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If you own a small business, you may be tempted to use your household broadband for a range of business activities – for example accessing the internet or communicating with your suppliers and customers.
However, many providers recognise the unique ways in which small businesses use the internet and offer tailored broadband packages aimed specifically at businesses like yours.
While you may well be able to use your household broadband connection for your small business or start-up without any problems, a dedicated business broadband package can allow more scope for your business to thrive.
The following is a short guide to the features offered with broadband for small businesses.
Lower contention ratio
This is the number of people who are accessing the same bandwidth you are using at any one time. The higher the contention ratio, the more people are attempting to use the same server as you, and the slower the connection. While home broadband connections have a contention ratio of around 50:1, broadband connections for businesses typically offer a contention ratio of 20:1 or less. This lower contention ratio should mean your business benefits from a faster and more reliable connection.
Business broadband connections offer much faster speeds for users, with business customers often given priority over domestic traffic. If your business relies on a fast connection – whether you’re sending and receiving emails, uploading to social media or running your own website – access to fast download and upload speeds could be crucial.
This also applies to any usage limits your provider imposes. While you might find it appealing to pick a broadband package that offers unlimited access to the internet, these often come with a premium. If you believe your business is not a high internet user – which is usually the case if few of your staff use the internet for work – it might be worth opting for a cheaper package with a reasonable download limit.
Static IP address
At least one free static IP address is usually offered with a business broadband package. A static IP address allows you to host your own server, host your own website or domain name server and remotely connect to your computer from anywhere in the world.
While these features may be more relevant to larger businesses, a static IP address is worth considering to reflect your business’s future growth. It is important to remember that if you do decide to use a static IP address, you’ll need to ensure the computer that hosts your server is on at all times and connected to the internet.
Better security and support
Business broadband usually includes a more comprehensive security package, with features such as antivirus, anti-spyware, firewalls, spam filtering and a remote data back-up centre which helps guard against data loss.
Business broadband customers are also able to access a specialist support centre which prioritises business customers when problems arise with the connection. Many business broadband providers offer strict Service Level Agreements (SLAs) which promise that any issues with your connection will be resolved as quickly as possible – often within a specified number of days.
Business customers are often given priority over domestic traffic, which can be particularly useful if you’re operating during periods of high demand, or if there are problems with the network that are slowing down your connection.
Voice over Internet Protocol services are a way in which you can make low-cost or free calls internationally through using the internet. This is also a convenient and cheaper way to make video conferencing calls, and can be useful if some of your employees work from home. A mobile broadband package may also be a useful add-on which allows you and your employees to access your business broadband via a smartphone or tablet.
If you’re based in London, you might consider using the interactive map provided by the Connectivity Ratings Scheme which shows the broadband speeds offered in different areas in London. The map displays the areas that currently receive superfast broadband (greater than 30Mb), fast broadband (greater than 10Mb) and slow broadband (up to 10Mb). You can also use the website to request faster broadband in your area.
You’ll find that business broadband providers offer a range of speeds, with the price of the package often rising in proportion to faster speeds. While the speeds you can enjoy will depend on your location, it is important to consider the needs of your business before making a purchase. Opting for an unnecessarily fast package could mean you end up paying more than necessary for your broadband, while opting for a slower package could hinder your efficiency.
Based on where your business is located, you might be able to take advantage of the Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme. This is a government-sponsored scheme which grants vouchers between £100 and £3,000 to eligible businesses across the country. The voucher goes towards the cost of your broadband connection.
As you might have noticed, even the most competitive business broadband packages tend to be more expensive than domestic broadband due to the extra features that are offered. These vouchers allow businesses to take advantages of these extra features without adversely affecting their bottom line.