When it comes to your day-to-day business activities, what does leased line mean and what are the benefits?
The internet has become an essential tool for business in the last few years. But the needs of business users tend to be very different from those of individuals. This means that the broadband services so heavily promoted to and popular with domestic users often place unacceptable limitations on businesses.
Broadband, as we’ll see, has certain built-in limitations which, while you barely notice them at home, can be problematic for commercial users. For this reason, many enterprises are turning to leased lines instead, but what does leased line mean? And how can it benefit your business?
What does leased line mean?
While broadband internet is common in domestic use, it’s geared to an environment where you’re downloading data most of the time. This is great for watching movies listening to music or doing your shopping, but once you start sending data in the other direction it’s drawbacks become apparent, which can be a problem for business users. On the other hand, a leased line can offer you a dedicated connection to the web that’s solely for the use of your business and which delivers the same speed in both directions as well as other benefits.
A leased line is a data circuit which connects your premises directly to the ISP’s data centre, whereas broadband routes data over a public network used by lots of other people. This means that with broadband, there are differences in the speeds available at different times; in how the circuit performs; and in how many people can reasonably share the connection at any given time.
A leased line, as you might gather from the name, is a connection that you rent for your exclusive use. It can be used to link directly from your premises to the data centre of the service provider, or it can also be used to connect between your own sites – more on that later. Usually, this is done via a fibre optic connection in a similar way to broadband, but it can be achieved using technology such as Ethernet first mile over copper cables, so there are different types of leased line. The advantages of leased line over broadband are not necessarily in outright download speeds – these may even be slower than broadband in some cases – but rather that you can have the same speed in both directions (synchronous connection). Plus there will also be no competition from other businesses or individuals using the link, so it will maintain its performance levels regardless of the time of day.
How can leased lines benefit business users?
So for business users, what does leased line mean? We’ve already seen that being synchronous, a leased line means you get the same transfer speed for data travelling in both directions. If you have systems in the cloud this is a big advantage as your critical business IT functions may be reliant on having a fast, dependable internet connection. Equal speed, then, is a big plus for leased lines if you’re going to be uploading large amounts of data as well as downloading it. A synchronous circuit also makes for more reliable use of the latest communication services like video conference technology and VoIP telephony which are increasingly popular amongst business users in a globalised environment.
There is also no contention on leased lines, which means you’re not in competition with others for the circuit. This is a key benefit for internet-based businesses, especially if you intend running your own in-house servers to host your company’s website, where a fast connection in both directions is crucial. This also means that, unlike with broadband, there are no usage caps on the amount of data you can transfer over a particular period, so at the busiest times you won’t be faced with an unexpected bill for going over your data allowance. Even an ‘unlimited’ broadband service is usually subject to a ‘fair use’ clause which means the ISP can restrict the amount you’re able to download by throttling the connection if you use it too much. This can often be linked to peak traffic times too. It’s not much use having unlimited data available in the middle of the night if you need it during the working day.
If you’re working with sensitive data, then you also need to consider security. By having a dedicated connection there’s less chance of information being intercepted in transit. You still need to protect data using methods like encryption for maximum protection but a leased line is an extra step in complying with rules including GDPR.
Leased line drawbacks
There are some drawbacks to leased line connections which it’s important to note. Among the disadvantages are that leased lines usually cost quite a bit more than broadband, because you’re renting an exclusive connection. A relatively slow leased line will likely cost more than a faster broadband link. But remember that the leased line speed is guaranteed and uncontended, whereas the broadband speed can vary depending on whether there’s a good movie on Amazon Prime.
So, you need to consider how important having a reliable, consistent connection is to your business. In addition, you need to take account of the fact that leased lines generally have much longer lead times for installation because where broadband is delivered over an existing phone line, a leased line needs a new circuit to be installed. If you’re setting up a new site, therefore, you need to plan your needs well in advance.
We’ve looked at the technical side of things and seen how leased lines can offer advantages over broadband, but when it comes to your day-to-day business activities, what does leased line mean? Business users often make use of the internet in a much more intensive way than their domestic counterparts, and a leased line can make a big difference.
As an example, more and more companies are now becoming heavily dependant on cloud services for running their everyday business systems. As-a-service delivery models for software, ranging from office suites to more specialised applications such as CRM, ERP and even manufacturing are now increasingly commonplace for organisations of all sizes. If you’ve already gone, or are planning to go, down this cloud route, then the guaranteed two-way speed of a leased line connection is well worth considering.
Points to consider
Leased lines, of course, are not just about internet connectivity, they are also a popular choice where you have branch offices connecting to a central hub, or home and field workers needing access to your office network remotely. You benefit from a completely private and secure connection between your locations and the ability to move large volumes of data around unimpeded. In addition, high bandwidth communication services, for example, video conferencing or VoIP telephony, will also benefit from using a leased line, especially from the fact that upload and download speeds are the same.
How your company operates is a key issue too. If you have a regular need to upload large files – documents for printing maybe, or plans and designs for buildings, or instructions for manufacturing operations – then you’re going to benefit from having a synchronous connection giving equal upload and download speeds.
You also need to give consideration to the number of people who will be regularly using the connection within your company. Very small businesses may get away with using broadband but once you have a few staff or begin to rely heavily on online services, then installing a leased line rather than broadband begins to make sense. It’s also a major advantage if you are moving towards creating an integrated supply chain that involves sharing information regularly with your customers and suppliers. Having the reliability and speed of a leased line is going to deliver a better quality of experience while accessing your network and is likely to improve productivity across the board through smoother and more effective transfer of information.
Finally, you need to consider how much you depend on being able to use the internet. If you were to lose internet access for a day, or even for a few hours, what effect would it have on your operations? Would it be an inconvenience that you would manage to work around? Or would you start to lose customers and money almost immediately? If the latter is the case then a leased line and its extra cost may seem a small price to pay compared to keeping your business running smoothly.