Bandwidth-hungry services and applications are rapidly reshaping the connectivity requirements of businesses. Cloud computing, video-conferencing and more flexible working practices, coupled with the sharp rise in mobile devices and burgeoning data growth, are forcing companies of all sizes to re-evaluate their needs.
The rise in “bring your own device” and remote working is increasing the expectation of always being connected from any location. Juniper Research forecasts the number of employee-owned smartphones and tablets used in businesses worldwide will reach 350 million by 2017 compared to 150 million this year. That will represent almost 23% of the total installed base of consumer-owned tablets and smartphones, says the analyst company.
Demand on bandwidth is growing exponentially in line with those connected devices. According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index—a quarterly survey that tracks the growth of data traffic such as video and internet services—the number of devices connected to IP networks will be nearly three times higher than the global population in 2016. By that time the equivalent of all movies ever made will cross those networks every three minutes, estimates Cisco.
All of these developments are putting a massive strain on companies’ infrastructure, forcing them to reassess their connectivity choices. The issue is compounded as the lines between connectivity solutions are blurring. With the arrival of greater speeds and improved Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for broadband and fibre, the distinction between DSL and Leased Line technology is becoming increasingly difficult to understand.
Greater choice is undoubtedly good news but how do you then chose the option or options that are right for your business? A good starting point for companies is to make a careful evaluation of their current and evolving needs (see connectivity checklist below). If you are concerned that a slow or interrupted connection has already impacted sales, customer service, security or employee productivity, or even slowed down email or affected your internet access, the chances are you need to reconsider the technology you are using.
Starting with your current needs, the first step is to look at which applications you are using, how critical they are to your business, and who is using them and from which locations.
A company that wants to speed up their internet connection or send larger documents via email, as well as reduce the chances of service interruptions, could find that an upgrade from broadband to fibre meets their needs. Typically, fibre provides eight-times faster download and twenty-times faster upload speeds than standard broadband, boosting productivity. Fibre will also enable you to deploy higher-bandwidth applications such as video, deliver more reliable video-conferencing and online collaboration, as well as run small applications from the cloud.
But it’s also important to think about how your business might grow in the future. Fibre could be sufficient for a small expansion of your workforce, but more considerable growth or the addition of more offices could require dedicated leased lines. The same consideration needs to be made if you are planning to use more bandwidth-hungry cloud services or run more applications online. And it is important to consider who is accessing your applications, through which devices, and where they are based. A greater number of remote workers or employees using their own devices to access applications could require an upgrade to fibre, leased lines or a mix of technologies to enable home and office working.
Certainly, a business that runs mission-critical applications and risks losing sales or customers even after a brief access outage, should consider leased lines. A dedicated leased line offers guarantees of uninterrupted bandwidth, highly-secure access with best possible uptime and comes with management tools to help you to use the bandwidth better. One of the key advantages of leased lines is that they enable companies to better deal with unpredictable business demands, letting you scale bandwidth to meet a seasonal rise or fall in usage of applications and services Thus allowing for example, companies to flex bandwidth down and save money during quiet periods
One UK law firm that was connecting its remote workers across its Internet VPN (Virtual Private Network) found that the relatively low and variable bandwidth provided resulted in an unreliable service, forcing employees to continually reconnect back to the server in its head office. The company, which connected three sites and considered guaranteed bandwidth to be critical to its business, switched suppliers and turned to BT to provide leased lines. As a result, employees no longer have to keep reconnecting to the VPN and business continuity is no longer compromised.
Better connectivity—whether it is based on fibre, leased lines or a mix of technologies—also opens up new business opportunities. The Driftwood Spars hotel in North Cornwall is using its high-speed fibre connection to hold live wine tasting evenings via a video-conferencing service in conjunction with vineyards in New Zealand.
“Guests are able to taste wines in the company of a sommelier 16,000 miles away,” says Lisa Ravenscroft, head of fibre broadband and value added services at BT.
The good news for businesses is that choices are widening as availability of technologies is extended. Some 30% of UK businesses are already fibre-enabled, for example, and Ravenscroft says 700-1,000 businesses are signing up for services every week, with many of those upgrading to the higher speeds becoming available.
Whether companies choose to opt for fibre or leased lines, many are already seeing the business benefits of upgrading their connectivity in the face of increased pressure on their networks and services. The key to deciding which connectivity solutions meet your needs is to evaluate which applications you will use and how, whether you are satisfied with their performance, and their importance to your business now and into the future.
Is your connectivity working hard enough? Use our checklist to help you identify whether your connectivity strategy meets your current and future business needs.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, an upgrade to fibre could fit your needs. Fibre’s guaranteed minimum speed of 16 Megabits per second typically provides eight-times faster download and twenty-times faster upload speeds than standard broadband, improving performance of applications, email and broadband at peak times. The service comes with a 24/7 helpdesk and we aim to fix faults by the end of the next working day.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you could consider an upgrade to a leased line that offers a target service availability of 100%, as well as guaranteed upload and download speeds, scalable bandwidth to suit needs, and unlimited data usage.
Time to review your connectivity strategy? Give us a call on 0800 345 7985 or download our BTnet and BT Business Infinity case studies to see how other businesses have benefitted from their choice of connectivity.
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