In this blog we will find out what GEA is, how it differs from EFM and how this reliable connectivity solution can benefit your business.
With businesses digitising across all industries, reliable internet access is quickly becoming business-critical, even for businesses that barely touched the digital sphere a few years ago.
With this being the case, at some point, many businesses begin to question whether their off-the-shelf broadband package is really the best solution for them, especially when they encounter a problem and have to operate without internet access for days, with little information from their provider.
With the rapid expansion of fibre optic infrastructure in the UK, GEA, or Generic Ethernet Access (otherwise known as Ethernet over Fibre to the cabinet or EoFTTC) has become an incredibly strong option for small businesses who have outgrown basic broadband.
This article will see Generic Ethernet Access explained, outline some of the business benefits of adopting GEA, and finally offer a comparison of GEA to other enterprise internet solutions, including broadband, EFM, and Fibre Ethernet leased lines.
What is Generic Ethernet Access?
The first step in seeing Generic Ethernet Access explained is to give a basic overview of the technology behind it, and the general features that your business will have access to with GEA.
To start with, GEA operates very similarly to standard fibre to the cabinet, or FTTC, broadband. A link, usually fibre but occasionally copper, is run from your business to the nearest street cabinet, connecting it to the core fibre network and back to your provider.
That is, however, where the similarities between GEA and broadband end. While FTTC broadband connections use the extremely busy broadband layer of the infrastructure, GEA uses the same infrastructure, but routes traffic via Ethernet, providing additional speed and resiliency, while minimising installation and ongoing costs by using existing infrastructure.
GEA connections are actively monitored and managed by your provider, with the added protection of an SLA, resulting in far higher reliability, and extremely fast response times to any issues you may encounter.
GEA provides speeds which are, on paper, similar to broadband – typically between 2Mbps and 20Mbps – but while a broadband connection only provides that as download speed, GEA provides a symmetrical connection – the same speed each way, with usage not affecting the other direction.
With GEA installation, there will typically be a very short lead time, when compared to other enterprise options. Normally, GEA can be connected within two weeks, as it takes advantage of pre-existing fibre infrastructure, rather than having to lay large quantities of cable.
Lastly, while GEA is considerably more expensive than broadband, it is by far the cheapest enterprise internet access solution, with very low installation costs, and competitive monthly charges, making it an enticing option for a growing small business.
The Business Benefits of GEA
Now that we have covered the basics, we can move on to reviewing the business benefits of Generic Ethernet Access. These fall into two broad categories, which are increased utility, and increased reliability.
GEA offers a substantial increase in usability of a number of online services, which can offer increased value to a business, and this comes in part from the speed it offers.
As mentioned, the speed ‘on paper’ will be similar to broadband, but the connection is symmetrical, rather than asymmetrical. With standard broadband, you may be able to conduct a single video conference but may have problems if you try to do more than that – and you certainly will struggle to share data, facilitate off-site employees, or run any hosted services.
With GEA’s symmetrical connection, you have far more upstream bandwidth available, often in excess of ten times what you will have from a standard broadband connection. This means that employees working from home can easily access files on your network, without impacting your operations, you will be able to use IP-based voice and video conferencing extensively, and even host some light applications or services, probably all at the same time, and without it impacting your downstream bandwidth.
The second aspect of usability also dips its toes into reliability, and that is the uncontended nature of a generic Ethernet access line. With FTTC broadband, the connection is contended, that is, shared with a number of other business users, which means that you may experience slowdowns or increased latency, based on the usage of others on the shared line. GEA, however, is uncontended – what you pay for is what you are getting, with no one else sharing your connection.
Contention naturally leads us to the reliability aspects of Generic Ethernet Access. Most ‘off the shelf’ connections are unmanaged, meaning your provider is leasing the infrastructure and doesn’t monitor it actively, only taking action when you complain loudly enough. GEA is a managed service, which means that your provider actively monitors the connection, often being able to notice a problem before the end user. The managed nature leads to the major advantage of GEA, which is the service level agreement.
Service level agreements, or SLAs, are a feature of bespoke enterprise services such as GEA, and they detail the level of service your provider aims to provide for you, as well as the level of service they guarantee. SLAs tend to cover a number of aspects, which will include uptime targets, fix time estimates, and service guarantees.
Uptime targets are fairly self-explanatory: they are the targeted percentage of the time your provider aims to be delivering their service. In the case of GEA, this is often in excess of 99.8%, meaning less than one day of downtime per year.
As with uptime, fix time estimates are fairly clear: they are the time within which the provider aims to have any issue you experience resolved. With generic ethernet access, this tends to be around seven hours, so many problems can be resolved within the same working day they are reported.
These targets are not guarantees, but providers with SLAs in place will take these very seriously, and failure to meet these targets will almost always result in significant action being taken to remedy the issue and to ensure that the targets are met in the future.
Many SLAs also include a service guarantee, which will specify the amount of uptime the provider guarantees the connection to have, with specified financial remedies if they fail to deliver on the guarantee.
GEA vs EFM
We have already compared GEA to FTTC in many examples, but here is a quick rundown. Both services will offer similar speeds, but GEA offers a symmetrical connection, giving your business access to far more options. GEA is backed by an SLA, while FTTC takes a more ‘plug and pray’ approach. FTTC will, however, be substantially less expensive than GEA, so if internet access is not critical for your business, and your usage tends to be extremely light, broadband is a justifiable option.
EFM, or Ethernet First Mile, means having the provider lay a paired copper wire connection between your business and the nearest fibre connection. Comparing GEA vs EFM, both have similar symmetric speeds and will be backed by SLAs.
EFM, however, does not need existing fibre infrastructure in place, while GEA does, meaning EFM will be available for many businesses operating in more rural or remote areas. This does, however, mean that EFM has a substantial installation cost, many times that of generic ethernet access. EFM is a good option for growing businesses where GEA simply isn’t an option. To find out more about GEA vs EFM, click here.
Lastly, we have Fibre Ethernet leased lines, which tend to be targeted at much larger businesses. Fibre Ethernet offers many times the speed of GEA and often has superior targets and guarantees in its SLA. Great power, however, comes at great cost.
Fibre Ethernet connections must be laid end to end, rather than using existing infrastructure, so they carry a high installation cost. Fibre Ethernet connections will also command a monthly fee many times higher than GEA connections. For a rapidly growing medium or large business with high connectivity needs, a leased line is a good option.
Hopefully, this article has explained how GEA can be an excellent investment for a digitally engaged small business looking to expand their options. While not offering the bargain basement price of broadband or the extreme bandwidth of a Fibre Ethernet line, GEA offers many advantages, and should, therefore, be a strong contender for any small business.
Go online to compare GEA ethernet deals.
Alternatively, if EFM is the right solution for your business’ connection requirements, then start comparing Ethernet First Mile providers.
For more information on the best leased line solution for your business, get in touch online today.
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