Find out about the differences between leased lines and broadband and which would be the right choice for you
Once upon a time using the internet meant using dial-up. It was slow, it was unreliable and it tied up the phone line for long periods of time which upset your family when they couldn’t get through. Then in the mid-1990s came broadband. It was fast, it was on all the time and people could still get through on the phone. The 2010s saw the spread of fibre broadband. It was very fast and meant that you could download large files and stream high-definition media, and still make phone calls.
We’re now in a situation where broadband, in whatever format, is pretty much the norm for home use. But what about businesses? A few years ago when you just needed email and access to the web, the same type of broadband you have at home would have been perfectly fine for business use.
Now, however, as businesses become more and more reliant on cloud services for storage, on video conferencing and other IP-based communication technologies, and on as-a-service provision of critical systems, the shortcomings of broadband as a business tool are thrown into sharp relief.
Fortunately, there is an alternative in the form of the leased line. So, let’s have a look at broadband vs leased line and see which is the better choice for business and why.
As we said in the introduction, broadband is the internet service that most of us have at home. It’s commonly delivered to your home via copper cable – either all the way from the exchange or via a street cabinet where fibre terminates. In urban areas, it’s becoming possible to have all-fibre broadband where the fibre comes all the way to your premises delivering much, much faster speeds.
Fibre has been the major change in broadband over the last decade or so, allowing much faster connections than were previously possible and eliminating much of the drop in speed you previously experienced the further you were from the exchange.
There are, however, two things about broadband that present problems for business use. The first is that once it leaves your premises you’re sharing the circuit with lots of other people. This known as contention and it means that at peak times when lots of people are online the connection will slow down.
The second drawback is that the circuit is asynchronous, which is a fancy way of saying that the speed is different in each direction. Download speeds are much faster than uploads. This doesn’t matter much when you’re streaming Game of Thrones but for business use where you need to transfer large volumes of data to and from the cloud, it can be a problem.
The third drawback (yes we said there were two, just checking you’re paying attention) is that service providers often impose a cap on the amount of data you can transfer each month and will charge extra if it’s exceeded. Even so-called ‘unlimited’ connections are subject to a fair usage restriction.
A leased line is a connection that you rent for the exclusive use of your business. It connects directly from your premises to the data centre of the service provider. This is usually via some sort of fibre optic connection but can be via technology such as Ethernet first mile over copper cables. Compared to broadband there are a number of leased line benefits.
Firstly it’s synchronous, that is to say, the speed is the same in both directions so you can upload data just as fast as you can download it. Secondly, the contention is 1:1 which means there is no contention. There’s only you using the circuit so it won’t slow down when other people are online. Thirdly, there are no data restrictions; you can upload and download as much as you want. Finally, there are security benefits; because the line is exclusive to your use your data is less likely to be intercepted or otherwise interfered with.
The downside of a leased line is that it will cost you more since you’re renting it for your exclusive use. And that it takes longer to get one installed as it will usually mean running a new line to your premises whereas broadband uses existing phone circuits.
What’s also important to the leased line and broadband difference is the level of service associated with each product. Leased lines are more business-oriented, so the service level agreements associated with them reflect this.
We’ve already talked about contention ratios, these should be part of any agreement. You can also expect to get a guaranteed level of uptime with a leased line that’s higher than for broadband. Remember to take your working hours into account here. A 95 percent uptime guarantee may sound good but if the five percent downtime happens during the day when you really need the circuit, it’s not much use. A leased line provider should offer you uptime of 99 percent plus.
The SLA with your supplier also needs to take account of what happens if there’s a problem. The agreement should include a target fix time for getting the circuit restored to full health. Ideally, this should be the same day. If there’s a failure to fix a problem what can you expect from the supplier in terms of compensating you for lost business?
So in the great business connectivity contest of broadband vs leased line what should you be considering? We’ve looked at the technical side of things but what your business does and how it operates matters too. If your internet usage is no more than sending emails, surfing the web and the odd bit of cloud storage for backing up files, then a broadband connection – especially a fibre one – will probably be adequate.
Nowadays, however, many companies make much more intensive use of the internet. Increasingly we rely upon cloud services for critical business systems and this will only increase as software companies make more of their products available via a service model. Running systems from the cloud in this way has many advantages in terms of licensing costs and ease of scaling-up, but it does put more emphasis on having a reliable connection. If you’re committed to the cloud then the guaranteed speed of a leased line connection may be preferable.
If you need to upload large files either to the cloud or to business partners – documents for publication perhaps, or plans and designs for manufacture and building – then once again you’ll benefit from a leased line giving you a synchronous connection delivering equal upload and download speeds.
Broadband Vs Leased line
When considering broadband vs leased line, the right choice for your business involves a broad range of factors. For smaller businesses, broadband may well be adequate, with the added advantage that it’s relatively low cost making it a good choice for start-ups and for providing a service to branch offices.
A leased line, in contrast, offer greater reliability and high speeds in both directions. This makes it a good choice for larger organisations, or those where there is heavy reliance upon cloud services, making online access critical to the operation of the business.
Of course, the advantages of a leased line come at a greater cost, but this needs to be offset against the effect on your bottom line should you be unable to access the internet for a time. As we all become more reliant on the web, the impact of connection failures on lost custom and lost revenue need to be taken seriously.
Ultimately the choice is one that only you can make but the advantages of leased lines are had to ignore.