Five considerations when choosing the perfect broadband solution for your business

Over the past few years, South Africa has veered away from ADSL and 3G and turned towards fibre and LTE-A, cutting-edge connection technologies that have dramatically improved the country’s internet landscape with better pricing and faster connections. So if your business hasn’t upgraded its internet connection for a while, it is a very good time to consider doing so.

On the other hand, those changes have also brought with them uncertainty around which technologies – and which of the many packages available – are right for your business.

As our local market is notoriously price-sensitive, businesses still want the best service for the lowest possible price; but did you know that choosing an internet connection on that basis alone can actually do more harm than good? There is a lot more to consider when signing up for a business connection, so to try and help businesses navigate the many options out there, we have a few things for them to think about before making their decision.

Keep your needs in mind

A very important issue to keep in mind is what, exactly, you will need from your connection. Establishing that requires that you ask your IT people a few pertinent questions.

For example, is download speed more critical to what you do every day than upload speed, something that would allow you to sign up for an asymmetric (faster download/slower upload) connection to save a bit of cash?

Is it okay if your line doesn’t perform at its peak all the time? Or is it more important to have 24/7 support and availability of the full capacity of your line? Do you need a low-latency connection for mission-critical services and to keep business app performance on the bleeding edge, or can your business get by with response times in the hundreds of milliseconds?

Do you need to support an office of 100+ staff at once, or will a maximum of 5 people at a time want to make use of the internet? Do you need an uncapped data plan, or is your usage so low that you can get away with a capped – and less expensive – option? If so, how many gigabytes will you need per month?

Answering these types of questions honestly will inform your ultimate buying decision, get you the right connectivity to suit your purposes, and help you avoid buyer’s remorse.

Uncapped vs Capped

Technology aside, the two major types of internet connections available on the market today are capped and uncapped. Capped connections offer a certain number of Gigabytes per month which, once used up, must be topped up, which means more money. Uncapped, on the other hand, don’t come with a data limit, and costs a set amount each month.

You’d think, then, that uncapped is the way to go, but that comes with its own problem: that of the “fair usage policy”. This FUP is a small part of an ISP’s EULA that says if you download more than a certain amount of data (which is often not communicated clearly), the ISP reserves the right to reduce your connection speed.

This is done so that a small number of users don’t hog the ISP’s network, and ruin the performance of everyone else’s connection. The intention behind it is good, but it can be frustrating if you reach that “certain amount of data downloaded” threshold through legitimate usage, and then have to suffer having your connection throttled until the end of the month.

As a general rule, capped accounts work best when you have a good idea of how much data your business uses every month, as your line will perform at full speed so long as you haven’t used up all of your gigs. Uncapped accounts, meanwhile, are better for businesses that don’t know their usage or whose monthly usage fluctuates.

Business vs Consumer connections

The real meat of this article, however, concerns the difference between consumer-grade internet connections, and those offered specifically for business. The first thing you’ll no doubt notice is there is a huge price gap between the two. For a 20mbps down/2mbps up home connection, you can pay anything from R699 and up depending on the ISP, but for the same speed with a “business” tag on it, that price jumps into the thousands. Yes, thousands, even for 20mbps.

That’s because business connections come with things consumer connections don’t, like low contention ratios and Service Level Agreements that guarantee a certain amount of up-time, responses from engineers within a specified time limit, and guaranteed 24/7/365 line performance with office and after-hours support.

Low contention is important, because it means that you’re connected to a network node shared by fewer other businesses/individuals than a consumer-grade line is, something that helps to ensure stable and consistent performance from your connection. It’s the difference between having a car all to yourself, and sharing it with another 45 people – the 45-person bus will cost less, sure, but it’ll also go slower and offer a worse experience and have no definitive time on your destination.

When you’re running business-critical apps and services on your internet line, you can’t afford to be down for any length of time, but it’s expensive for an ISP to provide guarantees that you won’t go down (equipment, technicians, transport to problem areas in case it’s needed), and thus you’ll pay more.

Comparatively, a consumer-grade connection is a best-effort service. That means you get what you get, and if you have to wait several hours / days before any issues are sorted out, well, you just have to wait. Should you have the same experience with a poor-performing business line with an SLA in place, on the other hand, you can rightfully expect efficient service and feedback, and a restoration of services within the SLA timeframes. Should SLA be missed, there are even punitive measures in place, so you don’t pay the premiums on the service for that month.

Business vs consumer connections are like two pizza-delivery services: one that has a 30-minutes-or-it’s-free policy, and one that doesn’t. Should the first fail to deliver in 30 minutes or less, you get a free pizza, but should the second do the same, well, you just have to wait, and it’ll be cold, and sorry for you. Don’t expect the first pizza place to charge as little as the second does, though. Same principle.

Managed or unmanaged

Perhaps the most important decision to make is whether you want to manage the internet account yourself or whether you want to outsource that task. Most SMEs big enough to have a technology expert inhouse prefer to focus on their business while outsourcing these operational aspects to a trusted provider who is an expert in this field.

Ask for help

Should none of this make much sense to you, there are companies that offer assessment services. Trained professionals will visit your premises and evaluate your company’s needs, and recommend services based on their observations.

This is part of what Turrito Networks does; they can provide you with a Network Requirement Assessment professional, who will do exactly that.

Turrito Networks is “network-agnostic”, too, meaning they can recommend the best solution to fit your needs, without forcing the use of a limited range of providers, so you can rest assured that you’re getting the package best-suited to your business’s needs.

Contact Turrito Networks today to book your Network Assessment, and take the confusion out of securing reliable, appropriate connectivity.

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