Learn about leased line technologies and fibre broadband to help you choose the best solution for your business.
It is increasingly rare in modern times to find a business that doesn’t rely heavily on the internet for its day-to-day activities. From simple email and web browsing to cloud services and data storage, a fast and reliable internet connection is a staple for the majority of businesses across the UK.
However, with the number of options available, it can be difficult to determine which type of broadband or technology would best suit the needs of your organisation. It is important to consider not only the size of your business but which of your operations rely on internet access and how poor speed and reliability could impact performance.
What is fibre broadband?
One connectivity option for UK businesses is Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC). FTTC works by running fibre optic cables underground from the telephone exchange to a street cabinet. The fibre cables are made from glass which allows signals to travel at much higher speeds than traditional copper wires. However, once these signals have reached the cabinet they are then connected to your business premises via traditional copper cables which results in some loss of speed.
Fibre broadband availability is dependent on location. It is currently available to over 90% of homes and business premises in the UK, and the government and local authorities are investing over £1.7bn to help bring superfast broadband (speeds of 24Mbps or more*) to over 95% of the UK by the end of 2017.**
How do I know if fibre is right for my business?
With fibre broadband now available across most of the UK, it can be a great choice for many businesses as it offers high speeds at a relatively low cost, with a vast number of suppliers to choose from. However, the choice is not always so simple.
Fibre broadband, even at business grade, is a contended service which means that you’ll be sharing your connection with other businesses in your area. This can result in slower speeds when many users are online, particularly during business hours which may hinder your business’ operations if a fast connection is something you rely on heavily.
As fibre broadband is delivered via a telephone line, it can usually be installed quickly and relatively cheaply, especially when there is an existing telephone line already in place at the premises. With a huge choice of UK suppliers, it is also easier to find a cost-effective fibre solution that best suits your business.
Another point to consider is how many people will be using your internet connection and for what purpose, as this can also significantly impact speeds. Fibre broadband may be an ideal solution for a small business where users need browse the internet, check and respond to emails and send invoices. However, for a business that requires its staff to take part in more bandwidth-heavy activities such as video streaming or calling, a fibre connection may be inadequate and leave other users struggling to get online.
What is a leased line?
Another connectivity option for businesses is a leased line. Leased lines offer high speeds, reliability and symmetrical uploads and downloads. This solution offers an uncontended, dedicated connection that is not shared with any other businesses or consumers. There are several types of leased line available, the three most common being Fibre Ethernet, Ethernet over Fibre-to-the-Cabinet and Ethernet First Mile.
Fibre Ethernet is the most common type of leased line circuit and offers the highest performance. It comprises a fibre connection directly from the network to your premises (even if FTTC is unavailable in the area), which means that speed and reliability is unparalleled.
Ethernet over Fibre-to-the Cabinet (EoFTTC) works in a similar way to FTTC, except that the once the signal has reached the street cabinet it continues to travel to your business premises over a fibre connection rather than via copper wiring. As a result of the increased availability of fibre, EoFTTC is now accessible throughout most of the UK which makes it a popular option.
Another option is Ethernet First Mile (EFM) which is an end-to-end Ethernet solution delivered over multiple copper wires, connecting your premises directly to the network. This option is perfect for businesses who need reliability and speed and can predict their future data requirements.
Businesses that operate over multiple sites may wish to consider a point-to-point leased line solution for data transfer. Point-to-point uses copper or fibre cables to connect each site to a central network, keeping performance reliable and data secure.
What are the pros and cons of leased lines?
There are a number of ways in which choosing a leased line connectivity solution could benefit your business. Most leased line solutions are fully managed, which means that your connection is constantly being monitored. This means that potential issues can often be identified and rectified before they even begin to affect your connection. However, should you experience any loss of connectivity, the robust service level agreements that apply to leased lines mean that an engineer would make a site visit to get your connection re-established as a matter of priority.
A leased line is a dedicated connection solely for the use of your organisation. As the connection isn’t shared with any other businesses, you need never worry about slow speeds during peak times and other users draining your bandwidth.
Leased lines offer symmetrical upload and download speeds, whereas a fibre connection has significantly slower uploads. This means that with a leased line, your business can upload and transfer large files quickly and cloud applications can run more smoothly.
Of course, leased line connectivity is not the ideal solution for all businesses and it does have some disadvantages, a key drawback being cost. Due to the nature of the technology, leased line costs depend on location, required speeds and the type of circuit needed so every leased line quote is entirely bespoke. In some cases you may be able to negotiate a cheaper deal by committing to a longer contract, however, this is something that needs careful consideration as an unanticipated mid-contract office move could cause serious problems for your business.
Another point to consider is installation of the circuit; a site survey of the business premises and surrounding area will need to take place to establish if it is possible to install a leased line circuit. The survey may indicate that building work will need to be carried out to deliver the solution, and in this case this is often a costly, time-consuming process. If your site does not need any additional work, it is important to note that leased line installation can still take weeks or months to complete so it is certainly not an overnight solution.
Leased line vs fibre broadband
As with all telecommunications solutions, it is important to fully consider the pros and cons of all options before making a decision. The number of people within your organisation who will regularly be using the connection, and what for, is an important factor. Fibre broadband could be sufficient for a start-up or small business, but when it comes to businesses that rely heavily on cloud services and high speeds in both directions a leased line becomes a much more attractive proposition.
If your organisation is likely to grow in the near future, you need to think about whether the connectivity solution you choose will be able to accommodate more users and an increase in usage. Would your connection still be sufficient if more people needed to transfer and upload more data?
You also need to consider how any loss of connection – even for a few hours – would affect your operations. Would it be a minor inconvenience to your operations, or would it have a severe impact and result in a massive loss of earnings? A leased line offers greater reliability, but should any problems occur, stronger service level agreements mean that any issue can be rectified much quicker.
Ultimately, only you can decide which connectivity solution will work best for your business, but in today’s world where the internet is critical for keeping most organisations running smoothly it is certainly a decision that requires serious consideration.