Up until a year or two ago broadband was considered important to a business. This was reflected in the type of packages being offered by ISPs – less contention/congestion that that provided to consumers and less likely to be traffic shaped.
This was important because a business didn’t want delays in email delivery or issues with running VoIP services. The bigger the business the more services that were likely to be run over that broadband connection and there came a point where that business would need to invest in more reliable uncontended Ethernet connectivity to operate.
As we move into 2013 the landscape has changed enormously, matured perhaps might be a good way to describe it. Emerging cloud based services that had seeds planted over the last few years have started to see those seeds grow into saplings, hedges and trees even.
Today even the smallest business is making far more use of the internet and cloud based services than they were a year ago. The cost of connectivity has plunged and the bandwidths available over that cheaper connection have grown so that the decision to use cloud services so much easier.
There are many cloud-based services in use by business. To name a few: Salesforce.com, Xero accounting, Eventbrite for ticket sales, Checkfront for table reservations, even Facebook pages and advertising.
These services are great because not only do they move a business away from an upfront capital spend model, but they allow a business to scale and flex with the success of that business and fit well with modern flexible working habits. This is particularly true for smaller businesses. A member of staff who chooses to work from home some days or fits in work around kids schooling can easily access corporate resources without the need to have a VPN connection that in turn requires a fairly competent IT skillset to set up.
These businesses are also turning to VoIP (Voice over IP) without blinking. The same company that allows its staff to work flexible hours also now provides that member of staff with a VoIP inbound telephone number that will follow him or her from the office, to home, to Starbucks. Companies are no longer questioning VoIP as a technology. They are proactively asking for it.
This is all true except for those without decent broadband connectivity for whom the clock has stopped squarely in the middle of the last decade. So whilst I opened by commenting a year or two ago broadband was important, today broadband is pretty much mission critical for a business.
The growing importance of the broadband connection makes the choice of broadband provider equally important. To opt for a “pile it high sell it cheap” offering with no Service Level Agreement and a busy overseas call centre reading from a script does not fit the bill, albeit a low bill. Also no business wants to be sharing its backhaul connection with teenagers from the estate down the road who come home from school and glue themselves to their gaming console.
A business needs to know that the support is there when needed and from someone who understands the problem. The increasing dependence on broadband has brought with it the need to build in resilience to that connection. For retail businesses that depend on the broadband for transmission of credit card processing data this is hugely important. No broadband = no sales. Secure 3G mobile data connections that sit within the same secure MPLS network as the broadband line used for card payments are becoming pretty standard. The business case really stands up.
It is also only a matter of time before faster 4G connections are brought into play for the same purpose. The data bandwidth required for a credit card transaction is only a few kBytes and can happily live with 3G. If you are running your business off a Fibre broadband line using all the services mentioned earlier, 4G will fit the bill as a backup, even for VoIP.
Broadband usage does vary by business and the bigger the business gets the more likely that business will have its own IT resources and want to do its own thing. The common denominator though is that all business will use cloud-based resources, be they their own or purchased as a service and in order to do this they will need a reliable business ISP that offers business grade connectivity with business grade support and response in the event of a problem.