As more and more people work remotely, not to mention the continued importance of being able to work smoothly with international customers and colleagues, fast and reliable internet is a must for all businesses.
It’s important, therefore, that you understand the two main options available to you for internet connection: leased line or broadband. In this post we’ll give you an overview of the benefits and drawbacks of each, so you can make an informed decision. Naturally you can always ask ITS for advice, as your local IT experts.
Leased line: Put very simply, a leased line is a dedicated connection between your premises and the exchange that’s always active and available for your sole use. it’s a dedicated fibre connection to your door, so you’re not sharing it with any other business or private customers. For that reason, it tends to be more expensive than broadband.
Broadband: A broadband internet connection is something most of use already in our homes. Broadband is a shared internet connection, which means at peak times many users (both business and home users) could be using the same connection. Because the circuit is shared, broadband will cost less than a leased line.
Situations where a leased line will work well
As we wrote above, a leased line is a private circuit which means you’re not sharing the bandwidth with any other customers. Here’s what you get with a leased line (and we’ll explain what these mean for your business below):
- Symmetric data connection – upload and download speeds are the same
- Guaranteed bandwidth – no slowing down at peak times
- Low data latency – increasing the speed of data transfer
- Stronger uptime guarantee and service level agreement
- Greater security – your connection isn’t shared
As a rough idea, if you have an office of more than 20 people who are sharing large files and/or using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephony on a daily basis, you should be considering a leased line. Organisations working in financial trading, those that are entirely internet based or any sector where data security is especially important should also consider it.
Symmetric data connection
You are probably aware that for broadband internet, like most of us have at home, the maximum upload speed is much lower than the maximum download speed. For most home uses like streaming TV and downloading email this works really well and allocates the bandwidth to where it’s most needed.
However, for business operations upload speed can be as important as download speed. If you use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephony on a day to day basis with an office of 20 or more people, you may need a higher upload speed than broadband can provide. The same applies if you routinely transfer many large files between colleagues working on different sites or with customers.
With a leased line the upload and download speeds are the same, so you will have a much higher upload speed than you would with broadband. This works because you have a dedicated line and you’re not competing with any other customers for connection bandwidth.
Leased line connection is uncontended, which means that your business doesn’t share the connection with anyone else. For this reason you won’t experience slow-down at peak times (as well as benefiting from the faster upload speeds mentioned above). Your business will always have access to the maximum bandwidth your contract specifies.
To understand what a fixed bandwidth means for your company, think of a motorway and imagine the cars are small packets of data. All the cars are driving down one lane of the motorway at the same speed. To get more cars from one place to another, you need to open more lanes. That’s what increasing bandwidth does: it allows more data to flow from place to place at any given time.
However, it does not actually increase the speed the data travels at from point to point and some less scrupulous suppliers aren’t always very clear on this point. Extra bandwidth is helpful if your organisation needs to send many large files or has many employees using a VoIP telephone system. Leased line connections also offer faster data speeds and we’ll talk more about data speed in the section below on latency.
Low data latency
You get a lower data latency with a leased line connection, which is good for increasing your connection speed. Latency, measured in milliseconds, is the time it takes for data to travel between its source and its destination. If you’ve ever waited for a webpage to load or a video to buffer, you’ve experienced the frustrating side of data latency.
Low latency means the data takes less time to arrive, so with a leased line you will find you’re waiting less time for web pages to load; for file uploads and downloads to complete and you shouldn’t experience a delay on VoIP calls between your people who are on the same network.
In a financial trading situation, for example, that low latency can make the difference between timing your transactions perfectly and missing out on the optimal trading deal.
Stronger uptime guarantee
Your service level agreement (SLA) with your leased line provider specifies things like the percentage uptime you can expect for your internet connection, the response times in case of a fault and performance benchmarks you can expect your provider to meet. It will also specify any compensation you would be due as a customer, if the provider fails to meet its own SLA.
The service level agreements for leased lines are usually stronger in the customer’s favour than those for broadband. Many offer 24/7 support and specify a resolution time of only a few hours, meaning you have the reassurance of knowing an internet problem will be swiftly fixed.
With a leased line, your connection is exclusively dedicated for your use and is not shared by other customers. For this reason, when used with appropriate router and firewall settings, a leased line is more secure than a broadband connection. It’s worth mentioning, however, that a leased line in itself doesn’t offer any encryption for your data, so you will probably want to check what extra security options your provider offers.
Situations where broadband may be the best option
As you’ve just read, there are a number of benefits with a leased line. Clearly however, there will also be drawbacks and it’s not the best option for every business. The main drawback is higher costs when compared to broadband. At ITS we’re interested in our clients having the best solution for their business, so next we’ll explore when a broadband connection may be a better option and what you get with it.
Here are the benefits of choosing a broadband internet connection, when compared to a leased line.
- Lower monthly costs
- Quicker installation
- Cheaper installation
If you are running a small or start-up business with fewer than 20 people and you’re not using VoIP telephony then a shared broadband internet connection is probably sufficient. If you’re not dependent on a constant flow of data uploads and downloads (for example, video calls or transferring large files with customers or between offices) then, again, broadband is probably a good option for you. If you’re not sure you can always ask your local provider, ITS, to help you evaluate exactly what you need.
Lower monthly costs
With a broadband connection, you’re sharing an internet connection with other customers in exactly the same way most home users are sharing their broadband with their local neighbours. The provider offers a maximum bandwidth to be shared by a group of users, which also keeps the costs down. This is also the reason that broadband internet slows down at peak times.
Because broadband connectivity has improved across the UK in recent years, some smaller businesses may find this is sufficient for their needs. If the maximum bandwidth you need is consistently low then it doesn’t make sense to pay for a leased line.
Broadband installation is relatively inexpensive
As there is existing broadband coverage to almost all locations in the UK, the chances are there will be an existing telecommunications line to your business premises that is already fit for purpose. This reduces the costs associated with installation when setting up a new contract, as the provider can often use the existing infrastructure.
However, always check when talking to a supplier about a new broadband connection contract as you don’t want any unpleasant surprises at the eleventh hour.
Broadband installation is relatively quick
For exactly the same reasons as mentioned in the above section, broadband for your business can usually be up and running in a matter of a few weeks.
To install a new leased line usually involves a survey to determine if there’s any existing fibre infrastructure and to determine how much work is needed for the new connection. This may uncover that some engineering work is needed, which will certainly add to the installation time.
Therefore if you need an internet connection quickly to get a new business or a new site established fast, broadband is probably the option that will suit you best.
Making the right choice
As you will now be aware, which kind of connection will be best for your business depends a lot on how your business operates.
Contact ITS for expert advice on what’s best for your business.