Small businesses have different IT needs from large corporations. The big telecoms companies, such as BT and Virgin Media, offer business broadband to enterprises of all sizes, but is it better to go to a specialist small business broadband provider?
XLN and bOnline are among the frontrunners in IT solutions for small businesses. Read on to find out what they offer and why you really need a business broadband service instead of residential broadband, even if your business is based at home.
The small business providers: XLN broadband and bOnline
Since its beginnings in 2002, XLN has expanded rapidly but remains focused entirely on small businesses. They aim to beat the telecoms giants by keeping prices low and providing fast and efficient support. They promise to answer the phone within three rings and they resolve more than 90% of technical support issues on the first call.
One of XLN’s greatest strengths is free public wi-fi. With more than 20,000 hotspots in the UK and millions of users already signed up, this guest wi-fi feature could be a real winner with your clients. It will cost your business £4 per month on top of the monthly charge for your XLN business broadband packages (starting from under £20 a month). We reckon that’s a small price to pay to keep your customers happy with free, straightforward access to the internet every time they visit your business.
Switching business broadbandXLN and bOnline both guarantee a super-smooth, problem-free switching service, and the positive feedback from their customers suggests that they can deliver what they promise.
As long as you’re out of contract with your current provider, the new one - whether it’s XLN or bOnline - takes care of moving everything from your old supplier as seamlessly as possible.
bOnline differs from XLN in its range of products beyond broadband packages. In addition to its three broadband packages (standard, fibre 38 Mbps, fibre 76 Mbps), bOnline customers can combine different products, such as website design and cloud-based phone systems, according to their business needs and without committing to a contract.
While XLN customers can choose a broadband contract with or without a phone call bundle, bOnline’s contracts are for broadband only, but with flexible options to add VoIP (see below) on a month-by-month basis rather than a full phone service, which might not be necessary for your company (VoIP prices start from £9 per month).
XLN promises ‘free broadband’, which sounds fantastic in theory but really it means paying for line rental, and then broadband internet access and super router come with it. At the moment though, XLN’s fibre broadband offers are the same price as their standard (ADSL) internet plans. It may not be completely free, but it’s definitely an impressive discount.
bOnline has a price match promiseIf you see a broadband tariff cheaper than bOnline, they guarantee to beat it
bOnline certainly gives XLN a run for its money in terms of price. Upfront costs with both companies are kept very low, with just a small charge for router delivery.
Here’s how the two leading providers of low cost broadband for small businesses stack up (all prices correct as of March 2019):
|XLN: 24 month contracts
Includes line rental
|bOnline: 12 month contracts
Includes line rental
|Includes online security||Includes domain and two business mails|
|Fibre broadband £18.95 per month for first 12 months
(then £29.95 per month)
Fibre 76 Mbps
+ unlimited UK calls to mobiles and landlines
£23.95 for first 12 months (then £39.95 per month)
|Standard (ADSL): £16 per month
Fibre 38 Mbps £21.90 per month
Fibre 76 Mbps £26.95 per month
Watch this space for more small business broadband providers entering the market. We will size them up and help you find the best internet plans for the best price.
The giants: BT business broadband and Virgin Media
Just for comparison, BT business internet services start from around £46 per month for fibre optic broadband, or £32 for standard (ADSL), and that’s without including any phone calls. Virgin Media’s lowest price fibre plan for cable broadband is £32 per month. Its download speed is considerably faster than BT’s deal (about 17 Mbps compared to 350 Mbps) but if your postcode is not in a Virgin cabled area then unfortunately, this won't be an option for you.
When you compare broadband deals from the big providers against the plans from the specialist small business providers, keep in mind that a wireless router is always included as standard. Think of it like when you sign up to an internet service provider (ISP) for your home internet. Unlimited broadband is also standard, so you don’t need to worry about keeping an eye on data usage across your network.
If your business is more interested in fast internet access via sim only, mobile broadband, then the big providers seem to win hands down. Here are the lowest price sim only deals from BT, Virgin and XLN:
|Virgin 4G||BT 4G||XLN|
|Data||3 Gb||6 Gb||2 Gb|
|Included in package||Unlimited UK calls and texts||Unlimited UK calls and texts||Unlimited UK calls and texts|
|Contract length||12 months||12 months||30 days|
|Price per month||£13||£20||£20
(£10 per month for xln phone or broadband customers)
These mobile phone plans also include EU roaming so you can use your mobile internet in the European Union just as you do in the UK. However, the best broadband for your company is more likely to be one with unlimited data, or even with your own dedicated high speed internet service in the form of a leased line.
A leased line, or dedicated internet access, means never having to share your internet connection with other people. For businesses that are heavily reliant on internet access a leased line could be the answer to your prayers. This is especially true if broadband connection problems are affecting your productivity (perhaps your employees are constantly complaining about the internet being slow..?)
A leased line is an internet connection installed at your premises specifically for your business, providing the appropriate infrastructure is in place in your area. No matter how busy the internet traffic is around you, your connection never fluctuates. It’s like having your very own lane on the M25 during rush hour.
The cost of a leased line is upwards of £100 a month, depending on its specifications. Essentially, the faster the connection speed, the more it costs. For instance, a BT business broadband leased line for up to 20 users costs £195 per month, with a maximum speed of 30 Mbps. Hyperoptic’s leased lines start from £350 per month for 100 Mbps, and no limit on the number of users.
As your business grows you can add more bandwidth but whatever the bandwidth is, the upload speeds and download speeds on your leased line will always be the same. On standard broadband internet connections, download speed is much faster than upload speed. Click below for more information about broadband speed
Gigabit voucher scheme for small businesses
If a leased line is not feasible for your business at the moment, but you want a high speed internet connection, take a look at the Gigabit voucher scheme.
The UK Government is making great strides in promoting superfast broadband coverage across the country. The aim of the gigabit voucher scheme is to encourage the installation of broadband connections that are capable of ultrafast internet connections. When we say ultrafast, we really mean it - these new connections have a symmetrical speed of 1 Gbps, hence the name ‘Gigabit’ scheme.
How does the scheme work? Small businesses with up to 250 employees can apply for the scheme. It is supplier-led, not customer-led. This means it’s the suppliers who claim the voucher from the government. Basically, any small business owner who wants to get ultrafast broadband installed simply has to contact their chosen supplier to express their interest in the scheme, and the supplier does the rest. Click below for more information
VoIP phone system for small business - UK
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is the technology used by cloud-based solutions such as Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp to make voice calls. For UK businesses that need to be in regular contact with clients or collaborators overseas, the money saved by using VoIP instead of international analogue phone calls is considerable. While the free apps may be good enough for basic one-to-one calls, your business may need a lot more than that. What then?
To conduct teleconferences or video conferences with people in multiple locations at the same time, look for a broadband provider that also offers VoIP services. Although you don’t have to contract broadband and VoIP from the same telecommunications company, it could make things easier in the long run as well as saving you some money.
One of the big advantages of VoIP is that it requires minimal hardware since it is hosted in the cloud. You can connect to your company’s VoIP service from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, without having to worry about getting to a physical telephone or using a phone line. You can even send and receive faxes without the need for a bulky, old-fashioned fax machine.
Static IP address
Any business with its own website, web server, VPN and/or email server should consider getting a static IP address. Essentially, an IP address is the number assigned by an ISP to every device that connects to the internet. A static IP address always stays the same whereas a dynamic IP address can change, i.e. when your computer connects to the internet today it might be assigned a different IP address from the one it had yesterday.
When other websites and/or devices need to be able to identify your IP address, it’s better if your IP address is static, which makes connectivity more reliable. With a fixed IP address for your server, all the devices on your network will connect to the internet with the same IP address and you (or your network administrator) will find it easier to track internet traffic.
If your business broadband deal does not already include a static IP address, speak to your provider about getting one.
Service level agreement
When you sign up to a broadband deal as a business customer, don’t forget to go through the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with a fine-tooth comb. This agreement sets out in detail what your provider will do to keep you connected, what will happen when there's a planned system outage, how quickly they will fix faults and what connection speeds you can expect.
As a business customer, you can negotiate the terms of your SLA with your provider. For any internet-reliant organisation, the main priority will be to stay connected - any down time costs your business money, so pay close attention to the ISP’s estimated fault resolution times.
It’s also a good idea to scrutinise the download and upload speeds that the ISP promises to deliver. If you’re paying for fast broadband, you want to know that it really is as fast as it should be, so make yourself familiar with the minimum speed guarantee on your broadband plan and take regular measurements of your connection speed.
Differences between home and business broadband
For sole traders or small businesses based at home it might seem logical just to use a residential broadband and home phone connection, which is probably cheaper than a business internet service. However, home broadband services are simply not designed to meet the requirements of business customers.
Business broadband has several advantages over home broadband:
- Better customer support and fault resolution
- Faster connection speed
- Static IP addresses
- Leased lines/dedicated internet access
Don’t forget that VAT is not included in prices quoted from business broadband providers, so remember to add 20% to everything!
Above all, a business internet provider, especially one dedicated to small businesses, understands how important your internet connection is to your business and your livelihood. Having an awareness of the requirements of small businesses means being able to anticipate and avoid problems. That way your business can run as smoothly as possible.