Which Broadband Should My Business Be Using? – A Brief History Of Connectivity

Confused by all the Broadband packages out there?

What it is, where it came from, and who it’s for

Dial Up – The first commercial incarnation of connectivity (made that screechy noise) no-one apart from the insane are using it today as speeds and reliability have massively improved, think 6 minutes to download a smiling cat picture! Who’s it for? = no-one

ADSL – The first ‘reasonable’ Broadband product in terms of speed, delivered using the legacy BT wholesale network over copper.  Everyone starts to get excited and the dot.com era really begins.  In many ways innovation and ambition was ahead of the capability of the infrastructure e.g. VoIP services start to emerge, but the reality of poor quality and reliability soon give it a bad reputation.
Who’s it for? = again, no-one, unless you’re a farmer and that’s available

ADSL2+ – The simple version is, much like ADSL … but better. Improvements in resilience + bandwidth start to inch forwards, and just in time, it’s fair to say that by now Broadband is essential for most businesses to just open the doors.
Who’s it for? = If you’re a micro SME or freelancer, and can’t get FTTC then this is where you’d start

FTTC – Upgrades to the UK’s core infrastructure start to come through.  ‘Fibre-to-the-cabinet’ simply means you’re still using old-fashioned copper cabling from your office to the ‘cabinet’ (that green box in the street), but the rest of it is over the shinny new Fibre-Optic-Network.  Things are looking much better now, and services such as VoIP now work as they should.
Who’s it for? = SME’s.  But ask yourself this question, will your business stop if your Broadband stops?  if the answer’s yes then you need a backup service, or better a Leased Line + a backup service

FTTP – Can you guess what this one is? fibre-to-the-premises, yes they’ve replaced that last bit of copper cabling and replaced it with fibre-optic so there’s no more copper, anywhere, now really cooking on gas.  Only thing is FTTP hasn’t reached all of us yet, in fact if you’re not in a city it may be years away.  That said FTTC has been improving steadily year-on-year.
Who’s SME’s, and again if you want your business to work all the time, you’ll need a backup

Contention Ratios – So, only issue with Broadband is you’re not the only one using it, that’s right, you’re sharing it with potentially lots of other people and  A ‘Contention Ratio’  is how many other people you’re sharing it with.  Ever wondered why some Broadband packages cost £50 p/m and others £15? this is why.  Business-grade Broadband services tended to have lower CR’s e.g. typically  8-20 simultaneous users, whilst residential ones had much more, often up to 150+.  And as you might imagine, the more people sharing it, the slower it gets, no matter what the headline Bandwidth is.

Leased Lines – For many businesses Broadband is now so critical they don’t want to share with anyone.  This is what a leased line is. It’s 100% yours.  You can choose the speed you want, it’s symmetrical (your upload bandwidth is as high as your download), and the SLA’s are great (how long it takes to fix faults) from the standard 2-5 working days to 6-hours or less. Because the cost isn’t being shared out amongst 8-100 people, it costs quite a bit more.  However, in the last couple of years the prices have come down dramatically, so where this was once a privileged enterprise-level offering, we’re now seeing a large-scale uptake of SME’s using this in their businesses
Who’s it for? = any business who (a) needs Broadband to work all the time, and (b) any business with more than 20 x desk-based staff

MPLS – Broadband connects you to the outside world! this is how most of us use and understand it.  MPLS however is slightly different.  Let’s suppose you have lot’s of sites that have Broadband, but rather than connecting to the outside world, or the internet, they just connect directly to head office.  Head office then have their own Broadband service that connects to the outside world (nearly always a Leased Line).  The reason why some businesses do this is because it creates a ‘safe place’ for the business to work in, where all their data is available and shared, and where firewalls and cyber security are all managed centrally, making everything safer.  Some would argue that MPLS is a declining product, that new technologies such as SD-WAN can do a better job for less money (I’ll explain SD-WAN in another post).  The key thing is if you’re a multi-sited business, there are products made just for you, if you have bog-standard Broadband at most of your sites, you’re probably missing a trick
Who’s it for? = Multi-sited businesses

4G / 5G – When 5G lands, it’s said to be a game-changer, with download speeds around 100 x faster than 4G its a real contender.  Some say it may even replace our need for traditional Broadband.  Truth is we don’t really know until it arrives.  In all likelihood, and we’ve witnessed this multiple times before, many of the claims made about it will turn out to be true, but it’ll take a lot longer to get there than expected.  Getting advice is key, a great example of this is … did you know that 4G data-sims or USB’s have their bandwidth throttled after 30-days if they haven’t moved? (depending on what you buy, and from whom), so if your IT company has set one up on your router as a back-up, in case your Broadband ever goes down, it probably won’t work very well at all!  Happily there is a solution to this … but you’ll have to ask!

If you need help making the right choice for your business, get in touch, it’s really no more complicated than that.

Hero IT Support – Saving The Day

hero@heroitsupport.com