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EFM vs Leased Lines – Choosing the Right Option for Your Business

Discover the key differences between EFM and leased lines and find out which would best suit your business needs

The internet has changed many aspects of our day-to-day lives. Increasingly, we shop and bank online, keep in touch with our families via social media and stream our entertainment. Of course, it’s changed the business world too, bringing improved communication, as-a-service software, and cheap cloud storage within reach of even small businesses. But none of this is possible without fast connections to the web.

When it comes to choosing an internet connection for your business there can seem to be an almost bewildering variety of options on offer. While broadband may seem to be the default choice, there are some other options which are more business-oriented. Of these the most common are leased lines and Ethernet first mile (EFM). But what exactly are these and which is likely to be the best choice for your business?

About broadband

Broadband has been widely available in the UK for 20 years or so, and in the last decade fibre optic connections have rolled out across the country, making fast connections widely available. But while broadband is great for domestic use and has revolutionised our homes making it possible to do more online, stream movies and connect multiple devices, it does have some drawbacks for business use.

These mainly surround the fact that it’s an asynchronous connection, which means that while downloads are very fast, uploads are at only a fraction of the speed. If you’re using cloud-based software or backing up and storing data in the cloud then this can lead to unacceptable delays. The other drawback is that once broadband leaves your premises you’re sharing the connection to the data centre with lots of other people and this can cause a noticeable slowing down at peak times of day. On domestic lines you’ll usually notice this in the evenings.

What’s a leased line?

A leased line provides a dedicated connection between your business and your ISP’s data centre, so you don’t have to share with other people in the surrounding are. The connection is also synchronous, meaning that speeds are the same in both directions. This ensures that you don’t get the delays in uploading data that you may experience with normal ADSL broadband.

EFM vs Leased Lines office overheadMost leased lines are now delivered using fibre optic technology, most commonly Ethernet over fibre to the cabinet (EoFTTC). This is similar to the way your domestic broadband works in that the fibre optic circuit is delivered to a street cabinet and the signal completes its journey to your premises over copper cable.

It is possible to have an all-fibre leased line, though this is something that’s currently only available in urban areas. Whatever the technology, a leased line means that you get a fast connection in both directions and you don’t have to worry about contention.

It is possible to have an all-fibre leased line, though this is something that’s currently only available in urban areas. Whatever the technology, a leased line means that you get a fast connection in both directions and you don’t have to worry about contention.

We’ve so far talked mainly about connecting to the internet, but that isn’t the only use for leased lines. In addition to being used to access the internet, leased lines can be employed to link locations. If your business has multiple sites, for example, linking them with leased lines allows you to run a single network as though everyone were in the same location.

What’s EFM?

The next step in comparing EFM vs Leased lines is to look at how EFM works. Like a leased line, Ethernet first mile provides a dedicated line from your premises to the ISP’s data centre. But it does this using a twisted pair cabling system similar to that used by internal Ethernet networking. This is turned into a reliable, fast circuit over a longer distance by combining pairs of cables together into a single Ethernet connection. Most Ethernet first mile circuits use two pairs of cables which should deliver speeds of up to 20 Mbps. If you need more speed, there’s the option of a four pair circuit which can give you up to 35 Mbps. Speeds, therefore, are equivalent to those you might get on a conventional broadband connection, but as with a leased line this is a synchronous circuit so the speed is the same in both directions. And again, as with a leased line, the circuit is dedicated to your use so there’s no contention to worry about.

Speeds, therefore, are equivalent to those you might get on a conventional broadband connection, but as with a leased line this is a synchronous circuit so the speed is the same in both directions. And again, as with a leased line, the circuit is dedicated to your use so there’s no contention to worry about.

How is this possible you might be asking? It works because the extra circuits allow for error checking. There’s a piece of on-site circuitry in charge of the circuit which makes use of signal processing technology to keep the connection reliable and operating at or near its maximum speed. There’s an added advantage here because circuits are used in multiples. If one of the circuits fails, the link can still keep going – albeit at a slower pace – until the problem is fixed.

Pros and cons

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of EFM vs leased lines? As we’ve already pointed out, both types of circuit will give you a dedicated connection so there’s no contention with other users in the area at peak times of the day. Both also give you synchronous connections with equal upload and download speeds. This is an important consideration in the modern business world where many businesses are increasingly reliant on the cloud to run their key business systems.

A leased line will generally be faster that EFM because of the technology used. However, the downside to this is that it takes longer to get a circuit installed because it usually means running a new cable to your premises. If you need a reliable, fast connection in a hurry, using EFM can deliver what you need quickly using your premises’ existing copper connections. If you already have a fibre connection, EFM can use that too and deliver faster connection speeds, however, there’s usually a longer lead time for installation.

Service considerations

With either EFM or a leased line, you’re getting a business-focused product which means that you’ll also benefit from service guarantees giving you confidence in the circuit’s up time and with regard to the speed at which it will be fixed in the event of a problem. When choosing a supplier, the service level agreement is perhaps the most important consideration.

Look carefully at factors such as site availability and service guarantees and make sure that they suit the needs of your business. Check to see what procedures are in place to resolve any issues, and look carefully at what the financial effect on your business would be in the event that things didn’t get fixed in time.

Which is right for my business?

The key question when considering EFM vs leased lines is to look at which is the right option for your business over the longer term. There is no easy answer to this; it will really depend on how you use the internet. Increasingly, companies are moving systems to the cloud which not only highlights the need for fast connections but places further emphasis on reliability as well.

EFM vs Leased Lines office computersEither type of technology will be an advantage in delivering Internet-based communication such as video calling and VoIP phone calls. These are increasingly popular with businesses, especially those that trade overseas and need to keep down calling costs, so that’s something else to factor into your calculations.

If, as part of your business, you need to upload or transfer large files on a regular basis then both EFM and leased lines will offer an advantage over broadband and will help your operations to run more smoothly.

This is where buying a product aimed at business users scores over broadband. Partly because of the advantages we’ve noted above in terms of synchronous connection and no contention, but also because as a business product there are service level guarantees.

If your systems are business-critical then you should ensure that your service level agreement (SLA) with your provider gives you guaranteed fix times in the event of a problem occurring and that it gives you an agreed level of uptime. All of this is clearly important for robust operational performance.

These factors apply equally whether you opt for EFM or for a leased line. The choice between the type of connection comes down to the speed you require. This is something which will be determined by the number of people using the connection. How fast you need the circuit installed is important too; EFM is likely to have a shorter lead time if you need a connection fast.

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EFM vs Leased Lines – Choosing the Right Option for Your Business
2017-08-24T10:38:45+00:00
Samantha Ward