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We are more reliant on broadband than ever! A trend accelerated by the pandemic, with the almost universal use of Zoom, Teams and the likes for both business and pleasure; the surge in online shopping; and the heightened interest in services such as Netflix.

It’s no surprise then, that I keep being asked what the difference is between residential and business broadband, and what the benefits of a leased line are?  

Guide to the different types of internet access

Residential broadband is comparable with 2nd Class post. The Post Office will do its best to get your letter to you as soon as possible but makes no guarantees of date. The supplier will do their best to give a good service but no promise.

Business grade broadband is comparable with 1st Class post. The Post Office will do its best to get your letter to you next day but makes no guarantees of date. The supplier will do their best to give a good service but again, no promise.

Leased Line is comparable with a courier service with guaranteed delivery.  Your service expectation is definitely going to be met.

Leased lines costs have come down significantly and can be as little as £125.00 per month. These are usually fibre lines directly into you premises and all the bandwidth is for your business exclusively. So, if you have a 100MB service you will get the full 100MB up and down. These services can go up to 10GB and higher if needed.

Both residential and business broadband are Shared Internet Access (SIA) services. This is where the throughput provided by the Internet Service Provider (BT, Sky, Talk Talk, Virgin etc) is shared to minimise costs. This is the typical residential broadband model, whereby several consumers access an internet connection which is shared between them via the Service Provider.

In their marketing activities, these providers use bandwidth speeds to attract new customers – but these advertised speeds are often the maximum possible (look out for phrases like up to 80 Mbps…”). Because access is shared, available bandwidth is split between all concurrent users. Providers (also known as ISP’s) bank on the fact that not everyone will be uploading or downloading large files, streaming video, or web conferencing at the same time – but in reality, bandwidth speed depends on what the user population is doing. If many other customers are using their connection at the same time as you, the speed you experience will be slower.

This model works for residential broadband because consumers are rarely engaged in ‘critical’ online activities. They might experience jittery VoIP calls (calls using an internet connection), video content breaking up or difficulty accessing their favourite websites – but for most, this is worth putting up with in return for low-cost internet access. Although during lockdown, many employees had to work from home, which put a huge strain on bandwidth as evidenced by ‘freezing’ Zoom calls.

Business broadband is also a shared service, albeit a prioritised one. Cost is the attraction, but this type of connection could turn out to be false economy for business customers. Decide whether your operations could cope with a service that varies in performance from minute to minute, or with network issues that occur when there are ‘too many’ simultaneous users.

The level of technical support offered by the providers on shared internet access also tends to be inadequate for business users. Contracts are usually delivered and managed on a ‘best effort’ basis, meaning that your ISP will try their hardest to provide a smooth service, but won’t offer guarantees on performance, nor on response time in the event of an outage.

If your organisation needs a reliable, consistent internet connection to perform business critical operations, a leased line might be a safer bet.

We can advise on the best options for your business. All we need is the postcode and we can give you accurate options of the services that are available.

Jon Pentel

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