Price – the one factor you shouldn’t use to choose broadband provider

Price – the one factor you shouldn’t use to choose broadband provider

At work and at home, one ‘proverb’ holds true – you get what you pay for. It doesn’t matter whether you’re buying shoes for the kids, or IT services for the office, if your decision is made purely on the basis of price, you will inevitably end up with a substandard product that delivers far less value than you expect.

And like many “cheap” purchases, the problems do not become apparent until it is too late to reverse the decision. Unfortunately, when it comes to business broadband, a bad buy can have disastrous consequences.

Bargain business broadband

A business broadband service that costs just £20 per month sounds like a steal. With promises of speeds “up to” 17Mbps, it would seem that you have everything needed for a relatively speedy connection, and plenty of bandwidth for your users.

All of these bargain services have one factor in common – they are built using ADSL technology. For many years ADSL has been the only broadband option for consumers and businesses alike – but the roll out of superior fibre optic connections means that ADSL is very much the worst of the two options.

Not only does fibre optic broadband offer superior connection speeds (up to 76Mbps), but the design of ADSL is fundamentally flawed.

When 17Mbps doesn’t mean 17Mbps

Despite the apparent promise of 17Mbps, the sneaky inclusion of the words “up to” on promotional literature and contracts means that your ISP doesn’t actually have to supply that speed. In fact, they can get away with delivering significantly less – and there’s nothing you can do about it.

There is also the small matter of “contention” – the number of other businesses who share your connection at the local exchange. Even if you do manage to get a 17Mbps connection, that bandwidth is shared with other business users at the exchange. It is not uncommon to have 20 businesses sharing the same connection, significantly reducing the amount of available bandwidth for your internet-connected activities. 

If one company hogs that bandwidth, the other 19 suffer from poor connectivity as a direct result. For users reliant on  dedicated online software like Office 365 or Salesforce, a lack of bandwidth, or slow connection speeds could be disastrous. An inability to access key data and tools in a timely fashion will destroy productivity.

Yet despite being classed as a business broadband connection, there are no service level agreements (SLAs) to guarantee the quality of service you receive. Worse still, there’s not much you can do about the situation either. Once locked into a contract, it’s very difficult to get out again.

Wherever possible you must choose a fibre optic connection – even if it does cost more.

When ADSL is your only option

Some businesses are based in locations where fibre optic broadband is not available - and many immediately (incorrectly) assume that ADSL is their only choice.

There is however one other option – an internet leased line. These connections are much more expensive (~£200 per month), but they offer significant benefits over ADSL.

First, the speed quoted is guaranteed - if you pay for a 20Mbps connection, you receive 20Mbps speeds. Unlike ADSL, the same speed is available for data leaving your office too – so sending files and the like becomes quicker too.

Second, a leased line is yours – you don’t share any of your bandwidth with anyone else. Every last bit of that 20Mbps connection is yours to do with as you please, so you won’t ever experience bottlenecks caused by another user.

Finally, if the quality of service drops, or your connection goes off completely, you have a number of guarantees to fall back on. Every leased line contract is backed by a number of SLAs that tell you when service will be restored, and what compensation you can expect for breaches of those promises.

Leased lines – the only viable fibre alternative

In the event that your business cannot get fibre broadband, a leased line is actually the only sensible option. Choosing ADSL just because it is cheaper will quickly prove to be a false economy. 

The additional cost of a leased line will guarantee your business the bandwidth you need to stay productive. And you will also be able to take full advantage of internet-enabled systems like Google Apps and Xero Accounting that save you even more money in the long term.

As your team becomes more productive, the efficiencies gained will help to offset the cost of a leased line. You will also see for yourself how £200 per month is much better value than £20.

To learn more about your internet connectivity options and how to get the best for your business, please get in touch.

Ofcom makes it easier for SMB's to exit under-performing broadband contracts

Ofcom makes it easier for SMB's to exit under-performing broadband contracts

New rule changes mean that your business can move broadband provider quickly and without charge

For many years broadband providers have been able to advertise services offering download speeds of up to 200MBps. But once installed, many small business owners have found the actual maximum achievable speed is much slower.

Fear of being fined by the Advertising Standards Agency forced many providers to be a little more specific about their services. Most now provide customers with a range of speed values between which they expect the final connection to achieve. These “more accurate” values, are typically only supplied as the buyer completes the sign-up process.

Frustratingly though, even this range of speeds is just an estimate. There is no guarantee that your business will actually achieve guideline download speeds. Ever.

Have you ever tried cancelling business broadband?

Once you have signed up to a contract, cancelling business broadband is all but impossible. None of the service reps you speak to will be able to help because their support scripts do not cover your situation for starters.

And when you do manage to speak to the disconnections department, they will quickly remind you about the contract you signed, and the amount of time remaining before it expires. They will also happily point out that all speeds quoted are simply estimates, and that your very slow broadband speeds are beyond their control.

All of which means that if you want to terminate the contract, you’ll have to pay a hefty disconnection fee.

Switching business broadband providers is about to get a lot easier

This inability to switch business broadband providers leaves British SMEs at a significant disadvantage, both to their larger competitors who can absorb the cost of cancelling contracts, and foreign firms equipped with faster connectivity. Realising that bad broadband has a wider effect on the UK economy, telecoms regulator OFCOM has stepped in with a new program to assist.

From 2016, cancelling business broadband that fails to perform will be free. Where a business can demonstrate that their broadband connection continually performs below the minimum expected speed, they will be able to break their contract without fear of hefty cancellation charges. 

ISPs signed up to the program will also be required to provide maximum and minimum speed estimates before the sales process begins. In this way SMEs should be able to compare services more effectively before being locked into a contract.

Time to get serious about cancelling your business broadband

Although the new framework is not yet live, SMEs stuck with slow connections may still be able to renegotiate. And if their existing ISP is unwilling to assist, businesses can at least begin preparing for a change of provider from September.

Whatever your situation, it’s time to talk to Cloud Broadband. We can supply your business with a super-fast, super-reliable fibre Internet connection that allows you to compete on the world stage. Drop us a line and we’ll help you understand your options – even if you are currently tied into a non-negotiable contract.

6 reasons why your business cannot ignore VoIP

6 reasons why your business cannot ignore VoIP

No matter how much of your business is conducted online, customers still rely on the telephone more than you’d probably like – over a third (37%) default to the phone when they have a query. That said, 66% of customers have spent more with businesses who deliver great service, so investment in a decent phone system will eventually pay for itself.

But before you rush out and buy a traditional phone system, you need to know about VoIP.

What is VoIP?

Voice over Internet Protocol, VoIP, converts voice calls into digital signals that are then transmitted securely over a standard Internet connection, cutting out the traditional phone network. It sounds complicated, but if you’ve ever used Skype, Google Hangouts or Apple’s FaceTime, you’ve already used a variant of VoIP calling.

But why should you choose VoIP over a traditional phone system?

1. VoIP is low-cost

Virtually every aspect of VoIP will help you save cash, without compromising on call quality. Bypassing the traditional phone network means that your business is not charged fees for routing calls, helping to dramatically reduce the cost.

VoIP calls are routed via an online exchange hosted in the Cloud, doing away with the need to install a costly switchboard unit (also known as a PBX) in your office. Again, you cut out the capital spend required to purchase the switchboard and the associated running costs (support, maintenance, electricity etc).

Using standard broadband connections, capacity can be added to your system quickly and easily, and at far lower cost compared to traditional ISDN-based (an older, more expensive phone line technology) alternatives.

2. VoIP to VoIP calls are free

As you would expect, calling internal extensions on a VoIP system is completely free. The genius of VoIP however is that the phone handsets can be located anywhere in the world, allowing you to build a distributed workforce, constantly in contact by phone, but never paying for calls – even internationally.

The same goes for calling clients or suppliers who use VoIP telephony – calls to them are also completely free.

3. Take-anywhere phone numbers

VoIP systems are not reliant on the traditional desktop handset either. Most can be accessed from apps on your computer or smartphone, allowing you to make and receive phone calls from anywhere in the world at significantly lower cost than using a mobile – all you need is a decent WiFi/broadband/3G connection.

With a take-anywhere number, your employees can be called when out on site, simply by dialling their extension number. They can also easily join conference calls or similar at no extra cost. It’s like your phone system is available any time, any place, any where.

4. Localised calling

In certain circumstances it may be desirable to maintain a range of geographic numbers to indicate close proximity to customers. In this way, customers in Manchester can call a Manchester number, before being routed seamlessly to your office in Birmingham.

This helps your customers keep their calling costs down, and provides some psychological reassurance that your business is nearby, ready and able to help.

5. Simplified management

An on site switchboard can be confusing and time consuming to manage. Overseeing office moves and re-routing extensions are the stuff of nightmares, dragging you away from other, vital tasks.

The Cloud management system used with VoIP systems on the other hand is incredibly simple to use; assigning extensions takes mere minutes, and the phone number travels with the app or handset, so you never have to switch configuration when your employees switch desks.

And in the unlikely event you run into a problem with the web-based console, your VoIP provider is on hand to help.

6. VoIP is future-proof

Perhaps most importantly of all, VoIP is future proof – the technology needs nothing more than a reliable, fast broadband connection because all of the clever routing functions are carried out in the Cloud.

A traditional phone system uses ISDN lines to provide connectivity which are both expensive and outdated. The PBX used to route calls will also require routine maintenance and eventual upgrade or replacement to cope with the needs of your growing company.

Cloud VoIP solutions scale almost infinitely, so company growth will never be limited by the phone system.

Take your phones into the Cloud

When it comes to balancing cost, functionality, and the future telephony needs of your business, traditional systems cannot even come close to VoIP. To discover exactly how much your business could benefit from VoIP telephony, please get in contact and we’ll happily discuss your options.

Hurry Up! Your Business could miss out on £3K broadband Connection Voucher!

Hurry Up! Your Business could miss out on £3K broadband Connection Voucher!

Modern business moves quickly, and your organisation needs to keep up. But no matter how efficient your internal operations may be, if your broadband is slow, your business is losing out.

In fact, a survey by electronics manufacturer Sandisk found that the average employee wastes one week every year waiting for files to upload and download. Scale that up to include every employee in the business and you could be looking at months of lost productivity (and profits) as a direct result of having a poor Internet connection.

Because the Internet isn't just about email and web surfing any more. Cloud-based services like Google Apps, Microsoft 365 and even Xero Accounts are all completely reliant on your broadband. If your Internet connection is too slow, these apps will not perform as well as expected. Which means the money you save by taking out Cloud subscriptions is wasted immediately as you wait for screens to refresh and documents to upload.

Slow connectivity is directly related to inefficiency.

How to fix your broadband for free(ish)

The answer then is to buy the fastest, most reliable broadband available – and we don’t mean the “free” connection supplied by your landlord. Fibre broadband super fast, super sexy and super important to your business. The problem is that the extra cost of superfast broadband can blind cash-conscious managers – until now.

As part of the Government’s continuing efforts to improve the British digital economy, several funding schemes have been announced designed to help SMEs join the online revolution. Recognising the importance of broadband connectivity, a voucher scheme was launched last year, offering SMEs up to £3000 towards the cost of upgrading their Internet connection.

But although the scheme is open to almost any business, many SME owners are not claiming their connection voucher. By not doing so, they are making a huge mistake that is costing the economy millions of pounds, not to mention their own profits too.

It is rare to see the Chancellor giving away free money – and it would be stupid not to take it, especially as the benefits will be exponential.

Hurry up

Unfortunately the Chancellor’s goodwill is not permanent; the voucher scheme is set to expire on the 31st March 2016. More importantly still, the vouchers are drawn from a central fund and when all that money has been allocated, no more will be made available. If you leave your application any longer, there may be nothing left for your business.

So if you want super fast broadband for your business, you need to hurry up and apply. Get in touch with us today and we can take you through the process of obtaining funding, having a new connection put in and watching improved productivity boost your bank balance. And all at George Osborne’s expense.

Did you know? Your serviced office broadband is doing you a disservice

Did you know? Your serviced office broadband is doing you a disservice

For businesses and startups that need an office quickly, the offer of ‘free’ (or heavily reduced) broadband included in the rent seems like a great deal. Your company is reliant on email and Internet access for many day-to-day tasks, so a broadband connection is a business essential. And if the landlord arranges a connection, that’s one less task for you to complete.

Except that most serviced offices are relying on business owners to make that assumption. Because their experience is in property rentals and leasing, not Internet connectivity, their choice of service and provider is rarely what you actually need. Broadband connectivity is a sweetener designed to get you to sign the rental agreement. But because it is eating into the serviced offices profits, the landlord will choose the cheapest option they can.

Not all broadband is the same

The fact is that ‘cheap’ rarely equates to ‘good’. After a few days, weeks or in some cases months of struggling, you will find that insufficient bandwidth, variable connection quality and data caps are affecting productivity. At which point you then have to arrange to have your own connection, specified to meet your needs, installed at the office.

You may find that the free broadband actually costs you several weeks productivity while you wait for a connection that can deliver the performance and reliability you need. Leased line broadband has a lead time of 90 days; can you afford to be without good broadband for three months?

The SuperConnected Cities Connection Voucher

Recognising the importance of the Internet to British business, the government has launched a broadband subsidy program for SMEs based in 14 “SuperConnected” cities including Birmingham. Delivered in the form a voucher, the Super Connected Cities program gives SMEs up to £3000 towards purchasing a business-grade, super-fast broadband connection for their office.

The Super Connected Cities initiative is intended to deliver the connectivity and bandwidth that SMEs need to compete in the global marketplace. And by subsidising initial uptake, the British government hopes to eventually improve infrastructure provisions across the entire country.

How to apply for the SuperConnected Cities voucher

To get your SuperConnected Cities voucher, you need to apply through an approved supplier. Once your application is approved, you will have the funds you need to deploy a true business-class fibre broadband connection that will significantly outperform the one provided with your serviced office.

Your voucher can also be used towards purchasing top quality networking hardware for your office to further improve stability, resilience and bandwidth optimisation. And when your business needs to grow, your broadband can be scaled accordingly, delivering the increased capacity that additional users and services require.

As an approved SuperConnected Cities provider, Cloud Broadband can work with you to deploy the broadband solution your business needs. If you would like to know more, just fill in this form below and we will help you get started. And, don't forget that by being based in the same connected city as your business, Cloud Broadband are always on-hand to help troubleshoot and resolve connectivity problems in the event that you run into trouble.

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