Find out about the differences between leased line and broadband and how you can choose the right service
Businesses are already heavily committed to using the internet for their day-to-day communication, accessing the web and more. As we become increasingly reliant upon cloud services and data storage, they’re going to become even more critical. This means that it’s more important than ever to have a reliable connection to the web and one that meets the needs of the business.
You might think that broadband is the one-size-fits-all option, but in fact, there are a number of alternatives available, from different types of broadband connection to alternative technologies. Which is going to work best for your business will depend on the size of your organisation, your priorities for using the internet, and how much you rely on it for your operations.
In addition to broadband, there’s the option of using a leased line or Ethernet first mile solution. This means when selecting a service you must understand the leased line and broadband difference.
What’s the difference?
In simple terms, the leased line and broadband difference comes down to the routing of data from your business to the data centre of your service provider. A leased line 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, of course, means there are differences in operation. These relate to the speeds available but also the number of people that will be sharing the connection at any given time. Which is best for your business will depend on how you use the internet and how many people work on a particular site. Let’s take a look at the options in more detail.
A leased line, as its name suggests, is a connection that you rent for your exclusive use. It connects directly from your premises to the data centre of the service provider. This is usually via a fibre optic connection but can be via technology such as Ethernet first mile over copper cables.
The advantages of leased line over broadband are that you can obtain much faster speeds; you can have the same speed in both directions (synchronous connection), and there will be no contention from other businesses or individuals using the link, so it will maintain its performance levels at peak times.
The disadvantages of leased line connections are that they’re much more expensive 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. You, therefore, need to consider whether your business really needs this level of reliability. Also leased lines generally have much longer lead times for installation so if moving to a new site, for example, you need to plan your needs well in advance.
Broadband is similar to the domestic internet service you have at home. It’s a shared connection once it leaves your building and speeds will vary depending on the type of link. The advantages of broadband are that it’s readily available almost everywhere in the UK and it comes at a much lower cost than a leased line.
The downside is that it’s an asynchronous connection which means downloads are faster than uploads. And it’s a contended link which means that at peak times performance may suffer as more people are using the connection.
It’s easy to think that broadband is a fairly standard product, but in fact, all broadband connections are not equal because the service can be delivered in different ways. Conventional broadband uses the copper telephone connections from the exchange to your location and therefore delivers the slowest speeds.
It’s affected by distance too, so the further you are from the local exchange, the slower the connection will be. Nowadays, however, most areas of the country have access to fibre optic broadband but this too isn’t all the same, it comes in two types.
Most common is fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) where the optic fibre terminates at a street cabinet and the final stretch to your premises is carried over existing copper cables. This is faster than normal all-copper broadband, however, the performance will vary depending on how far you are from the cabinet and therefore how much copper cable is involved; although the effect will be less pronounced than on an all-copper circuit.
If you live in an urban area you may be able to get fibre to the premises (FTTP) where the fibre service is delivered directly to your building. This is the fastest broadband option, offering download speeds of 200 Mbps or more, but it isn’t as widely available as the others.
Choosing a service
How you choose between the different types of service will depend upon the needs of your business. If your internet usage is restricted to just sending email, surfing the web and the odd bit of cloud storage for backing up files, then a broadband connection – particularly a fibre one – is likely to be adequate.
If you operate outside of normal office hours, however, bear in mind that you’re likely to suffer from contention due to lots of other people accessing services such as Netflix in the evening. This can happen at other times too of course, especially if you’re in an area with lots of other businesses all accessing the internet at the same time.
Where the leased line and broadband difference really comes into play is in the more intensive use of the internet for business. For example, if you’re heavily reliant upon cloud services for your critical business systems – as more and more businesses are – then the guaranteed speed of a leased line connection may be preferable.
High bandwidth services including video conferencing or VoIP calling may benefit from using a leased line, particularly because upload and download speeds are the same. The nature of your business comes into play here too, if you regularly need to upload large files – documents for publication perhaps, or plans and designs for manufacture and building – then you’ll benefit from having a synchronous connection giving equal upload and download speeds.
You will also need to think about the number of people who will be regularly using the service within your organisation. As the team expands it might be time to think about installing a leased line rather than broadband.
This also applies if you are sharing information regularly with customers and suppliers as part of an integrated supply chain. The reliability and speed of a leased line will deliver them a better experience while accessing your network and is likely to improve productivity overall.
Additionally, you will need to consider just how vital systems are to your business. If you were to lose internet access for a day or just for a few hours, what effect would it have on your operations? Would it be awkward but you could struggle on? Or would you rapidly start to lose money? If the latter is true then a leased line is likely to be a better choice.
Choosing a supplier
Of course, you need to look at the supplier as well as the connection itself. A good supplier will be able to come up with a tailored service level agreement that reflects the needs of your business and makes sure that it delivers a reliable service that meets your needs.
Take some time to understand the skills of the service provider. How quickly are they able to fix problems, and do they fully understand the technical side of the product they’re selling? Look for evidence – such as professional accreditations – as to the skills needed to maintain the connection.
Look at independent reviews of the service provider, and see if the company will let you speak to existing clients to get a feel for what the business is like to work with and how reliable its services really are.
The right choice
Both broadband and leased line services have their advantages. Which is right for you and your business will depend on your individual needs, so it’s vital to analyse carefully what your requirements are. Broadband is a fast connection that will be adequate for many smaller businesses that don’t need high speeds in both directions.
It’s also relatively low cost, making it a good choice for start-ups and branch offices. Leased lines, on the other hand, offer greater reliability and high speeds in both directions. This makes them a good choice for larger organisations, or those where online access is critical to the operation. But of course, this comes at greater cost.