For today’s business, a fast and reliable connection to the internet is an absolute must. With broadband now the accepted standard for fast internet, enterprise users are looking for a move beyond the restrictions of consumer-level connections – and freedom from clunky hardware, traditional phone lines, or even fibre optic cabling.
Business Broadband Essentials
Connection speed, download limits, and pricing are the main drivers of selection in the consumer market. For the business sector, continuity, quality, and availability of service are key – plus knowing in advance what measures are in place if the network should go down.
The business environment changes over time, so it’s important that a service be adaptable enough to accommodate growth and altering requirements. Security is also an issue, plus the knowledge that a service provider will deliver on its promised set of features, and provide year-round 24 / 7 support.
Fixed Line Options
When people say “broadband”, they’re usually referring to the fixed-line variety, which has been the standard for consumers and many business operations for some years.
Connections are made via existing phone lines, or cables specially provided by a service operator. ADSL is the standard option, but fibre-optic cable gives greater speeds and has in recent years come to the fore as the preferred choice. On premises, the cables connect to a router, which can then distribute connections to devices using Wi-Fi or Ethernet cabling.
For business users, typical contracts give faster connection speeds than those for consumer broadband, but set-up costs may be prohibitive.
The Mobile Alternative
With mobile broadband, you connect to the Internet using the resources of a mobile phone network – either 3G, or the faster 4G services. Access to a network is granted via a SIM card (which may be embedded in a USB stick for desktop, tablet, or laptop systems), by tethering from a mobile phone, using a portable Wi-Fi hotspot, or a dedicated broadband dongle (a kind of USB modem).
The thing to take away here is that mobile broadband isn’t confined to mobile phones; with USB technology, it can be accessed via laptops, desktops, netbooks, and other devices as well.
The Mobile Edge
Clearly, with its basis in a mobile network and the ability to be used on a range of portable devices, mobile broadband gives business users on the road a better option. Traveling to or from meetings and venues, or conducting field work and sales campaigns, the internet is readily accessible – all you need is a decent phone signal.
In regions where fixed phone lines are few and far between (such as rural areas, mountain regions, and other “difficult” environments), the mobile option provides access to the internet without the need for a dedicated line.
With mobile broadband, you don’t have to pay for line rental – and with numerous plans available, the costs in comparison to fixed broadband services are quite competitive.
Since you can use mobile broadband on devices with screens both large and small, there’s scope for greater flexibility in the work you can do on the road. Instead of peering myopically at a smartphone screen to decipher crucial documents, you can read them on a laptop or tablet – then use the full versions of your office productivity software to edit or create new work.
There are some limitations – notably those due to signal strength. Mobile broadband is dependent on the infrastructure of your mobile phone network, and if this falters or goes down, you’ll lose Internet access. This can adversely affect ongoing downloads, communications, or works in progress. However, we are starting to see apps that allow for Wi-Fi calling where mobile coverage might not be available.
Services advertised and those actually delivered are not always one and the same. If a mobile service provider promises speeds of “up to” a certain figure, this represents the optimum condition, rather than the expected norm.
Users of Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, or 10 should have no compatibility issues with most commercial dongles, but Mac users and those on Linux or other open source platforms should check the product literature to make sure their devices are compatible.
When it comes to connection speed and data usage limits, business users now have a range of options to choose from.
For start-up companies and small to medium-sized enterprises (SME), where budget concerns are critical, a capped business broadband service is probably ideal – especially if your online requirements are modest.
Typical plans range from 10 Gb per month, to 50 Gb, with several options in between. Many service providers will continue to give access even if you exceed your monthly limits, adding a surcharge for the excess data that you use. This can be vital in keeping your operations running without interruption.
Larger enterprises and those in businesses requiring high data usage or constant network availability will benefit more from an unlimited broadband Internet service. This is also a better option if your workforce is large, and requires access to the Net from a multitude of devices.
Many service providers operate fair usage policies which grant high-speed broadband downloads and uploads with no limitations. Keep in mind that bigger data allowances will attract correspondingly higher fees. You’ll need to assess your in-house data usage to determine which level of service best suits your business purposes.
Somewhere In Between
Some broadband providers offer a “conditionally unlimited” service for business users. This class of plan typically gives unlimited internet access during the working week (Monday to Friday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.). On weekends, Bank Holidays, and other holiday periods, broadband usage is capped.
For business users needing occasional access outside normal working hours, this is a good option which limits costs at those times.
Your Choice of Providers
The broadband market is a competitive one, with major names all vying for your custom by offering attractive bundle pricing. This is fine for offering choice, but for the business user it should be borne in mind that your company will need a competitive and robust service that allows for excellent support. At the hardware and resource level, firms like Velocomms offer routers, SIMs, and dongles from all the major networks so that you can be assured of continuity and compatibility..
Most provider websites will have a facility for estimating your data requirements, and the mobile network signal strength in your area.
So, shop around and look for the combination of data, speed, and service provision that best suits your enterprise.