Find out about the different types of leased lines and which would be the best solution for your business
If you run a business you almost certainly use computers and the internet. We’ve moved on considerably in the last 20 years or so, with superfast broadband connection now available across most of the UK. But while this is great for home users, businesses can often find the nature of broadband rather restrictive. There is, however, an alternative in the form of leased lines. But just what is a leased line internet connection, how does it differ from broadband, and what can it do for your business?
Leased lines vs broadband
Before we look at leased lines it’s important to understand a bit about broadband and why it may not always be the best choice. Broadband is designed primarily for domestic use, and for that it’s fine, but there are some facets of the way it works that can prove problematic for business.
Broadband is, by its very nature, an asynchronous connection – it’s often known as ADSL (Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line) – which means that you get fast downloads, but upload speeds are much slower. This is because it’s delivered over a phone line, which it has to share with voice traffic, so it needs to make the most of the limited bandwidth available. While the difference in speeds isn’t a problem when you’re streaming from Netflix or similar, it is a drawback if you need to send large files to another site or backup your business data to a cloud service.
An additional issue with broadband is something called contention. What this means is that after the line leaves your premises it is shared with other people, often 20 or more. The effect of this is that when everyone else is online in the evenings your connection will slow down because of the extra traffic. This is something you can verify by running a speed check (there are lots of free sites where you can do this) at different times of day and seeing the difference in performance.
Broadband contracts often have a cap on the amount of data that can be transferred. If you go over the limit you’ll be faced with an extra charge. You might find services listed as being ‘unlimited’ but even then there will often be what’s called a ‘fair use’ restriction in place which can lead to your connection being throttled if the ISP thinks you’re downloading too much.
Leased lines explained
So let’s look at how you can overcome these difficulties with leased lines explained in greater detail. Firstly you should note that there are several types of leased line available. There are generally three ways in which leased lines are delivered. Fibre Ethernet circuits are the most common type of Ethernet circuits, also known as leased lines. This end-to-end fibre solution offers unparalleled levels of reliability and speed, and can be implemented in most locations regardless of whether or not fibre is available. Fibre Ethernet is capable of dealing with large numbers of users and any high bandwidth cloud based application, and can deliver up to 10 Gbps download and upload speed.
The second is EoFTTC (Ethernet over Fibre to the Cabinet) where a fibre optic circuit runs to a street cabinet and the remainder of the circuit to your premises uses a fibre cable. This is similar to the way that fibre broadband is delivered to your home, as a result, EoFTTC is now available in most parts of the UK and a leased line using this technology can deliver download and upload speeds of up to 19 Mbps. This is the right solution if you have up to 20 users, and want a cost-effective way to enjoy the benefits of Ethernet and your business location has the required capability.
The other way in which you might get a leased line is via Ethernet first mile (EFM), which uses a combination of linked pairs of cables and some sophisticated signal processing technology to deliver fast speeds (up to 35Mb) over a conventional copper circuit. EFM offers a high speed, dedicated and fully managed connection, and is deal for the smooth running of real time applications like video conferencing and VoIP where fibre is not an available option.
A major part of the leased line and broadband difference lies in how the circuit operates. Most importantly, a leased line is synchronous which means that you get the same transfer speed for data flowing in both directions.
This can be a big advantage, especially if you have systems in the cloud. Uploading large amounts of data is much quicker and using cloud-based applications is therefore far smoother. It also makes for more reliable use of communication services including video calling and VoIP phone calls which are increasingly popular among business users, especially those doing business overseas.
With a leased line, the circuit is rented for your exclusive use. That means there’s no contention, so the system won’t slow down at peak times. This also means you can be sure of a fast connection at all times, essential if you’re running servers that need to be accessed from other sites, or if you run your own web servers. An added advantage is that there are no limits on the amount of data you can transfer and there’s a reduced risk of any information being intercepted in transit.
Price and installation
Although leased lines have fallen in price in recent years, they are still quite a bit more expensive than broadband services. The detailed costs will be dependent on your location and therefore on the length of the circuit involved, as well as the type of circuit you require. If you’re prepared to agree to a long contract, you may be able to negotiate a better price, but make sure that you won’t be caught out by needing to move premises. You need to look at the advantages of a leased line to see if your operation will benefit from the extra outlay.
A further drawback is the length of time needed to install a circuit. Because broadband uses an existing telephone line it can be installed pretty quickly, usually in a few weeks. A leased line will require a new circuit to be installed and this means some work is going to be needed to link up your premises to the service provider’s network. It can take several months to get a leased line installed compared to just weeks for broadband. However, this will differ depending on the type of line and the technology used.
Leased line business benefits
As with any business expenditure, it’s important to look at how it will benefit your operations. Leased lines are no different in this respect. For small operations, broadband may be perfectly sufficient. But when there are more than just a few employees using your systems, or you have more than one business location to consider, then a leased line starts to look like a more attractive proposition. Remember leased lines aren’t just about accessing the internet, they can be used to link your premises with a secure, fast connection too. Should your business have several sites relying for their computing needs on a central data centre, then a leased line makes a lot of sense. The synchronous nature of the connection makes it easier and faster to transfer large files around between your sites, and it will allow cloud applications to run more smoothly.
In today’s commercial world, data is crucial to all aspects of decision making and increasingly that data isn’t kept in house but is stored in the cloud. All of this means that a reliable connection to the internet is an essential for any enterprise. A leased line will give you consistent connection speeds at all times of day, so you’ll have no concerns about slowdowns if you’re working outside normal office hours. If you’re using the cloud either to store data or to run vital business systems then you will need a reliable, fast connection. If you struggle to access your systems as you need them then you’ll be losing customers and losing money.
Leased lines can also streamline the use of internet-based communication such as video calling and VoIP phone calls which are increasingly popular with businesses needing to keep down calling costs. Because leased line services are business-focused, they also have advantages in terms of guaranteed levels of service. The support is also designed for people for whom the service is essential and who need to get up and running again quickly in the event of a problem. The service level agreement will give you a target fix time for example and availability guarantees.