By Rob Hilborn, head of strategy for the broadband comparison website Broadband Genie
Broadband is an essential utility for modern businesses but it’s still not uncommon to find that rural connectivity is less than ideal. So what can you do if your organisation is stuck with slow broadband? There are solutions available, and they don’t have to cost a great deal to implement.
Find out what’s on offer
Infrastructure upgrades are (slowly) happening across the country so if you haven’t checked lately take the time to find out more about the services on offer to your business. It’s increasingly likely that fibre optic or cable broadband are available in your area, and this is a welcome upgrade if you’ve only got ADSL at present.
It should also be noted that if fibre has been placed in an exchange within reach of your office BT is now offering Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) installations that offer a huge leap in speeds. This is ideal for businesses with demanding requirements.
A simple postcode search may reveal some new choices, or you can delve deeper into the local telecoms infrastructure using the tools at SamKnows.com.
Explore alternatives to fixed lines
If fixed line coverage is poor there are some wireless alternatives to consider.
Mobile broadband can provide reasonable performance though it is reliant on a good signal and the limited bandwidth would only suit businesses with few employees or fairly basic usage requirements. However very small firms or sole traders might find this to be an affordable and flexible choice, and speeds can easily beat out slow ADSL connections.
There’s also satellite broadband, where orbiting relays are used instead of fixed line links. That has a huge advantage in that it can be used just about anywhere. All you need is a dish mounted with a view of the sky and it can provide far better speeds than ADSL. The most affordable entry level packages now reach speeds up to 22Mb but there are higher end packages offering even faster connectivity. Just be aware though that satellite can have much tighter data usage caps and has a higher latency than fixed line connections, which may impact applications such as remote desktop access.
In some areas you may also have the choice of a provider which uses long range wireless transmitters and simple receiving equipment to offer wireless leased lines at speeds that match and exceed the BT Openreach fibre optic network. These are run by smaller independent firms so coverage is limited, but they often focus on delivering access to neglected areas. They’re not always well advertised though so it’s worth doing a little bit of research to find out if any such services are on offer.
Take advantage of the connection voucher scheme
Business can claim up to £3,000 for a new broadband installation using the connection voucher scheme. You’ll need to be in a participating location (there are now over 50 areas across the country involved) but it’s open to a wide range of businesses, from home workers up to medium enterprises.
So long as you meet the scheme’s reasonable criteria you can choose a new broadband service and have the installation costs paid for by the government. With more than 600 providers involved and up to £3,000 available there should be something for everyone, whether that’s satellite broadband, a new cable install or a leased line.
Make the most of what you’ve got
In some cases a new service may not be viable or you simply want to save money and make the most of what’s already available.
Only the most remote locations will be stuck with dial up as the sole fixed line connection, and if that’s the case we’d recommend looking at satellite broadband. Otherwise just about every organisation should be able to get some form of ADSL broadband, whether that’s the older 8Mb standard or the newer ADSL2+ that provides speeds up to 17Mb.
ADSL is cheap and widespread but the biggest drawback for a business is the very limited upload speed. However there are business broadband ISPs that can deliver ADSL with slightly quicker upstream rates.
Another option is bonding, where multiple lines are combined into one connection. Or you could simply have multiple phone lines installed each with their own ADSL subscription, and split access between your staff. This is also a good idea if you have a staff member or department with more demanding requirements. Setting aside a line to a dedicated purpose can then free up the other connection(s) for general use without everything slowing down.
Businesses with slower connectivity may also wish to place more limits on its usage, otherwise a single rogue user could impact everyone. If you permit casual non-work use demanding activities like video streaming and downloads should be limited to quiet periods, and you might want to monitor or restrict the use of smartphones and other Wi-Fi devices to take some of the pressure off a strained connection.