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Ethernet Explained

Learn about Ethernet and how it can help your business compete in today’s market.

Increasingly, companies are using Ethernet leased lines to connect to the internet. You might wonder why this would be the case, in order to explain we need to look at leased line vs broadband in order to understand the pros and cons of the different systems.

Broadband vs Ethernet

When the rollout of broadband internet began across the UK in the late 1990s, it provided a revelation for people who had been used to dial-up connections. Here was a system that provided lightning fast speeds of up to half a megabit per second, and which didn’t stop you from using the phone while you surfed the net.

As the 21st century rolled in, speeds increased and the spread of fibre means that many people can now get 20 Mbps or more on their domestic connections. This availability has, of course, changed the way we use the internet. We’re now much more likely to stream our audio or video entertainment online and to store our precious files in the cloud. For domestic use, broadband is absolutely ideal. For businesses, however, this may not always be the case.

The widespread availability of fast internet has meant that businesses have turned to use the cloud to streamline their IT. This is not restricted to storage; it also encompasses online applications such as Office 365 and Google Docs, as well as new communication technologies including VoIP and video conferencing. Learn more on what the cloud means for businesses.

For these applications, broadband is not always ideal, especially if you have multiple users. This is partly because broadband is asynchronous; in other words, downloads have much more bandwidth than uploads. An asynchronous link doesn’t matter much when you’re watching iPlayer, but it does if you’re trying to get work done using an as-a-service app.

It’s also partly because once it’s left your premises, broadband is a shared connection. This means it’s going to slow down when lots of people are online – an effect known as contention. In many cases, broadband services also restrict how much data you are allowed to download, even ‘unlimited’ services are subject to fair use restrictions that can see you stung with an extra bill or restricted bandwidth.

The benefits of Ethernet

So much for the boundaries of broadband; how can a leased line make a difference? Although delivered in much the same way as broadband, via a fibre optic link, usually via a street cabinet, Ethernet leased lines work in a slightly different way.

The link is synchronous for a start, which means you have equal bandwidth for data travelling in both directions. This, in practical terms, means that online applications, video calls and so on will run more smoothly as there’s no bottleneck.

There’s also no contention, the link is yours all the way from your building to the ISP’s data centre, so no slowdowns at peak periods. This also means no restrictions on how much data you can transfer. The link is, therefore, better able to cope with peaks of demand. You can also apply your own prioritisation of traffic so that the most important data is given greater bandwidth. All of this has security implications too; since the link is dedicated to your use there’s less chance of data being intercepted.

From a business point of view, there’s the advantage that leased lines are backed by service level agreements (SLA) giving guaranteed speeds and guaranteed fix times in the event of a problem. The link is also monitored by the service provider in order that any latent issues can be spotted and fixed before they become a major problem. If you’re still unsure, find out what a leased line is and the benefits it provides.

The different types of leased lines

Ethernet leased lines come in a number of different flavours. Most common is Ethernet over fibre to the cabinet (EoFTTC) – sometimes called generic Ethernet access (GES). This is similar to broadband in that the fibre optic link terminates at a street cabinet and then a further link continues on to your premises, but since it’s not using the public broadband network, this kind of link offers better performance and reliability.

The next step is full fibre Ethernet which offers a direct fibre connection from your premises to the ISP’s data centre. While this is more expensive, it offers much faster speeds – up to 10 Gbps is possible – and also usually comes with shorter target fix times. If you have a business that operates on multiple sites, this type of connection can also be used in a point-to-point role, allowing you to establish a fast wide area network between all of your locations.

Ethernet Explained - Ethernet CableYou might be wondering what happens in an area where fibre connections aren’t currently available. Well, there’s a leased line solution for that too in the form of Ethernet first mile (EFM). This delivers a fast, reliable service with speeds of up to 35 Mbps, using a combination of twisted pair copper telephone cables with some clever signal processing technology.

The business benefits of Ethernet

So, now we’ve looked at the technology, why does your business need an Ethernet leased line? We’ve hinted at some of the advantages already. There’s better security, a smoother performance of internet-based applications and greater reliability to consider.

The more your business relies on the internet and the cloud, the more it will suffer if you experience a persistently slow connection or a service outage. While a leased line will cost a bit more than broadband, it will go a long way towards reducing these threats. As we move more towards using the internet for voice communication using VoIP services, the importance of a reliable connection is heightened further.

If your competitors are using leased lines and you aren’t, you could be losing both business and customers so it could be time to upgrade your connectivity. To try to encourage more businesses to move their operations to gigabit internet connections, the UK Government has introduced a scheme and your business could be eligible to claim up to £2,500. Find out more about the Gigabit Voucher Scheme.

For More Information

If you would like to hear more about the Gigabit Voucher Scheme, then call us on 03333 636 454 or get in touch online to register.

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Ethernet Explained
Rehan Patel