Internet connectivity is at the heart of every modern business, the reliance on email, internet telephony and cloud services have meant that a lot of businesses wouldn’t be able to function at all if they didn’t have an internet connection.
But what many businesses still have to decide upon is the technology they use for their connectivity. With high-speed consumer and business fibre broadband now available across a large amount of the UK does any other technology stack up when it comes to cost, reliability and speed?
This blog takes a look at Ethernet Leased Lines in terms of what they are (if you don’t already know), how they work, the use cases for such technology and whether you should consider it for your business.
What are leased lines?
Leased lines are dedicated, fixed-bandwidth connections that offer symmetrical download and upload speeds. Because they are dedicated connections, unlike broadband where bandwidth is shared between a number of consumers/businesses, leased lines don’t share their bandwidth with any other consumers/businesses.
The word “leased” means that the connection is leased directly from the ISP ensuring a point to point connection from the ISP to your business location, typically using fibre optic cables. This in turn provides a far more reliable and robust way to connect to the internet vs. Traditional broadband. However, having said that leased lines are usually much more expensive than traditional broadband so are not always the best fit for a business.
How they work
A Fibre Ethernet Leased Line utilises the same technology as fibre broadband by sending pulses of light down a fibre optic cable. However where a leased line differs is that the connetion is leased to a business from the ISP, making the connection unique to you rather than shared with other users. These connections deliver symmetrical speeds of up to 1Gbps.
You also get other leased line types that differ in the technology used and sometimes the price and bandwidth available.
Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM) uses multiple copper pairs to provide affordable but reliable connectivity. Using between 2 and 8 lines ‘Copper Pairs’, twisted together to provide guaranteed symmetrical download/upload speeds, EFM does offer good resilience as if one of the Copper Pairs fails or degrades, the other pairs will pick up and continue to provide internet access.
The other technology is FTTC Ethernet, this utilises local fibre-based cabinets (depending on how close your businesses is to these cabinets) and a mixture of fibre (from the ISP to the cabinet) and copper (from the cabinet to your business). The speed you get with this technology is reliant on how close you are to the cabinet, as the longer the copper line the higher the drop off in speed. However, this is still a leased line ensuring that you have your own dedicated connection.
How your speeds work
In terms of choosing your leased line package, there are two parts to any technology type – line speed and bearer speed. Line speed is the symmetrical up/down speed that you will get upon installation of the connection, the bearer speed is the maximum speed that your line can go up to. So for example, if you were quoted a 20/100 connection this would be a 20Mbps line speed (so the speed you experience upon install of the connection) and a 100Mbps bearer speed (the maximum speed your line can go up to). This allows you to futureproof your connection and give you the chance to increase your speed should you need to by paying a little bit more per month rather than leasing a new line altogether.
Why do businesses choose a Leased Line?
When it comes to choosing a leased line, there are a number of different use cases that often play a big part in businesses deciding to switch from a traditional broadband connection.
High volumes of data transfer
If your business relies on transferring data at large volumes having a symmetrical connection can be really beneficial, especially a connection that is extremely reliable. Broadband connections are often let down by slow upload speeds which are often far inferior compared to the download speed that you receive.
Use of Cloud Applications
With the growing reliance on cloud applications such as Office 365, Dropbox and other popular pieces of business software, ensuring that you can access the tools required to do your job at all times has never been more important. Leased lines give you the reliability and SLAs to ensure that your business continues to run at all times, and with an inexpensive backup in place, you can make sure that you stay connected even in the worst case.
VoIP / Hosted Telephony
More and more businesses across the UK are switching to hosted telephony solutions or upgrading legacy PBX systems to SIP Trunks, giving increased reliance on connectivity when it comes to making and receiving calls. Similar to data transfer, a traditional broadband connection, whilst able to offer decent download speeds, often leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to upload speed. This can impact hosted phone systems as if any speed issues occur, maintaining a good experience over VoIP telephony becomes increasingly difficult. Leased lines provide the symmetrical speeds required for the best VoIP experience alongside the reliability needed to give you complete peace of mind.
If you’re a business that is incredibly reliant on internet connectivity, leased lines give you the reliability and security you need to keep your business operational even in the worst of circumstances. Leased line agreements come with Service Level Agreements (SLAs) which state the minimum uptime of your connection and also guaranteed fix times to keep you connected as much as possible. When you pair this with a backup connection, leased lines are ideal if you are wanting the most dependable connection possible for your business.
What you need to consider
Thinking that leased lines are the way to go? Great, but it’s worth considering a few things before making that decision as it’s very much dependant on your current context. Here’s a few things we’d recommend.
Is broadband working fine for me?
If you have existing connectivity set up it’s worth considering if you can justify changing your technology. If you’re using broadband and there are no real issues with the service you are getting we’ be hesitant recommending leased lines to you, however, if you have a suitable use case or requirement that your current broadband connectivity isn’t providing then that’s where we’d encourage you exploring leased lines as an option for your business.
Can I justify the cost – does broadband cost your business time and money?
Leased lines can be a big investment and around 2-4x the price of a business broadband package in some cases. If you don’t have any existing issues with your broadband connection and it works well for your business we’d recommending carefully thinking about the benefits and return you would get from upgrading against the increase in costs that are associated with a leased line. Sometimes the loss of business that can come with an unreliable connection can often outweigh the increase in costs for a business but it’s not always the case, especially if you are a small business with low requirements.
Line speed and bearer – futureproofing your connection
If you are certain about taking on a leased line connection the next thing you should consider is the line speed and bearer speed for your leased line. Obviously the higher these are the more expensive your connection however it’s worth bearing in mind that by taking a bearer that is larger than your initial line speed will give you the flexibility to increase your line speed later down the line for just a small increase in cost vs. having to install a brand new leased line to cope with your demand. We’d recommend setting the bearer to a speed that you can see your business requiring 2/3 years down the line if possible to avoid any extra costs in the long run.
Need any advice?
If this is a lot of information to take in it’s ok! Our team is on hand to answer any questions you may have regarding leased lines. We’ve supported thousands of businesses in setting up connectivity that works for their business so if you have any questions please message our team using our live chat in the bottom right.
If you want some more information on ethernet leased lines and how they compare with broadband you can also download our free guide using the link below.