What are the key leased line features?
Broadband started to roll out across the UK in the late 1990s and made reliable, fast internet connections available to people who were previously struggling with dial-up links. In more recent years, the introduction of fibre optic links has made the service even better, allowing websites to deliver richer content, and more and more services to move online. For businesses, this has meant a large scale move to the cloud. First for things like storage and disaster recovery, and more recently for communications and for everyday business applications. The cloud offers lower costs and improved scalability, but it depends upon having a reliable internet connection.
This is where you may start to encounter the boundaries of standard broadband. Broadband is not synchronous, meaning incoming data flows faster than outgoing data. It’s contended, which means you share the connection so it can slow down at peak times, and it may have restrictions as to how much data you can transfer over a given period. At home, none of this matters all that much but for business users, these can prove to be serious disadvantages.
Fortunately, there is an alternative means of getting your business online that does away with all of these problems. We’re talking here about leased lines.
What is a leased line?
A leased line is a direct connection between your premises and your service provider’s data centre. It utilises Ethernet which is the same technology that is used to power your office network.
Among key leased line features are that the connection is fully synchronous. That means equal bandwidth in both directions, so cloud applications, video conferencing and other data-heavy uses will work more smoothly.
A leased line features uncontended operation too, so there will be no slow-downs when neighbouring businesses are online at the same time. There are no restrictions as to how much data you are allowed to transfer either.
Because the line is exclusively reserved for your use, you are free to apply your own traffic control regime so that the applications most important to your business get priority for bandwidth usage. It’s also inherently more secure as there is less chance of your data being intercepted in transit.
Because it’s a product aimed at business users, a leased line features higher levels of service too. It will usually be monitored by the service provider so that they can spot any problems early. You’ll also find that there are guaranteed levels of performance, downtime targets and target fix times for correcting faults, all of which are enshrined in a service level agreement.
Broadband usually gets to your premises via a street cabinet – fibre to the cabinet (FTTC). The cabinet is connected by fibre backbone to the telephone exchange and thus to the ISP. The link from the cabinet to you, however, is usually via copper cable. This can lead to some drop off in performance the further you are from the cabinet as copper is a ‘lossy’ carrier medium.
Leased line delivery
Leased lines can also be end-to-end fibre, where there is a direct fibre connection all the way from you to the data centre. This type of link is costlier but offers higher performance. Of course none of this helps if you’re in an area where fibre is not yet available, but fortunately, there’s a solution for that too. Using a technology called Ethernet first mile, you can get a leased line over a copper connection. This uses a combination of twisted pair cables and some signal processing technology to deliver fast, synchronous speeds over a copper circuit.
So, how can a leased line help your business? More and more business IT is moving to the cloud. What started out as a handy way of storing or backing up data is increasingly the first port of call when looking for a new service or application. Solutions such as IP-based voice calling and video conferencing have also become far more viable mainstream business tools thanks to improved internet access. And that’s a key point, because the more you rely on the internet and the cloud, the more it shines a spotlight on the quality of your internet connection.
If you are heavily reliant on internet-based services and your connection goes down then, potentially, so does your business. The commercial world is a fast moving and cruel place and customers won’t be forgiving of your problems – just ask TSB.
Moving your systems online gives you greater flexibility so it’s easier to expand your business. You also have much more choice of systems, all available without major infrastructure investment. There are cost savings too because you won’t have unlicensed software sitting unused on the shelf, nor will you have expensive servers using power and clocking up maintenance costs.
But you can only take full advantage of all of this if your internet connection is up to scratch. A link that lets you down at peak times or causes bottlenecks uploading data at peak times simply won’t cut it. If you are serious about using cloud systems for business, a leased line is something that should be high on your shopping list.