How to buy the best business broadband

Fast, reliable broadband is the backbone of any modern business – so choose the best business broadband deal for your new start-up to avoid internet downtime or slow broadband performance.

While it’s tempting to use home broadband services when starting up a new small business, investing in dedicated business broadband from companies such as BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Plusnet is a better option. Not only can you offset it against profits as a business expense, but business broadband offers a number of extras specifically for businesses to keep your web site, online orders and office online.

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Most broadband providers will have tailored business broadband packages, such as Virgin Media Business and BT Business Broadband. They usually include a commitment to uptime – your service should always work – as well as additional extras including telephone services such as call waiting, which can work out cheaper than buying separate services.

Know what business broadband you need

Take time to carry out a data audit of your business. How does your company access data (is it just email or do you need video conferencing), how does it store data such as uploading files to secure offsite storage, and what wi-fi access does your office or workshop need? Make note of these and your requirements before signing up to a business broadband contract.

Research customer reliability

Business broadband is great most of the time. Much like utilities such as electricity and gas, when it works fine your business will take it for granted. When it goes wrong, then good customer support and access to 24/7 technical support can be vital for any business that operates online. Look for service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee speed, uptime and access to support when you need it. It will cost more than home broadband, but it’s a worthwhile investment.

Check speed and contention ratios

Paying more for business broadband should put you into the priority fast lane. Look for contention ratio – that’s the number of other businesses or properties sharing your broadband network server, and typically shown as a number such as 20:1 which means there are 20 other businesses sharing the same server. The higher the contention ratio, the slower broadband can be during peak times. Look for lower contention ratios, and check you can get a guarantee on both upload and download speeds, especially if your business handles lots of digital files online.

Check you get a static IP address

Most business broadband packages include a static IP address, but check that yours does too. A static IP address is a bit like your business address, but online. Unlike home broadband that typically uses dynamic IP addresses, a static IP lets you run additional business services over your business broadband connection. For example, a static IP address lets your business serve up a web site from a server in your office, log into your computer network from anywhere in the world to access files, and run your own email server so you can set up dedicated email addresses.

Negotiate broadband extras

Think of business broadband as suite of services, rather than a data pipe into your office. Businesses such as O2, Virgin Media and BT offer a range of services that you can bundle into your business broadband and save money – good news for start ups. Look for bundles that let you access wi-fi hotspots across the UK when travelling, provide bundled SIM cards and mobile phone contracts, and offer office telephone services such as call waiting and rerouting inbound calls to a mobile phone.

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