As business technologies continue to advance, broadband Internet access has become an integral part of almost every company’s daily workflows, however, many companies have never taken the time to reassess their level of service versus their actual needs. As businesses begin to adopt new technologies like Voice over IP phone service, or Unified Communications software, it’s important that their broadband service is capable of supporting these bandwidth-hungry solutions.
Many SMBs still rely on residential broadband service as an inexpensive option, but that small price tag comes with a number of disadvantages that could be reducing productivity for companies with a heavy reliance on their broadband connection. Residential broadband runs on shared bandwidth that is oversubscribed with the idea that not everyone will be using the Internet at the same time. When there are spikes in traffic, the available bandwidth for everyone is reduced, which is why you see fluctuations in your bandwidth speed at certain times of the day.
Business Internet solutions, on the other hand, provide a dedicated private connection that is only available for use by your business. The cost for dedicated broadband is more expensive per megabit, but if your business relies on the consistent transfer of data, this added cost might be worth the extra money.
Getting Consistent Bandwidth Speeds
The first thing to understand about shared Internet service is that it provides “up to” bandwidth speeds – in other words, you get “up to” 25Mbps (or whatever level of service you have purchased). That bandwidth speed is a cap, not a guarantee. You should also be aware that shared broadband is usually asynchronous, meaning that you don’t get the same speed for uploading data as you do downloading (for example, you might get 25Mbps down, but only 2Mbps up). With a dedicated private connection, not only is all of your bandwidth available 100% of the time, but you also get the same bandwidth speed for both uploads and downloads. This can be very important if your business relies on the multi-directional transfer of large amounts of data, or if you are using a VoIP phone system.
Bandwidth + Latency = Speed
Bandwidth is one component contributing to the speed of your Internet service; another is latency. Latency refers to the length of time it takes data to get from one point to another, and is noticeable in the amount of delay you experience (the higher the latency, the longer the delay). There are a number of factors that affect latency including how far the data has to travel, congestion on the bandwidth, and whether routers along the path are overloaded. Several recent studies point to the “last mile” (i.e. the distance from your computer to your ISP) as one of the most frequent causes of high latency. Obviously if that last mile is using shared bandwidth, it will be more congested, causing higher latency. Utilizing a dedicated private connection not only cuts down on last mile congestion, it also enables the ISP to implement Class of Service (CoS) technologies.
Understanding Class of Service (CoS)
Class of Service refers to technologies employed by the ISP to provide voice & video packets priority over standard data packets, and is typically only available with dedicated private connections. CoS greatly improves the quality of audio and video services to your business, so if you have VoIP phone service or utilize videoconferencing, you will get better overall performance on a dedicated private connection with CoS employed.
Best Effort vs. Service Level Agreements
What would happen to your business if your Internet connection were unavailable for an entire day, or even a week? If you’re using a residential Internet service for your business, you are subject to the same “best effort” service that you have in your home. Basically, the ISP has to provide its best effort to keep your service up and running. On the other hand, most business Internet products include service level agreements with at least a 99.99% uptime guarantee, which equates to less than five minutes of downtime per month on average.
There isn’t one right answer for which type of Internet service is best for your company, it really depends upon the type of business you have, and how you use your connection. If you’re experiencing slow internet service, or if your VoIP phone system has choppy audio or numerous dropped calls, you might want to investigate moving to a dedicated private connection for your business. The cost might not be as high as you think, and the service level will definitely improve.