Matt Powell, editor for the broadband comparison website BroadbandGenie.co.uk, shares his top tips on getting the most from your broadband
In a report earlier this year OFCOM revealed that just 56 percent of SMEs had access to superfast broadband, compared to 75 percent of homes. Slow broadband is particularly problematic in rural locations, where business users could find their services falling far behind other parts of the UK.
But there are a number of options for getting better business broadband, and it doesn’t have to be a major investment so even small businesses can enjoy the advantages of faster, more stable internet access.
Apply for a connection voucher
The Connection Voucher scheme is a government grant which provides up to £3,000 to businesses to go toward the cost of installing a new broadband service. Often this will cover everything and mean there’s zero cost to your organisation for getting a better broadband service.
There’s a huge range of options as more than 600 providers are signed up, so you could go for anything from a BT Openreach fibre connection to a leased line to satellite broadband.
It’s open to small and medium businesses – including home workers and non profits – in around 50 areas across the UK. You can apply right away at connectionvouchers.co.uk.
If your business is in an area where fibre optic or cable broadband aren’t available and ADSL is the only choice there is a way to get faster connectivity thanks to bonding. This is where two individual ADSL lines are combined to give the impression of a single quicker connection.
Not only does this improve speeds for a reasonable cost, it also provides some redundancy because if one line goes down the other can continue to work.
ADSL bonding is not a common service so not something you’ll be able to find at the mainstream providers, but smaller specialist firms like Eclipse can help your organisation get setup with a bonded package.
Go high tech with satellite broadband
Satellite broadband dodges all the issues with fixed lines by providing access via an orbiting relay. To use it you’ll need a dish and modem, but so long as you can get a clear view of the sky it will work just about anywhere within the footprint of the satellite. This is particularly useful for rural businesses where other options are limited.
Satellite is a little expensive to get started as you have to buy or lease the equipment, but the running costs are in line with other broadband services. Most packages aimed at home and small business use provide a download speed up to 22Mb and upload to 6Mb, so it’s far better than ADSL, but faster speeds are available if you’re willing to pay for it.
The main drawback with satellite is the high latency, which can interfere with activities like VOIP and remote desktop access.
Switch to wireless broadband
Another option for sidestepping the problems caused by access to fixed lines is to use some kind of wireless broadband.
There are niche providers which offer Wi-Fi leased lines over a wide area using powerful transmitters and a simple receiver mounted on the outside of your premises. If you have one of these in your area they can be a very easy and cost effective way to get better broadband. And you don’t need a phone line to go with it.
There’s also mobile broadband. While this does depend on network coverage it can be a viable alternative as the latest 3G and 4G standards are capable of outpacing ADSL. This too can be a relatively affordable and straightforward thing to setup, and you can improve reception by mounting a more powerful receiver aerial. However, be sure to keep an eye on the data usage as most mobile internet packages have a cap and the cost for exceeding this can be high. Because of this it’s may be best suited to home workers or small firms with just a few employees.
Take control of your network
If you can’t or don’t want to upgrade your broadband there may be some ways to improve general performance with some changes to your network.
If Wi-Fi signals are weak a newer, more advanced router could provide better signal strength. And they’ll also come with advanced functionality which might be useful elsewhere, such as USB ports for network connected hard drives.
Controlling the usage of your broadband can also help improve performance during peak working hours. Discourage employees from connecting personal devices via Wi-Fi as this can cause problems on the basic routers supplied by many ISPs. If necessary you can restrict access to specific devices using the router settings. You could also setup web access restrictions to prevent the connection being used for sites which can consume a large amount of bandwidth, particularly things like YouTube and Spotify. These restrictions could be left in place all the time or you could set windows when they’re relaxed so employees can browse during breaks or out of work hours.
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