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How to decide if a leased line is right for your small business

The price of leased lines is dropping – making them more accessible and affordable. A leased line is a permanent network connection between two points; typically the local telephone exchange (also known as the PoP – the Internet Service Providers Point of Presence) and a company’s premises, and they offer an ‘uncontended service’, i.e. the connection is completely dedicated to you.

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Nolan Braterman from Frontier Voice and Data, explains the benefits of a leased line over traditional broadband connections.

To determine if a leased line is right for your business, consider these three factors:

  • Users: A leased line is usually recommended for organisations with 20+ users
  • Internet Usage: If your user count is below 20, a leased line may still be a good idea if your internet usage is high. For example, regular use of video conferencing, or if you have employees accessing your network from various locations, i.e. remote workers or multiple offices.
  • Back-up Plan: Finally, it’s worth asking yourself what would happen to your business if the internet connection failed. If your business would lose money; opt for a leased line. It should come with Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Service Level Guarantees (SLGs). Other connections such as ADSL do not come with these and as a result, leased line problems are usually fixed quicker than ADSL ones.

The cost of a leased line is usually calculated using the following factors:

  • Location: If you have multiple sites using the same provider at each may prove more expensive as the price is driven by the distance the provider is from your building.  So, the same provider might be near to one and further away from another.
  • Competition: With the growth of dark fibre there are many new providers, especially in city centres, so it is worth talking to a supplier that works with a wide range of potential networks to ensure the best search of the market takes place. In rural locations there will be fewer suppliers and possibly less competitive rates.
  • Bandwidth: Of course, the more bandwidth you require the higher the cost. Some suppliers will have deals on certain speeds so it’s worth asking for a variation of speeds on your quotation.
  • Technology: Leased lines would traditionally be provided using fibre optic cable, however there are new technologies which are changing this. EFM (Ethernet in the First Mile) and GEA (General Ethernet Access) are newer options which provide the same service at a smaller cost.

Finally, look at the overall advantages of opting for a leased line in comparison to other broadband connections. Here are some examples:

Higher Speeds

Leased lines offer far higher speeds; they can be bought at speeds of 10Mbps, 100Mbps, 1000Mbps or even 10,000Mbps. Other connectivity options such as ADSL simply can’t compete with that. For example, ADSL is advertised as being ‘Up to 8Mbps’. ADSL2+ is advertised as being ‘Up to 20′ or Up to 24Mbps’. The real speeds available to you drop dramatically the further you are from the exchange.

No Slow-Down at Peak Times

Rather than being an uncontended service, ADSL is usually a ‘contended service’. In other words, the bandwidth from your local exchange to your ISP is promised to 20+ customers. Unfortunately, at peak times when many customers are surfing the web, this lack of backhaul capacity causes your Internet connection to slow down. Leased lines, in contrast, are dedicated to you, and you alone.

Faster Uploads

Many people think they have a 4Mbps connection or a 6Mbps connection. However, that’s just the download speed. The upstream speed is usually much less, on average it’s just 800kbps. If all you’re doing is surfing the web, this doesn’t matter. However, if you want to use online backup, transfer files via FTP, or let staff connect to their work PCs from home using Remote-Desktop-Protocol then the upload speed is important. Leased lines are symmetric, so they offer a much faster upload speed.

More Reliable

Some broadband connections run over a standard copper phone line. After leaving your office, your phone line ends up in a bundle of other phone lines that are going to the same telephone exchange. Unfortunately, the transmissions in these other phone lines can induce currents in yours, causing transmission errors on your connection. Leased lines are more reliable as they use fibre-optic cable, which doesn’t suffer from this type of electrical interference. Secondly, they come with higher-grade more-expensive hardware, which is more reliable.

If you decide to go for leased lines you will need to choose your supplier and there are a few key points to consider whilst you shop around:

  • Protection: Bespoke SLA’s for your business are a real selling point – so ensure you’re receiving this service when signing up.
  • Contention: Ask for an uncontended service and get it in writing.
  • Ability: Speak to an independent telecoms supplier who can look around for you and find you the best quote from a variety of suppliers. When doing this it’s important to check that the supplier will be able to resolve any issues should they arise.

Leased lines can provide an unbeatable level of internet connectivity, although it may not always be necessary for your business. When buying, always ensure the solution is bespoke to your business. Any good telecommunications supplier should put your business and its needs first when recommending a broadband connection, but it’s always handy to know the basic facts.

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