Choosing Suppliers

Five ways to improve your business broadband

9 min read

11 January 2017

As part of the Business Broadband section we're introducing our resident troubleshooter, who will not only be writing advice articles on how you can make the best of the broadband you have, but also take on business broadband questions from the public.

One would hope business broadband providers would make more effort to ensure customers are getting the best from the broadband service they are paying for. But alas the size of many providers means you are just one of many small invoices they raise each month. It is not a hard and fast rule, but some of the smaller less well known names, such as those who don’t spend large sums of money on TV advertising, can often provide a much better broadband support experience and in some cases are a lot better at chasing the Openreach local loop operator to get faults resolved.

So what are five things you can do to improve your business broadband?

1) Compare the market – simples!

Promises are very easy for sales people to make and they can easily hide behind the small print when you move your broadband service and speeds which don’t match any earlier promises. So research what speeds your broadband service is currently delivering and compare this to what you were sold.

It is likely you only remember the advertised speed, often something like up to 17Mbps or up to 38Mbps, and since providers only expect ten per cent to reach those figures your real world speed is likely to be a lot less. To learn what speed your broadband is connecting at, you need to access the broadband modem to find out the speed – here is where good providers will stand out as their customer portal may already do that for you. Remember to run the speed test when the office is quiet to get the best idea of what the connection can do.

2) Check what new services may be available to you

Providers are often very poor at telling you about available upgrades, or your provider may not offer the new fast service that has rolled out to your area. There is an increasing number of places in the UK where 1,000Mbps symmetric broadband is available, and the fixed wireless options will often provide something that is better than the ADSL/ADSL2+ services many small businesses still use.

In situations where the new provider is not a company you know, ask around to other businesses and find out if what’s being used. Rural businesses on a very old ADSL package (up to 7.15Mbps download and only up to 0.4Mbps upload) should check whether full ADSL2+ is available. This will often double the upload speed and while still a lot a slower than the fancy fibre based services, doubling the upload speed for little or no extra cost makes sending documents and email a lot smoother, plus the new central networks on ADSL2+ perform better at the busy times of the day.

3) If business broadband breaks it means responses to customer emails are not happening

As such, look at what you do for back-up connectivity. Popping to the neighbouring office with a laptop to send a few emails may be OK for small outages, but scenarios where vehicles don’t stop at a junction and destroy a telephone pole or cabinet might mean a week or more with no broadband. So, for back-up look at options such as connecting your router with a 3G/4G dongle, or if mobile service is really bad paying for a back-up satellite broadband connection might be something to consider.

Another option is allowing staff to work from home. Even if this only happens one day a week, it can help to retain staff who prefer the flexibility and release from the daily commute and dedicated VoIP phones and VPN services are something that a good business broadband provider will help with, or can be sourced from other areas. The key thing with home working if using it to create business resilience is to ensure nothing home workers need is tied to a computer running in the office as this will inevitably impact productivity levels.

Points four and five are to follow…

Image: Shutterstock

4) If your business broadband is bad, or the company has expanded to the point where the broadband is feeling the strain before you run out of car park spaces but the cost of full leased line options are prohibitive, consider combining your purchasing power to pay for a faster leased line that is shared between several businesses in the same set of buildings.

Alternatively, there are providers such as WarwickNet that will depending on your location consider bringing their service to a business park and offer everything from fairly standard connections to leased line services but without the full gold plated pricing. As an individual business you have little weight, but as a group of a dozen or more on a small business park you may find more options become available. A quick fix might be installing a second cheap broadband connection and off loading all the visitor and staff access to Wi-Fi on their mobiles to this second connection.

5) The continuing superfast broadband roll-outs may hold hope for some, but all too often the timescales don’t solve the immediate problem or organisations won’t give a firm yes or no as to whether a better service will appear. Making sure your local MP and local authority are aware of the bad connectivity situation you are suffering may help to ensure you are not overlooked, but no-one has committed to a nationwide100 per cent solution yet. If moving the business to an area with decent broadband is not feasible there are schemes running where communities and clusters of businesses can group together money to get something a lot better than they have now.

The largest of these is the BT Group Community Fibre scheme, though be under no illusions of the money involved, as generally to get a new fibre cabinet installed where one is not already planned usually means a group needs to come up with between £20,000-£30,000. Not all the community cabinets that are appearing are in rural areas, so if you are a city centre business with neighbours keen to improve things it is another option – though be aware time scales of 12 months seem fairly common.

The best advice for businesses is don’t suffer poor broadband in silence; make sure your landlord local business groups and local authority are fully aware of your circumstances. Landlords do have a part to play, and increasingly they are cottoning on to the fact businesses are moving to properties where there is good broadband so maybe some pressure on them to provide a collective solution is a way forward.

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.

Andrew Ferguson is editor of thinkbroadband.com