What Purpose Does a Leased Line Serve? 

What Purpose Does a Leased Line Serve  - cloud backup

Discover how a leased line could help your business run more smoothly and get the most out of the cloud

A leased line is a private data connection between two sites. These are mainly used by businesses, either to give them a dedicated link to an internet service provider or to link together systems on different sites. What purpose does a leased line serve? Although mainly used to transfer data around, they can also be used to link telephone systems, allowing businesses to have a centralised telephone system spanning several different sites.

History of leased lines

Leased lines date back to before the widespread adoption of the internet. In the late 1960s and early ’70s they were used to link remote terminals to central mainframe computers. Leased lines at this time used the standard copper telephone infrastructure, so line speeds tended to be low – often no higher than 9600bps – but since there would have been little or no graphical content these speeds were perfectly adequate.

At that time, of course, the telephone system didn’t allow for the transmission of digital data, so modems were required at each end of the line to translate data to sound for transmission then convert it back again at the other end. By the late ’80s when internet connections were still restricted to dial-up, leased lines were beginning to offer fully digital point-to-point connections, allowing for faster speeds and less scope for errors.

Leased lines today

What purpose does a leased line serve? - people workingAlthough leased lines are still a key means by which many larger businesses connect their sites to a central data centre, these days they’re just as likely to be used to provide a dedicated way of connecting to the internet, avoiding the issues that can beset broadband links.

There are a number of different types of leased line available. In general, you’ll encounter three ways in which leased lines are now delivered. These are to do with the way the circuit from the exchange reaches your premises.

The first and most common is using the fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) delivery method where a fibre optic circuit runs to a cabinet at the end of the street and the remainder of the circuit into your premises uses copper cable. This is in most cases the same way that fibre broadband is delivered to your home. Ethernet over FTTC is now available in most parts of the UK and means a leased line can deliver fast speeds. Although these may on paper look slower than advertised broadband speeds, a leased line carries other advantages which we’ll look at later.

The first and most common is using the fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) delivery method where a fibre optic circuit runs to a cabinet at the end of the street and the remainder of the circuit into your premises uses copper cable. This is in most cases the same way that fibre broadband is delivered to your home. Ethernet over FTTC is now available in most parts of the UK and means a leased line can deliver fast speeds. Although these may on paper look slower than advertised broadband speeds, a leased line carries other advantages which we’ll look at later.

Another method of delivering a leased line is using Ethernet first mile (EFM), which employs a combination of linked pairs of cables and some sophisticated signal processing technology to deliver fast connection speeds over a conventional copper circuit. Finally, there are all-fibre leased lines which use fibre to the premises (FTTP) technology to take the fibre all the way to your building to deliver very fast connections. However, this type of connection is not available in all parts of the country.

Leased line advantages

As we’ve already seen, when you’re looking at the types of leased lines on offer, the speed available may seem slower than that of domestic broadband. That’s in part because where a broadband circuit is asynchronous – it downloads faster than it uploads – a leased line is fully synchronous which means that you get the same transfer speed for data flowing in both directions.

This can be a big advantage for business users, especially if you have systems in the cloud. Uploading large amounts of data via a leased line is much quicker and using cloud-based applications is, therefore, a much smoother experience. It also makes for more reliable use of communication services like video calling and VoIP phone calls which have a keen following among business users, especially those doing business overseas.

The other main difference with leased lines is that the circuit is rented for your company’s exclusive use. That means there isn’t any contention with other users – the reason that your home broadband sometimes slows down in the evening when everyone is at home streaming movies and chatting on Skype. No contention means you can be sure of fast connections at all times, useful if you’re using cloud services or if you’re running servers that need to be accessed from other sites. It can allow you to operate your own web servers too if you wish. An additional bonus is that there are no limits on the amount of data you are allowed to transfer.

When asking “what purpose does a leased line serve?” you also need to consider security. Because leased lines don’t use the public network, there’s a reduced risk of any information being intercepted in transit. It also makes things much more difficult for hackers who might want to attempt to steal your company’s intellectual property.
Leased line disadvantages

As with any technology, there are some drawbacks to using leased lines. The first being that although they have fallen in price in recent years, leased lines cost more than broadband services. The detailed costs will, of course, be dependent on your location and therefore on the length of the circuit involved to make the connection. If you’re prepared to agree to a long contract you may find that you can negotiate a better price. However, in looking at the length of contracts, make sure that you won’t be caught out by needing to move premises. You need to weigh up the advantages of a leased line to determine whether your operation is going to benefit from the extra outlay.

Another drawback to opting for a leased line is the length of time needed to install a circuit. Because broadband uses your existing telephone lines it can be installed pretty quickly, usually in a few weeks. A leased line, on the other hand, will usually need a new circuit to be installed and this means some work is going to be needed to hook up your premises to the service provider’s network. It can, therefore, take several months to get a leased line installed, however, once again this will differ depending on the type of line and the technology used.

Is a leased line right for my business?

What purpose does a leased line serve? - high five When looking at buying a leased line you need to look at what benefits there will be to your business as well as what purpose does a leased line serve? In this respect, leased lines are no different to any other form of expenditure on plant and equipment.

For small operations, broadband may be quite adequate. But when there are more than just a few employees using your systems; when you’re moving your key systems to the cloud; or if 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 giving you access to the internet; they can be used to link your own premises with a secure, fast connection too. If you have several sites relying for their computing needs on a central data centre then a leased line makes a lot of sense. The asynchronous nature of the connection makes it easier and faster to transfer large files between your sites, and it will allow cloud applications to run more smoothly. It can also be used to link up your telephone and other communications to provide a seamless service across all locations.

Remember leased lines aren’t just about giving you access to the internet; they can be used to link your own premises with a secure, fast connection too. If you have several sites relying for their computing needs on a central data centre then a leased line makes a lot of sense. The asynchronous nature of the connection makes it easier and faster to transfer large files between your sites, and it will allow cloud applications to run more smoothly. It can also be used to link up your telephone and other communications to provide a seamless service across all locations.

Of course, the big advantage of a leased line is that it will give you consistent connection speeds at all times of day, so you’ll have no worries about slow connections if you’re working outside normal office hours. If you’re using the cloud either to store and backup data or to run vital as-a-service business systems like Office 365 or business integration platforms, then you more than ever need a reliable, fast connection. If you are unable to access your systems when you need them then you’ll be losing customers and ultimately losing money.

We’ve already mentioned that leased lines can be used to link traditional PABX systems, but they also benefit the use of internet-based communication. This includes technologies like video conference systems and VoIP phone calls. These are becoming popular with businesses, especially those that trade overseas or are spread across multiple locations and need to keep a lid on call and travel costs.

Finally, because leased line services are always business-focused they offer important benefits in terms of their levels of service. You will usually get some level of performance guarantee, plus the support offered by service providers is also designed for people who rely on the service and need to get up and running again quickly in the event of an issue.

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