Using Broadband in your business
by: John K Mitchell
Can you reduce your internet connection bills and improve productivity by switching to a broadband connection?
To all intents and purposes, broadband is an internet connection that is always on, as opposed to a dial up connections, which, because of the speed allows you to access web site pages almost instantaneously.
Audio and video can be received as continuous streams and virtual private networks (VPN's) can be set upon with branch offices and staff that work from home. Large email attachments and files are also much faster to transfer. You can even save money on telephone calls if you route calls over the internet using a technology called Voice Over IP (V.O.I.P).
Before you start using broadband for your business, you need to be connected to a broadband enabled BT telephone exchange (although there are other options available such as cable networks, or for more rural locations wireless / satellite connections).
Choose a connection speed
You should chosen what type of connection speed you need. Often broadband is priced according to it's speed. The faster the speed the quicker you will be able to see web pages an download files, but the more it will cost you per month. Most small companies where only a few people are using the connection for email and web access should be able to manage on speeds of 1Mb or less, however if your business makes extensive use of the internet and email then you will need a faster speed, possibly a 2Mb line or even a faster line than that, such a line should be able to support basic web video conferencing and VOIP. Of course, if you download large files or have many video or audio feeds into your business then you may want to look at the latest speeds of 8Mb (although not all lines will support such a speed).
Find a broadband supplier
As with telephone suppliers there are many suppliers of broadband in the UK and they all seem to have different prices. By asking around you should be able to identify a short list of suppliers for your connection. Costs for basic business packages start at £20 - £30 per month but you may well find that for a reasonably sized business you will be looking at around £70 per month to give you a multi-user networked account. Generally, the fee is fixed per month but some suppliers may charge extra if you transfer too much data each month (called an excess bandwidth charge). There is also normally a set up and installation charge that can vary between £50 and £200.
At Forest Software we use a company called Andrews and Arnold and have been happy with them, in fact in June 2006 we upgraded to their MAX package and are now getting a reliable 8Mb connection - the process was quick and easy with a switch over that took place early on a Monday morning. It may be worth comparing them with other business broadband suppliers (note that we have no connection with them other than as a customer).
Once your line has been set up at the telephone exchange, installation of broadband in your office is fairly straightforward. Normally you plug a micro filter (or splitter) into the telephone socket and then plug the router or broadband modem into the filter. Connect the modem to your computer and install any broadband connection software that came with the modem and you should be up and running. If you are using a network then you plug the router into the filter and follow the instructions to allow access to the router.
To save on having to run cables around the office you may want to consider installing a wireless router, these often have the capability of supporting up to 16 pc's and are very easy to set up. The router then allows any machine (laptop, PDA or desktop PC) with a wireless card to use your broadband connection.
An even easier way to avoid cables running around the office is to use networking over the mains. We have had great success in installing the Solwise units in our office where we were having problems with interferance over the wifi. we purchases two of these units from a company called PixelHeaven on ebay - they arrived by 9:30 the following morning and within 10 minutes we had all the PC's connected to the network and to the net. Basically these units plug into the electrical wall socket and draw power for themselvs while having a low power consumption. At the same time the unit sends data signals through the electrical power circuit. A second PowerLine device can then be placed on any electrical outlet in the home/office to receive the data signal. Now any Ethernet enabled device (internet cable/DSL modem or another computer or gaming console) can connect to the PowerLine Ethernet ethernet port and this then creates a home/office network. The range on PowerLine systems can be expected to be 100m or more and generally any circuit working on the same electricity meter will provide a good connection. Our set up meant that we had one unit next to the router with a second in the main room used as an office - a switch running off of this provides all the networking that we need (although we are looking at a 3rd unit on the other side of the room to reduce cable clutter even more.
BT Openzone is a convenient, easy-to-use broadband internet access service. Using wireless technology (Wi-Fi), you can access the internet - with no download limits - at any of the thousands of access points (hotspots) in an increasing number of places such as cafs, hotels and airports in the UK and abroad.
All you have to do in buy BT Openzone vouchers and follow the instructions.