What is a leased line?

The internet has become a key part of our lives, both at home and in business. We use it to carry out many of our day-to-day tasks, from banking and shopping to looking for entertainment on the web. This has become possible thanks to the availability of fast, reliable broadband connections, meaning we can now do things online that would have been unthinkable in the days of dial-up.

For businesses, this connectivity has brought a host of new opportunities too, from cloud storage to online applications and VoIP communications, video conferencing and more. However, if you are using the internet intensively for all of these things you can start to sh the boundaries of broadband. Fortunately, there is an alternative, so let’s take a look at why broadband may not always be the best choice for business users and why use Ethernet instead.

Broadband boundaries

For domestic use broadband is absolutely superb; it’s fast, it’s reliable and it’s relatively cheap. For business, however, there are some things inherent in the way that broadband operates that can lead to less than ideal performance.

Firstly, broadband is by its nature, asynchronous. This means that there’s more bandwidth available for data coming in than there is for data going out. At home when you’re streaming music from Spotify or shopping on Amazon this doesn’t matter very much because most of the traffic is inbound anyway. In a business environment, however, you may need to send large amounts of data in the opposite direction – uploading archive files or conducting two-way video conferences. Here, an asynchronous connection can become a bottleneck.

A further design constraint inherent in broadband is that while the link from your premises to the nearest street cabinet is all yours, from there to the data centre it’s shared with all of your neighbours. At busy times this can mean the connection slowing down as each individual household or office has less bandwidth available. You may well have noticed this at home; your internet can seem slower in the evenings when more people are online.

Broadband services also often impose limits on how much data you can transfer each month. Even so-called ‘unlimited’ services often have caps based on fair usage, which can lead to your connection being throttled back or you paying more if you exceed your allowance.

So, if broadband has some clear boundaries and you want a fast, reliable internet connection for your business, what’s the alternative? Or more accurately what is a leased line?

The leased line alternative

Leased lines have been around for a long time. Historically, they have been used to create direct links between business premises as part of wide area networks. They can still be used for this purpose, but increasingly the answer to ‘what is a leased line?’ is that it’s a direct private connection between your business and the internet.

How does this work? The basic technology used is Ethernet, the same technology that is used to run millions of networks worldwide, so it’s tried and trusted. Leased lines are delivered in a similar way to broadband, though there are four different delivery methods with differing levels of performance. Using Ethernet over fibre to the cabinet (EoFTTC) is the most common; or as a direct fibre link to your premises in one of two different flavours; or as Ethernet first mile (more of which later). So far, so similar, but there are some key differences.

Firstly leased lines are fully synchronous. That means you get equal bandwidth in both directions, so data being uploaded travels just as fast as data being downloaded. This ensures that cloud services, as-a-service software packages and VoIP communications can all run more smoothly.

Secondly leased lines are exclusive to your use. That means no contention, so no embarrassing slowdowns at peak times. This also has advantages for security, since the link is not public there is less chance of data being intercepted. This also means that there are no restrictions on the amount of data you can transfer, so you won’t be hit with extra costs in busy months.

Broadband services also often impose limits on how much data you can transfer each month. Even so-called ‘unlimited’ services often have caps based on fair usage, which can lead to your connection being throttled back or you paying more if you exceed your allowance.

So, if broadband has some clear boundaries and you want a fast, reliable internet connection for your business, what’s the alternative? Or more accurately what is a leased line?

Business benefits

We’ve looked at the technical advantages of leased lines. Now we need to consider the business benefits that they can offer. As we’ve already seen a leased line will help your online services run more smoothly. That, in turn, makes your team more productive and helps your bottom line.

We also need to consider reliability. If your business is relying on the internet then any downtime is going to cost you money. Because leased lines are a business-focused product, they offer greater reliability. The service is usually monitored and managed by the ISP so that any problems can be spotted early and fixed before they become a major issue.

All of this is backed by a service level agreement (SLA) that ensures problems will be fixed in a guaranteed timescale. It also sets out the performance levels that the link should meet, so that you can be sure that it will meet your needs. You can generally expect uptime levels in excess of 99 percent.

So, your business relies on the internet and you now know the answer to what is a leased line? What do you do next? You need to look about what the effect would be if you were unable to access the web or your day-to-day tasks were taking longer to complete. How much would this cost you? Yes, a leased line will be more expensive than broadband, but it can more than pay for itself in reliability and increased productivity. The next step, therefore, is to talk to Daisy Group and find out how we can help you to reap these benefits.

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What is a leased line?
Merce Cozens