Bad broadband can cripple your business. There is a solution available, and along with government grants to assist small businesses, they don’t cost the earth. In this blog I’ll explain what these solutions are and how these grants help and if you find yourself thinking ‘what a great idea’, do get in touch because once the grants are gone, they’re gone.
First, let’s look at why is any of this important? Well, simply put, good broadband connectivity is becoming more and more important to UK businesses. We’re all expecting to be able to do everything and then some more online, both at home and in the workplace.
At home, it’s now expected that I can stream a film whilst both children do the same from separate rooms because, of course, they don’t want to watch the same film as each other.
At work, we’ve become more comfortable with collaborating online, and whereas several years ago a business could expect to store all its files and emails on onsite servers, many businesses have started to utilise a cloud storage solution. Let’s be honest, most people are pretty bad at backing up their data, that’s why cloud storage is regarded as a much more scalable and resilient solution.
On top of this, there are cost savings to be made by embracing communication technologies such as internet calling (VoIP), which is going to be used in all businesses by 2020 in preparation for the 2025 ISDN switch off.
The easiest example to explain this is my home use. A few years ago, I would have been lucky to stream one video online at OK quality. But now it’s just accepted that several people in the same house can do this at the same time in great quality, and if a buffering logo pops up we’ll start to make some noise about it.
Whilst this isn’t true for everyone, especially those in rural areas and those on business parks, we’ve had improvements in bandwidth speeds in the UK over the last few years that have made this possible. Since 2012 there has been a massive increase in the availability of superfast fibre broadband, 91% of the UK can now access it, providing download speeds of up to 80Mb/s which is around four times faster than most copper broadband.
Recently we’ve also seen the introduction of full fibre broadband (also called FTTP or Fibre to the Premises), but currently, this has a much smaller footprint. FTTP, if you can get it, offers huge benefits, with a current maximum download speed of 330Mb/s – so another four times faster than superfast fibre broadband.
If you don’t get FTTP, another term to get your head around soon will be G.Fast, a broadband technology that will also give speeds of up to 330Mb/s and available to many premises that can currently get superfast fibre broadband.
Whilst this paints a rosy picture of improvements, there are still some challenges:
Whilst it’s great that 91% of businesses can access superfast fibre broadband if they wish, this still leaves a huge 9% that can’t. This 9% of locations are also usually the premises that are excluded from other new technology developments such as FTTP, making the situation even worse.
Ofcom (the UK telecoms regulator) data shows there are often businesses losing out – 33% of business parks can’t access superfast fibre broadband. 180,000 of SMEs can’t access superfast services either, and a huge proportion of these are SMEs in rural areas, making up 72% of this figure!
Even the smallest business can find broadband speeds too constraining if it lives and breathes online.
Digital agencies and media publishers are a great example, sometimes employing just a few staff but transferring huge amounts of data online every day, they soon find a standard traditional broadband connection is not up to the job.
If any of the above applies to you, a solution may be a dedicated leased line. From Gradwell, this means a sole fibre optic cable between you and the local telephone exchange. From the exchange it will connect directly into a high-speed data network, giving you reliable fast speeds that allow you to get on and work. Better yet, your upload speed will be symmetrical to your download speed meaning that those files that you want to share with your colleagues will fly up into the cloud and Jeff in accounting can access them straight away.
What’s more, unlike most broadband where you get one top speed and that’s it, leased lines can grow with your business, giving you more bandwidth if your needs change. Double in size in the next two years? Fine, simply ask for more bandwidth.
Let me explain that a bit more: Fibre optic leased lines are usually described in two parts, a line speed and a bearer speed. They are usually quoted like this: 20/100. The number before the slash is the line speed and the number after is the bearer. The bearer is the maximum speed that the line can go to. This means that in the future if your needs change and your current line speed is lower than the bearer speed, you are able to upgrade your bandwidth and pay just a bit more per month. So you can increase your 20/100 to 40/100 or 60/100 and so on with your max being 100/100.
If your thinking this is beyond a small business like yours or too expensive, you’d be wrong. In some areas Gradwell had already put in this type of dedicated fast connection and businesses pay just £8 per day. You’ll find because your service is better, you’re able to run your business more smoothly and, quite often because you can also save money by doing things like making cheaper phone calls using VoIP, in no time this has paid for itself.
A leased line can solve problems for all types of business, and Gradwell have provided leased lines to businesses with a small handful of staff all the way up to those with hundreds.
To make accessing this type of connection even easier for SMEs, the UK government announced in a recent budget the launch of a
Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme. Under this scheme, SMEs can apply for a grant of up to £3,000 towards the cost of installing a leased line.
This can bring the costs of installing this type of service down. Even better, the scheme is open to all small and medium sized enterprises, the main rules being:
“A small to medium sized enterprise is defined as one that employs fewer than 250 people and has an annual turnover not exceeding €50 million, and/or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding €43 million. This includes sole traders.
You must not have received more than the permitted amount of state aid in the last 3 years.” https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/for-businesses/b2/
If this matches your business, you should contact us today because the budget announcement ring-fenced only a certain amount of grants, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. This may sound like a lot but it’s less than 3,500 businesses benefiting across the whole of the UK.
The application process is quite simple – we’ll provide a quote for a dedicated, high-speed connection that qualifies under the scheme which takes the voucher value into account. If you accept, we’ll inform the scheme promoters (the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) that you want a connection installed, and your local council will check you’re eligible. This will only take a couple of weeks.
Once accepted, we will get on with getting your connection installed, and once it’s in, you just need to confirm that it’s working and you’re accessing much-improved speeds. And that’s it, you have a much better, more efficient internet connection with room to expand it.
If you would like to read more on Leased Lines please see our Ultimate Guide to Leased Lines