Choosing Suppliers

Poor connectivity can hinder operations and stunt potential growth

8 min read

09 February 2017

Deputy Editor, Real Business

WiredScore, a platform for landlords to share broadband information, spoke to Real Business about the impact of poor connectivity – and what business owners should look for when seeking new office space.

First developed in New York in 2013 by the likes of Google and Cisco, WiredScore was bent on improving the city’s broadband infrastructure and poor connectivity.

It has since launched in the UK, introducing the nation to a programme entitled Wired Certification. It collects information about the connectivity and infrastructure of commercial buildings and makes it publicly available to entrepreneurs looking for office space. WiredScore is thus well-placed to offer advice on what to look for before signing that lease.

As such, we spoke with the company’s EMEA director, William Newton, who told us more about eradicating poor connectivity, as well as how a building can get a high ranking on its certification programme.

1) How did WiredScore’s journey to help digital connectivity begin?

WiredScore launched in London in 2015 with an endorsement from the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. We were asked to bring our certification programme to the UK so as to start a conversation around connectivity, and to provide developers and landlords with a trusted mark to benchmark and demonstrate technology infrastructure.

Sadiq Khan also gave his backing to Wired Certification  weeks into his new role, stating: “We need to promote greater transparency on connectivity in commercial properties, helping the capital’s businesses make the right choices for the long term. This important work will enable other properties to benchmark and make the right investments to enable London’s businesses to continue to grow.”

2) Can poor connectivity impact an SME and its growth?

Technology is becoming an essential feature in SME business operations. The rise in cloud-based software provides the opportunity to use enterprise-grade CRM, accounting solutions and more, with greater agility and at reduced costs. As an example, 45 per cent of the country’s SMEs use ecommerce, highlighting that connectivity is the lifeblood of modern business.

Slow cloud applications hinder businesses’ productivity, while ecommerce firms’ bottom line are hurt during outages. One hour of interruption to a website generates losses of up to €6m for credit card payment systems, €110,000 for a mail order company and €90,000 for a ticket booking office. Even more concerning, outages have a lasting impact on a company’s profitability; 93 per cent of companies without database access for ten days or more go bankrupt the same year.

3) What are the challenges businesses face when choosing office space and ensuring it will meet technological needs?

When choosing office space, bosses largely take a stab. Without a clear benchmark for commercial connectivity, a company may only discover after signing a ten-year lease that its new building has poor connectivity. It may offer little choice of internet service provider and have no backup connection in case of accidents.

Many startups attracted to Tech City face this problem, citing problems in accessing cloud services, hosting customers on websites or, in some cases, even sending an email. Great investment has since been made in this area, both by internet service providers and landlords. However, this situation will sound all too familiar for many.

Ultimately, when it comes to connectivity capacity, business owners need to look for three things: quick set up, so they are not working off 3G dongles for months on end; multiple internet providers to provide competitive prices; and resilient internet, to avoid outages.

Newton tells Real Business about broadband trends on the next page.

4) What are the biggest broadband trends you’ve come across?

Government policy is having an impact on broadband, with the Autumn Statement taking the commitment to superfast broadband one step further with a goal of providing nationwide full fibre internet. Connectivity plays a central role in prime minister Theresa May’s Industrial Strategy.

The Autumn Statement’s reduction of business rates for fibre providers will drastically change the market, paving the way for disruptive new companies. Small providers, such as Gigabit and Hyperoptic, will be able to expand more rapidly. But it is important that, in this aggressive market, providers still work together to share poles and ducts, and work with developers and landlords to build and share universal communications chambers into buildings.

The trend is extending beyond central government too. Local authorities are also making new investments in public WiFi networks to support both businesses and consumers. The City of London Corporation announced it would launch a public WiFi network to rival New York’s infrastructure. After the Standardised Wayleave it launched last year, the City of London Corporation is positioning itself as a slayer of poor connectivity.

5) What does it take to garner a Platinum rating (reserved for those with topnotch connectivity and infrastructure) on WiredScore – and what makes the rating so elusive?

Wired Certification helps occupiers make an informed decision before signing a lease, and provides landlords with a benchmark from which they can improve and market their buildings’ connectivity standards. WiredScore looks at the following inputs, and so too should businesses looking for office space:

Pure connectivity

We look at how many internet service providers are coming into a building and the medium they’re coming in on; i.e. whether it’s copper coax, RH wireless, or fibre. For example, while relying on copper would have been perfectly adequate to run a business on ten years ago, trying to store documents in the cloud, or upload attachments would now be laborious.

Infrastructure

WiredScore takes into consideration factors such as whether the building has dual points of entry, whether it has diverse vertical risers, secure telecommunications rooms, and sufficient horizontal run space. A building with only one point of entry risks potential disaster if, say, the one source of fibre into the building happens to get cut. Businesses can continue to run without air conditioning or water, but cut off their internet and they’ll be fleeing to the nearest café.

Readiness – both legal and practical

For example, is there enough space to run new cabling in the risers? Does the landlord have a standard Wayleave agreement in place to enable new service providers to be brought in quickly?

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.

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