expensive process than providers are performing steadily but slowly.
FTTC is often labelled business broadband or fibre broadband but uses the same basic technology. A fibre optic link to the street cabinet and then legacy copper pair to the building. This is common in older buildings, converted offices and more rural locations. Inner city and urban developments often receive FFTP (Fibre To The Property) if the network provider thinks it’s a viable investment.
FTTC connections are faster to upgrade and can offer up to 80Mbps depending on how far away your building is from the street cabinet. The downside to FTTC is that it is subject to contention. At peak times, maximum speeds can be negatively impacted depending on how busy the link is.
Ethernet First Mile
Ethernet First Mile or EFM is an enterprise-level connection that uses bonded copper pairs for the last mile instead of a single pair. This offers much more resilience and asymmetrical upload and download, meaning both operated at the same speed. EFM is also not contended, so all the bandwidth you pay for remains yours. This dedicated link and the resilience means SLAs for EFM connections are also much shorter, offering a higher level of service.
The downside to Ethernet First Mile connections is price. Speed and reliability comes at a cost, as does the extra copper pair, non-contended links and those short SLAs. EFM connections can be many times more expensive than FTTC. Ordering and provisioning takes longer too. It can be well worth the investment if you run mission critical systems.
ADSL, ADSL 2+ and Annex M are all variants of the same technology. They all use standard copper connections to offer business broadband at acceptable speeds. These connections are more common in rural areas than inner cities or urban districts and offer lower speeds than FTTC. A typical ADSL 2+ connection can deliver up to 16Mbps down and 2Mbps up. This is significantly slower than FTTC or EFM.
The advantage of ADSL is that it is ubiquitous. Anywhere that has a business phone line should be able to access some form of ADSL. As it uses existing infrastructure, cost is also significantly lower.
ADSL is legacy technology and only really suitable for fixed line broadband connections that have no access to FTTC.
Coaxial cable is an option if you live in a cabled area. Rather than using copper pairs in the last mile, cable companies laid coaxial connections instead. This offers faster speeds and much less contention than copper. The downside with coax connections is availability. Coverage is meagre compared to BT so options are limited.
Leased lines are for when small businesses become medium or large businesses. Usually only suitable for larger organisations that depend on maximum uptime and use VoIP or depend on cloud connections to deliver productivity. A leased line is a dedicated business connection installed into your office. It is only for you to use and that includes once traffic reaches the core network.
The downside to a leased line is cost. A significant cost. Having a leased line installed is very expensive, involves some disruption and provisioning can take up to 3 months depending on where you live. Again, it can be an investment worth making once you grow large enough to justify the expense.
So what’s the best option for a small business?
So now you know your options, which should you choose? While we cannot recommend a particular solution until we know your circumstances, we can say that the vast majority of SMEs get the most out of FTTC connections. Often sold as ‘superfast business broadband’, these connections offer the most upsides with the fewest downsides.
They are affordable, can typically be provisioned within 30 days and they utilise existing infrastructure. As long as your local exchange and cabinet are fibre, installation is simple and involves no building work at your office. Average speeds are acceptable and SLAs are reasonable. A good balance of features and value in our opinion.
If you would like to learn more about your options or explore specific recommendations for your own business, we can help. Excalibur has decades of experience delivering business broadband, supporting it and working with businesses of all shapes and sizes. We can assist you with FTTC, ELM, ADSL and leased lines. We also specialise in unified communications, managed services and more. All designed to help you get more out of your resources.
Your business may be able to benefit more from an alternative solution such as 4G networking or something completely different, talk to us to explore your options.