HM-Network Blog - Broadband & Connectivity
In April following a number of comments from members about how internet connectivity, or lack of sufficient connectivity can impact business operations, Lancaster Chamber of Commerce set up an online survey to establish what types of issues members were having with regardings to “broadband” / connectivity:
The Chamber wants to help members get the services they need in order to sustain / grow their businesses. We want to help share understanding of why some places get fast broadband internet speeds and others don’t.
Time to review?
If you have outgrown your current connection due to increasing staff numbers or online activity, maybe it is time to look at what options you have available. There are many types of internet connections out there but it can be confusing trying to make sense of them all.
ADSL, Fibre Broadband, capped or unlimited, traditional fixed line services, dedicated internet, over the air, rural broadband, contended or uncontended, resilient or non resilient… where do you start?
Don’t fret. It is often just a case of knowing what type is best suited to your needs, what fits your budget and what is available at your location. It is important to note that not all services are available everywhere!
In this post we aim to illustrate how the various services differ and why the costs range from from cheap / affordable / seemingly expensive.
For those of you who don’t particularly want to know the ins and outs, and who currently struggle with “broadband”, the short answer is that options are available to you and help IS on hand. You just need to know who to talk to. Lancaster Chamber members HM Network have helped write this article and can help you on your quest for internet happiness.
If you like to understand the whos, wheres, whats, wheres and whys, then grab a coffee and read on. Spending a few minutes reading this article could really help your business.
In a nutshell - cheap(er) “broadband” and “fibre broadband” connectivity tends to be available when an internet service is delivered over shared infrastructure. Often over cabling that was installed for other purposes like over the top of a network of telephone lines that were already in place.
Bandwidth is normally shared between a number of users (often referred to as being contended) which makes reasonable bandwidth available to a pool of users at a reasonable price. Because this is quite low cost and provided over shared infrastructure, the SLA is often what is called “best effort” which would be typically be 12/24/48 target fix time if you have any issues. You can’t normally claim for downtime if you have a problem.
With broadband you may notice that certain times of the day the speed fluctuates? This is because other users are all fighting for that same amount of shared bandwidth: often at 9am, after lunch, and when the kids get home from school.
For businesses where connectivity is critical not just nice to have, dedicated services like a leased line (ethernet / dedicated internet access) are often the way to go. The infrastructure is put in place specifically for the purpose of running a much higher grade business connection (ie dedicated copper or fibre direct to the exchange normally, if using fixed line services as an example). This connects to a different part of an Internet Service Providers network / telephone exchange than broadband.
The connections go to much higher quality equipment where service providers can provide a vastly superior SLA, normally with money back guarantees for downtime. The bandwidth is guaranteed and exclusive for only your business to use. This is usually referred to being an uncontended service. On this type of service you can usually tell your carrier what speed you want to run at and can increase / decrease speeds (within bearer size) depending on your needs - at the relevant cost. Speeds are normally the same for upload/download. The pricing for something like this is normally considerably higher than contended “broadband” services as you are not sharing infrastructure or bandwidth with anyone else. If having guarantees means you can do more in work and be more profitable it can often be an easy decision to make the leap. Many businesses who make the jump to a dedicated service would not go back to a contended service without the SLA’s a dedicated connection offers.
To help visualise this, think of the internet services available as roads on which you travel. The A roads & Motorways all have busy times ie rush hours, where everyone is trying to get to their destination at the same time.
A roads are like broadband. You can travel on them at reasonable speeds but due to sharing the roads with other users the congestion can vary at different times of the day. If you require roadside assistance services (think of these as the SLA) they would be deployed whenever was convenient, and would also have to also battle through traffic to get to you to fix any problems you encounter.
Motorways are like fibre broadband. Depending on the service you take fibre broadband can either be fibre end to end to the exchange, or a mixture of delivery over fibre to the cabinet and still over copper lines to your property. You can travel at significantly faster speeds than traditional the A roads (ADSL broadband) but again because you share the motorway with other users, you have congestion periods which can make your journey experience and journey time vary. As above, the roadside assistance services (think of these as the SLA) if needed would have to also battle through traffic to get to you to fix any problems you encounter. There are some great Fibre Broadband Services which many businesses see huge benefits from compared to normal ADSL, and where available can be a good choice of speed for not that much money.
If you had a private motorway with NO other traffic (this is equivalent to your uncontended leased line / ethernet / dedicated internet service), then you would be able to use the private motorway without congestion as often as you like knowing the road was always clear. You can have all your staff online doing what they do to help your business make money. When you had business critical deadlines, you could rest easy knowing that you could reach your destination without risk of traffic jams. If you needed the roadside assistance to fix a problem - they can get to you a lot faster as they are prioritised to you as you pay a premium for this, and they don’t have to battle through traffic to get to you which means faster fix times. Ethernet fibre is actually available to most of the country but comes at a price. That said Ethernet services are actually very cost effective these days if your business relies on being online.
Leased lines sound great but why isn’t Fibre Broadband available everywhere? I can get it at home so why not at work?
From a commercial perspective, service providers especially those who use Openreach, often prioritise rollout of services like Superfast fibre broadband to areas where they are likely to get the best uptake and return on their deployment investment. Installing equipment like the new green street cabinets you see on street corners, digging, and running fibre to them is not an easy or cheap task. Especially when there are road closures needed to do the work. Factor in the complications of planning this with local councils and highway agencies and you will start to understand why these things can also take a long time. Upgrading services on the outskirts may be easier to achieve than closing down a city centres roads, especially one where there is a one way traffic system as you will appreciate.
When deciding which areas to enable on the rollout plans, the carriers / Openreach need to justify the work being done by making sure their is enough interest to make the service viable. If this means passing a housing development where it could potentially connect 1000 homes, compared to a business park that it might get 50 businesses then it is often decided to pass the residential area. This can mean businesses close to residential areas do get to benefit from Fibre broadband if they happen to connect to the same enabled cabinet, other times it might not. If there is enough local interest in enabling a particular cabinet or exchange, HM Network might be able to help negotiations with Openreach
We have outgrown our connection, what now?
In today’s digital world, businesses and consumers are doing more and more online and need the connectivity to support this. Businesses who are expanding online presence, taking on more staff, wanting to run voice over IP telephony or even take contactless card payments - all rely on the connectivity being up to scratch to work properly. Poor connectivity can impact on operations which can cost a business in productivity and therefore profitability
A design company with 5 people in a Lancaster City Centre office and have been coping with the internet service that was available for the past few years. Business is now booming and they have taken on more staff. The broadband internet connection that had previously been sufficient is now starting to struggle. More people trying to use the same internet connection means everyone is fighting for the available bandwidth. The addition of cloud based services and collaboration tools means people are trying to do more online. Without the necessary grunt - this can actually mean less work is able to be done, despite now paying for more people to do the required work.
Businesses are often disgruntled that their staff have access to superfast broadband speeds at home, allowing an entire family so stream audio and video, use social media, browse the web without having to wait - yet when they get to work - the connection that have (that is often business critical) does not compare with what they can get at home. As we pointed out earlier it’s not always easy to deliver service everywhere. So what options are available where this is the case?
ADSL commonly known as “broadband”
Internet run over copper telephone lines over shared infrastructure. The length of the line impacts the speed available
FTTC or Fibre To The Cabinet often known as “Super Fast Broadband)
Internet from the Exchange to the green cabinets have a fibre connection. The cabinet to the property runs over copper telephone lines over shared infrastructure. The length of the line impacts the speed available.
We have already seen how EFM (copper) and Ethernet (fibre) compares to broadband.
You can even get FTTC style services that are uncontended (known as EoFTTC/GEA). They cost more than fibre broadband but less than a full on leased line but bridge the gap quite well - where available.
Options will vary depending on location but a cellular connection can sometimes help a business options are limited. The price can vary depending on carrier and how much monthly data you need. SIM cards from a single or multiple carriers can be put into a Wireless router so people in an office can share a connection. This can also be used as a backup connection for other services to help with business continuity or to provide fast service to those staff whose job relies on it.
Internet speeds of 20Mb down / 6Mb up can be provided to pretty much anywhere in the UK using satellite broadband. Delivered via a dish similar to a SKY TV setup, satellite internet can be good for locations who struggle to get copper / 4G / fibre services like in rural locations. Again pricing depends on how much data you use but there are many options available.
Contended and uncontended options can be available depending on location. Basically if you have line of sight to a wireless tower that provides service, a variety of carrier options are available over the air. These are normally unlimited usage so not capped, speeds available depending on location and price. Super fast and leased line type service without wires or fibre.
If you are fortunate enough to be within the footprint of something like B4RN https://b4rn.org.uk/ you can get very impressive speeds of up to 1Gbps over fibre direct to your door from as little as £30 per month. This would rely on a fibre being dug and you being connected to the network but well worth a look if you can get it.
Mix & Match - Combine Services
Using something like Viprinet http://www.hm-network.com/viprinet/ you can take combine any of the mediums already mentioned. Improve speeds and reliability often using services that are readily available to you. With the ability of routing certain traffic over certain connections in normal use, but being able to failover to another in the event of a problem, your business can enjoy improved speeds often without breaking the bank. A service of this nature gives you a belts and braces solution that ensures business continuity and resilience across multiple networks and service types - whether your business is mobile or in a fixed location (blue light services use this using multiple cellular carriers).
If your business has outgrown it’s current connection then it would be worth talking to HM Network to see what options are available to you. http://www.hm-network.com/
They work with various technologies from a choice of service providers. Because they are independent they can help you make the right choice for your business
If you outgrow your property you wouldn’t try to cram in your staff to the point that no one could work, you would look for a place that could accommodate your needs. Investing in a bigger or better suited internet connection that can actually support your needs, can bring huge rewards and help your business grow.