Choosing Suppliers

Broadband nightmares: The data centre hoping to eradicate copper connections

9 min read

30 September 2016

Deputy Editor, Real Business

While it never truly had an issue with broadband speed, HA Hosting knows full well from the experiences of its clients what a slow connection go to do business. As such, we asked how the firm would like to see the landscape change.

If you’ve ever watched in awe at the length of time it took for a message to leave your inbox then you’re not alone. Broadband issues – primarily lagging speed – have been on everyone’s radar. And the consequences are being felt by many UK firms.

This has prompted a race for the best broadband location. The office geography debate is one HA Hosting is well acquainted with, managing director Rory Delahoyde told us. But we had a few extra questions to send his way regarding the broadband space – and here are his answers.

(1) Please describe your company in your own words.

Launched in 2008 by Stuart Stones and I, HA Hosting provides a comprehensive range of data centre colocation, managed back-up and server hosting aimed at helping businesses to grow from its state-of-the-art data centre based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. The company’s clients include many local IT support businesses, companies providing internet-based services to end users and online retailers.

(2) Where does Broadband fit into your business?

Our clients, and in turn their clients, use broadband internet connections to connect to services within our data centre. Data centres are responsible for hosting company websites, applications and to allow businesses to access cloud-based web services. To be able service many thousands of end clients simultaneously our internet connections need to be much, much faster than broadband speeds typically found in homes and businesses. Our clients rely on high quality broadband to be able to access the services we host so are indirectly essential to our business.

A big difference between our internet connection and broadband is that our bandwidth flows at the same speed in both directions, and unlike typical broadband services, our connections are uncontended ensuring the speed of the link can be maintained at all times.

(3) Would you consider it to be vital?

Absolutely. Without a high-speed broadband connection, our clients wouldn’t be able to function, and have access to the huge amount of data held in our data centre. It is essential for this connection to be available at all times, allowing our clients to access information stored on equipment housed within the data centre. Cloud services all rely on the end users having access to speeds which allow services to work, watching a TV show that is constantly buffering is no fun. So many services rely on broadband that it is now an essential part of everyday life at home and work.

(4) What type of broadband/supplier do you use?

Like many data centres we use multiple connections to connect to the internet. We have true fibre connections that have light travelling from end to end, unlike broadband fibre services which can switch to copper for the last part of the connection. These fibres are provided by Global Tier 1 internet providers as well as more UK specific Tier 2 providers. We have multiple connections to safeguard against problems. If we encounter a problem with one supplier, we are then able to reroute traffic across the others without compromising on the performance of the connection.

Want to know how the firm’s thoughts about broadband not just being a “rural problem”? Then continue reading.

Image: Shutterstock

(5) What difficulties have you faced with it?

Choosing the right locations from which to route our leased lines from was an important decision. When businesses and individuals use a data centre, they are reliant on the service being accessible as and when they need it. Using multiple leased lines means we have safeguards in place to ensure that should an internet connection temporarily drop, there is a backup in place which means data held within the data centre can continue to be accessed.

(6) Has the speed of it let you down?

Since we launched HA Hosting in 2008, I can honestly say we have never experienced any major problems with the speed of our internet connections. We spent time researching our options and meeting suppliers in order to understand different options which met our needs. We actively manage our capacity and add more connections as required.

If you are thinking of embracing cloud technology, it is vital to consider the speed of the broadband connection available to you. Slow connection speeds can result processes failing or lengthy waits. In most cases this is usually caused by a slow broadband connection. Home users can often experience problems with broadband when it’s being used for lots of different purposes: For example, streaming videos, watching television, playing games and downloading films at the same time can result in slow broadband speeds.

It’s worth remembering the speeds of broadband can differ enormously across the UK. Rural areas can experience particularly slow speeds.

(7) How do you feel the service could be improved?

The biggest problem in the UK is lack of access to fast internet access in all locations. This is often referred to as a rural problem but areas on the edges of cities can also be affected. Access to fast internet is now so important in everyday life that it should be treated as an essential wherever you are in the country. We need to let go of copper connections and replace them with end-to-end fibre.

Fibre connections are capable of achieving speeds of up to 10Gbps. The outdated copper cable network which is commonly used across the UK means that speeds are limited because of the infrastructure used to deliver the service. Fibre is the future. We need to embrace it across the board: It’s what countries like South Korea have done and why they consistently top the global chart for internet speeds and we are lagging behind.

(8) What do you feel about the state of UK broadband?

Speeds available in the UK are continually improving, but major investment in the way in which broadband is delivered must be a priority.

In recent years there have been a number of government-led initiatives designed to improve accessibility, however many rural communities continue to find themselves lagging behind as the money usually ends up with the existing big players who fail to solve the problem. Increasing the speed of broadband isn’t a straightforward process and one of the greatest problems affecting the delivery of high-speed broadband connections is the UK’s outdated copper-based telephone cable network which is used to provide the service.

BT needs to speed up its rollout of fibre or step aside and let smaller more agile companies take the reins.

Elsewhere, while it isn’t a solution to the UK’s broadband woes, the president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has set out plans that could at least make it easier to do business on the go.

This article is part of our Real Business Broadband campaign, which seeks to provide a mouthpiece for business leaders to vocalise the broadband issues preventing their businesses from reaching full potential. We’d love to hear your take on the debate and where you think the UK needs to make drastic changes. Get in touch via email (shane.schutte@realbusiness.co.uk) or join in on the action using #rbBroadband.