Customers expect a responsive service, while employees need fast, always-on access to the internet and their company’s business critical applications and services. As connectivity continues to shape business systems and processes, these are just a couple of the demands that fall on the shoulders of today’s SMBs.

But what are the different types of connectivity available? And how do you choose the one that best fits the needs of your business? It can be a confusing process which often leaves companies struggling with insufficient connectivity – or paying over the odds for a solution they simply don’t need. Here are some of the options available and which type of connectivity is best for your business – from the home worker to the busy office of a fast-paced city SMB.

ADSL Broadband

ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) refers to the entry level connectivity recommended for Soho businesses or small branch offices. This ‘asymmetric’ solution is defined by a greater flow of data in one direction than the other; usually with much faster download speeds than upload speeds. Ultimately, this makes it unsuitable for businesses that experience much higher activity and traffic – or any form of business that would depend on swift upload speeds. With ADSL, the top speeds for downloads are up to 24Mbps and for uploads, 1.2Mbps or less. ADSL is usually the cheapest option available, with most packages coming as part of a bundle including phone line rental and inclusive calls.

Fibre Broadband

Recognised as the new ‘default’ internet connectivity solution for SMBs, Fibre Broadband comes with a host of benefits including high speeds and flexible pricing. With speeds of up to 76Mbps, Fibre Broadband is much more suited to the demands of today’s typical SMB. Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) connectivity provides faster Fibre Broadband speeds as the fibre optic wires are installed directly to a property. Meanwhile, Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) utilises fibre optics and existing copper wire networks, making it much easier to install as there is no need to replace the copper wires.

These solutions are ideal for businesses based in major cities and towns, as well as some more rural locations. Campaigns are underway to improve connectivity in rural areas – so much so it’s even an issue in Parliament – but the reality is that effective connectivity for the entirety of the UK is still a fair way off. FTTC is available to around two thirds of businesses, but make sure you check this with your provider as even in city centres there can be black-spots.

Ethernet Leased Lines

Ethernet connectivity has recently become one of the most popular business network solutions for business that demand guaranteed uncontended bandwidth with high service availability targets. Recommended for SMBs with more than 10 employees, Ethernet offers real potential for businesses to expand, without the risk of disrupting its existing services. However, such solutions involve a greater investment, with Ethernet packages starting at a couple of hundred pounds a month. This makes it even more important for SMBs to speak with their providers about the suitability of Ethernet connectivity.

There are three types of Ethernet options:

  1. Fibre Ethernet leased lines are the premium option offering dedicated symmetric solutions typically starting at 10Mbps and going up to 100Mbps or 1Gbps. Service level guarantees of 99.95% availability are standard. They can be supplied as what is known as Direct Internet Access (DIA) circuits or as part of your company’s Private Wide Area Network (PWAN).
  2. Ethernet in First Mile (EFM) uses multiple copper lines instead of fibre to connect businesses to their local exchange line. This provides internet access speeds of up to 25Mbps often with a quicker installation time than fibre circuits. Service level guarantees of 99.93% availability are standard.
  3. Generic Ethernet Access (GEA) offers a lower-cost solution, using FTTC networks and delivering symmetrical speeds of up to 40Mbps with a service level that guarantees a fix within 7 hours.

The availability of Ethernet is largely dependent on the location of your premises, due to the nature of its installation. For instance, EFM is often only recommended to businesses when Fibre Ethernet or GEA Ethernet installation isn’t possible. Again, chatting through the options with your provider should be the first port of call.

What’s Next For Connectivity?

There is huge pressure on businesses, particularly SMBs, to keep up with the demands of newer and smarter technologies. Accessing cloud-based SaaS applications and VoIP telephony are becoming increasingly commonplace and demand a high quality connection, so expect to see higher speeds becoming more commercially accessible in the coming years. Whilst copper wire networks continue to provide low-cost connectivity for smaller businesses, they cannot compete with the speeds and service guarantees that come with Fibre Ethernet connections. However, if your business isn’t within an Ethernet or fibre broadband area then installation costs can be steep.

Stay Connected & Ahead Of The Competition

Ultimately, staying ahead of the game is all about future-proofing your business as much as possible. This means having the capability to keep up with the latest technology trends and remaining as agile as possible. Remember that it’s not as simple as more bandwidth equalling a faster network; what’s more important is having the most suitable solution for your individual needs. A more costly network could be the investment your business needs to succeed, but there’s little use investing in an all-singing-all-dancing package if your usage simply doesn’t demand it. As ever, talk to your provider about your options and don’t settle until all of the bases have been covered and discussed.