It’s the rare business today which doesn’t heavily rely on internet access, and often it’s a critical part of day to day operations. In fact, our research has found that losing broadband access can cost businesses an average of £904 per hour.

business broadbandBut choosing a business broadband service is not always straightforward. Do you require a high level of support? Are there specific features it will need to offer? And do you even need a business broadband package? In this article we’ll look at the broadband options for SMEs and how to choose a service which meets your organisation’s needs and provides good value.

Do you need a business broadband service?

While your business may need broadband, you do not necessarily need to get a business broadband package. In many cases the actual broadband connection of a business broadband deal is no different to home broadband. Outside of specialist offerings, they use the same Openreach or Virgin Media networks and deliver a similar choice of speeds.

If you have a very small business or work from home then you may not benefit from a business broadband deal. So long as the connection offers the right performance and you do not need a specific feature or extra level of support, a standard consumer service could suffice. That also means you can take advantage of the numerous special offers available on home broadband which can help cut costs.

But while this might be cheaper, there are also good reasons to pay for a business package. The money you save on home broadband may not be worth it if you get a broadband service which can’t offer the performance or reliability you require.

Why you might need business broadband

Business broadband can offer features you won’t find on a typical home broadband service, and for many companies these can be crucial.

Static IP address

The majority of home broadband packages have a dynamic internet protocol (IP) address, which means the IP address associated with the connection which identifies it on the internet can change. But a business connection will usually provide a static IP, which is permanently attached with your broadband. That makes it much easier to run your own server, or to operate services such as remote desktop access.

Traffic prioritisation

ISPs will often put business traffic ahead of home broadband connections, so you won’t be affected by a slower speed at the peak times when everyone is online.

Better tech support

ISPs will typically provide either a dedicated business support team separate from the home broadband, or prioritise business calls. So when things go wrong you can get an answer quickly without waiting in a queue. Business teams may also be available outside their normal support hours, and if you need it many providers offer 24/7 call centres.

SLAs and compensation

Some business broadband providers have a Service Level Agreement which aims to fix problems and get you back online in a specified timeframe. And if they can’t meet this you may be able to claim compensation.

Should you get fibre optic broadband?

You’ll find the choice of speeds for a business broadband deal is often the same as a residential service. So you can opt for an ADSL connection with an average download speed around 11Mb, or a fibre optic service with a range of speeds; around 35Mb, 50Mb or 67Mb on a BT line, or from 50Mb up to 362Mb on Virgin Media.

Very small businesses or sole traders may find that an ADSL broadband service is enough, and it will be the cheapest option, however by modern standards the speed is very slow. It is especially sluggish if you need to upload data, which could be problematic if you’re frequently sending large amounts of data to clients or employees, or you want to host a server.

For this reason we would always recommend businesses buying now choose fibre optic broadband. The download and upload speeds are significantly higher, and there’s a wide range of packages at various price points to suit most budgets. Fibre can also provide enough bandwidth to cope with multiple employees, with enough bandwidth to cope as you grow your business and increase headcount.

Securing your business broadband

When choosing a new broadband service it’s also important to think about security. Ensure devices are protected with anti-virus software, and that you have strong passwords backed up by multi-factor authentication to provide an additional layer of protection.

The broadband router must also be secured. Change the default administrator passwords and restrict the number of employees who have access, and ensure your Wi-Fi network is protected by a password. Your business broadband provider will usually supply a router, though depending on its quality you may wish to invest in a more advanced model.

Residential routers are not recommended for commercial use. Business grade networking equipment will generally offer better security, stronger Wi-Fi signals and have the ability to support many more devices.

It’s also very important to keep software and hardware up to date with the latest patches to protect against known security threats. Whenever possible you should configure software and devices to auto-update and check regularly.