Who supplies Business Broadband?
If you're interested Business Broadband, then you'll want to find a supplier. The following suppliers all offer a range of plans to suit your needs:
BT Business are one of the most popular business providers in the UK. Business deals offer a greater level of support and network priority during business hours. A large range of package are available, including fibre optic and leased line deals. Most deals come with business telephone lines as standard.
EE Business is an award-winning service offering a variety of mobile plans. With a range of the latest phones and devices, the option to create custom plans, double 4GEE over an extensive mobile network, and both standard phone line and fibre broadband products, EE has you covered in the office and on the go.
Hyperoptic are a provider with their own independent fibre to the building network that can supply fibre broadband speeds of up to 1Gb. They offer a range of packages with different speeds aimed at businesses of varying sizes, enabling them to utilise internet, VoIP and Cloud technologies.
For the business user a standard mobile broadband deal might not be suitable, heavier usage and maybe occasional overseas usage as well. O2 offer a large range of business deals to suit every size of organisation from startups to large corporates.
Plusnet have been providing a number of excellent business broadband packages for some time now and they all come with Plusnet's legendary level of support. Offering very good value for money as well as the usual enhanced levels of support and uptime guarantees, Plusnet are worth a look for any business.
TalkTalk Business offers a range of products to suit your business needs, all including unlimited usage. Their Simply product is ideal for home office workers or small premises while their Complete package adds free premise moves, business call features and up to 4 static IP addresses. Up to 76Mb fibre options provided where available.
Toople offer a range of business broadband packages that can be tailored to fit to your company's needs. Their team is UK-based, and they promise that prices are fixed for the life of your broadband contract, which is shorter than many providers at 12 months. Business mobile products are also available.
While not strictly a broadband provider, Vonage are an excellent VoIP add on for any business broadband user. Their service allows you to take advantage of cut price calling plans and virtual second lines, take landline calls on your mobile allowing you to take business calls on the move with and provide a professional impression.
XLN specialise in small businesses whose needs are often not met by larger business providers. They focus on customer service and pride themselves on picking up the phone within 3 rings. Plus you’ll get free broadband and UK calls for 12 months if you sign up to their landline. That's a saving of hundreds of pounds vs BT! XLN provide both standard and fibre broadband, phone packages, card processing, and other services necessary for running your small business.
Zen offer business broadband customers a high level of support and reliability with an award-winning service, as voted for by customers. While more expensive than some of their competitors, the quality is reflected in the price.
Why you need business broadband
In the simplest terms, business broadband is no different from consumer broadband. Both give you access to the same internet using the same infrastructure, be it the standard phone line or a newer fibre optic network.
Yet the considerations for business broadband go far deeper than speed and price. You need to know what support you will get, and what will happen if the network goes down. You need to know that your security will be looked after, and whether it will provide you with any extra services, or help you use your own. You also need to know if it will adapt as your business grows, or whether it will become a bottleneck that holds you back.
Every business, regardless of size, needs a certain level of performance and guaranteed set of features from its internet service. Here are the essentials you should look out for.
Faster speeds: The speeds you get for a business broadband service depend on the type of broadband you opt for. At the budget end of the market, speeds will be the same as you get for consumer broadband — typically around 17Mb. With Fibre to the Cabinet broadband on the Openreach network download speeds of up to 76Mb are available, while for the most demanding businesses a fixed connection can offer speeds of up to 10Gb. Upload speeds may be faster than their consumer counterparts, and there will be no usage caps, apart from on the most basic packages. However, the speeds you can get will be dependent on a number of factors, such as where your business is located, and the distance from the local street cabinet or telephone exchange — the further you are from these, the slower your speeds, especially if you’re on a standard ADSL connection rather than Fibre.
Better support: Virtually every business is reliant on having a fast, reliable internet connection available at all times. If something goes wrong, it can be very costly. The cornerstone of a business broadband service is a much better level of support. Unlike consumer broadband, where the support is more basic and often confined to office hours, a business provider will give you access to a specialist support centre and engineers, available 24/7. A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is also common. This commits the provider to fixing problems within a specified time frame (often no more than 24 hours), with a partial or full refund possible if they do not deliver.
Security: Security is absolutely crucial for a business, and security threats to a network can come from a wide range of areas. It’s not just viruses and malware, but also phishing scams and hackers, and even infected USB flash drives used by employees. Business broadband providers protect against this with a far more comprehensive security package than you get on a consumer deal. Sometimes these are included in the price, and sometimes require an additional subscription, security is a must-have — it remains continually up to date, and automatically protects all new users.
Static IP: If you need to run things like an email or FTP server — or may want to in future — then you will have to have a static IP address. An IP address is a unique number that corresponds to your location on the internet. With consumer broadband static IPs are uncommon, and you are usually assigned a new, dynamic IP address every time you connect; most business providers will give you at least one static IP, giving you a fixed address on the internet. It’s essential if you want to run your own in-house services, and also gives your business a greater air of professionalism. However, with a fixed address, you do need to ensure you have good security.
Website and email: Most business broadband providers will include web hosting, email addresses and domain names as part of their service. This will be enough to cover a basic web presence, and give all them members of your team their own company-branded email address. It won’t be sufficient to run a full online business, and you may need to factor this into your package selection.
Contention ratio: The contention ratio is a number that describes how many users are sharing the bandwidth on a network. Although the number is often not widely advertised, for consumer broadband it is often in the region of 20:1 to 50:1. This means that between 20 and 50 users are sharing the same bandwidth. The contention ratio is much lower for business broadband, depending on how much you’re paying. Anything under 5:1 is regarded as being good, with 1:1 being the ideal (albeit that comes at a much higher price).
If you have a larger business, are looking to expand, or have specific requirements, there are a range of extra services that business broadband providers can offer. Some may be included in the price of higher-end packages, while others are available as add-ons.
VPN: A VPN, or virtual private network, is a private, secure connection between multiple locations. If your business has more than one office, or if you use remote workers, a VPN enables them to access the same network, sharing files and applications. For the user, the experience is no different than if they were physically connected to the network, while for the business it ultimately results in lower overheads (there’s only one network to setup and manage), and it is fully scalable as your business grows.
Faster connections: While speeds can vary depending on your location, there are more ways available to business users to get faster speeds than are available to consumer broadband customers. While the setup costs can be expensive, the benefits can certainly make up for this. Avenues to explore include:
- Bonded broadband: Instead of the usual single phone line used to provide internet access, multiple lines are combined together to increase speeds. This is generally offered in areas with very slow broadband speeds as an option to make the most of limited broadband capabilities. A supplier specialising in bonded broadband, such as Sharedband, may be required to utilise this technology.
- Leased lines: Your business is connected directly to the local telephone exchange, meaning you don't have to worry about sharing the line with other users and the lower speeds that can result from that, especially at peak times.
- Fibre to the premises: Unlike standard fibre connections - which are fibre to the street cabinet with standard copper lines connecting from there to the home - fibre to the premises takes the fibre connection all the way to the building, allowing the faster download speeds of up to 300Mb and upload speeds up to 30Mb.
- Fixed wireless broadband: Rather than using phone lines or cables for broadband access, this type of wireless broadband uses radio signals from local transmission towers. Usually this is best suited in areas that have poor speeds via phoneline broadband and may require a specialist wireless broadband provider.
VoIP: VoIP is a system for making voice and video calls over an internet connection. It’s good financial sense for businesses to use VoIP for calls between their separate offices. It can also be used effectively for conference calls, and especially for video conferencing.
Enterprise level email: Allied to the basic email that is often provided as standard is an option for enterprise-class email. This uses a service such as Microsoft Exchange and is centrally administered, enabling you to implement email policies, give users access on mobile devices, and also utilise other features such as shared calendars.
Offsite backup: You probably already carry out regular backups of your data — or at least you should — but saving those backups locally is not failsafe. Many business broadband providers, as well as third party companies, offer offsite backup services. Your data is backed up to their servers during quiet periods on your network, such as overnight, ensuring your data will never be lost even in the rare event that you no longer have physical access to your office.
Equipment: Naturally, you’ll need all the right kit to handle your company’s internet needs. In a small business with a dozen or so users you can actually make do with a standard consumer internet router. As soon as you progress beyond that you will need a router capable of handling more users. This will also have more robust security, the ability to shape and prioritise traffic on the network, and many other features. Your provider may even supply you with the necessary gear.
What business broadband packages are available?
Business broadband is offered by a large number of companies that can be broadly split into two groups.
First are the dedicated business broadband providers. These are most likely to be more expensive, and be targeted more toward medium and large businesses, although there are some aimed specifically at meeting the need of small businesses. This group offers everything we’ve listed as the ‘essentials’, along with most of the extras, either as standard or as add-ons. Crucially, their service is also scalable. As your business grows, and your needs increase, these providers will be able to grow with you.
The second group are the budget providers, which are better suited towards small and medium-sized businesses. Often these can be more like repackaged consumer offerings, charged ex-VAT, but not offering the same scope as a specialist provider. With these providers, you need to know exactly what you’re getting before you sign up. For instance, some may impose data limits, offer static IP addresses only on request, and have a lower grade of support (and may not have an SLA).
If this doesn’t sound too positive for the latter group, it’s worth remembering what you do get: a low starting price, fast download speed (comparable to that from a specialist provider), 24/7 support access, some email addresses and basic web space, and prioritised traffic. It’s also worth mentioning that some providers prohibit the use of their consumer services for business in their terms and conditions.
If you have less demanding requirements, then these can be a good option; if you’re looking at the higher priced options, or think your requirements may increase in future, then you may want to look at a specialist provider instead.
Most suppliers offer contract lengths of 12 or 24 months. Some providers will supply ADSL broadband on shorter contracts than their Fibre products. More rarely, 1 month contracts are available from providers such as Zen.
You should also be aware that many ISPs who offer residential broadband packages do also offer business broadband packages, not all of these class as budget providers offering repackaged consumer deals. Some of them are also specialised business providers, and offer business products with features that reflect this. Don't overlook these ISPs as they may offer you exactly what you're looking for.
Choose the right broadband service for your business size
When trying to identify the best business broadband deal, it’s important to identify the needs of your business. Small and medium businesses will have different priorities.
A small business, of up to 49 employees, will likely only have a single office so may not need VoIP and VPN services, and a basic package may suffice. However, small businesses may also lack IT infrastructure, so things like the quality of support and backup services become absolutely vital.
Medium-sized businesses may not need the bells and whistles to begin with, but should factor in the ease with which a provider can add services with the minimum of disruption.
When choosing the business broadband deal for your company here are the main items to look out for:
|Item||Specialist Business Broadband||Budget Business Broadband|
|Support||24/7 with fixes within a day||24/7 access; fixes may take up to two days|
|Service Level Agreement||Normally included||Often not included|
|Security||Comprehensive package included as standard||Basic security, including virus checking|
|Scalability||Most suppliers enable you to upgrade as your business grows||Often not designed to scale beyond the needs of small businesses|
|Static IP addresses||Included as standard||Often not included; sometimes an optional extra|
|VPN||Normally available, sometimes built-in, sometimes as an extra||Not normally included|
|VoIP||Normally available, sometimes built-in, sometimes as an extra||Not normally included|
|Contract||Usually 12 or 24 months||Usually 12 or 24 months|
Whatever the size of your business, a business broadband package is really an essential addition to your toolkit. Relying on a residential package even for a small home based operation can leave you open to continuity problems if there are problems with the connection and as you get to larger sized businesses you just have to have a higher level of service and capability.