Every business of every shape and size depends on having an internet presence. If you don’t have a website, an eCommerce store, a way to communicate with your customers or a website for marketing and advertising, you may as well not exist. Vital to managing all of this is a reliable internet connection.

With more businesses doing more online, reliable business broadband is becoming increasingly important. If you’re moving to the cloud, adopting VoIP, using video conferencing to save money on travel or any of the myriad of other business functions that can happen online, what would happen if you lost those functions? How would your business cope without being able to get online?

If you’re not sure how much it would cost your business to lose internet, try our simple downtime calculator. You might be surprised at what you find!

A business needs to take into account two main elements when considering the reliability of their connection. Resilience and recovery. Let’s take a look at each.

Business broadband resilience

Business broadband resilience is about preventing broadband outages. It includes practical considerations organisations think about to prevent downtime wherever possible.

Four suggestions for improving your business broadband resilience include:

Using hardwired connections

Wireless may be easy to install and flexible but it isn’t as reliable as a wired connection. In an ideal world, you would have a primary wired internal network using Ethernet and then a wireless network on top. That way, you can connect using whatever network you like and will always be able to rely on Ethernet should anything happen to Wi-Fi.

For larger businesses, having a primary broadband connection and a separate backup connection can be well worth the investment. They would require separate ducting, separate entry points, separate power supplies and independent routers for real resilience.

Smaller businesses could use powerline adapters as backup. These are plug-in devices that can carry limited traffic over your internal electricity wiring. As a failsafe backup, they are easy to use and require very modest investment.

Researching speed and uptime

When you’re shopping for business broadband, most of us will look at the headline speed and any data caps. Very few people look at the uptime. It is a vitally important metric that gives you an idea of what level of service to expect when you sign up.

Speed is obviously important as businesses are looking more to the internet for cloud computing, backups, storage and applications. The faster your connection, the less time wasted waiting for something to happen.

Uptime is a measure of how reliable a provider is. You should expect no less than 99.9% uptime and can easily achieve a couple more decimal points if you shop around.

Equal to uptime is response time. How long will you have to wait for an engineer? How quickly will your fault tickets be picked up? All these go towards the resilience of your broadband connection.

Invest in your network

A network is a living, breathing thing. That first installation of router and ethernet cable was just the beginning. If your business stays the same size, your network will just need maintenance and router updates as they are released.

If your business grows, you need to ensure your router is up to the task and that you have the bandwidth to handle the workload. A consumer router that worked when it was just you and an assistant is not going to be able to handle the traffic of multiple staff members or provide robust enough security without an upgrade or dedicated firewall.

Buying a faster broadband connection is an expense but if you could count the time wasted waiting on something to download or queueing with staff to upload to cloud storage, there probably wouldn’t be much in it. Our advice would always be to invest in a faster connection than you need right now because it gives you scope to go faster and grow faster.

Monitor your Service Level Agreements

We mentioned response times earlier when talking about researching broadband providers. A key part of any business contract is going to be the SLA, or Service Level Agreement. It outlines how long you would expect to wait until a fault ticket was picked up or how long you would need to wait for an engineer.

The SLA will also outline compensation for downtime and for missed targets. We are running a business here and any downtime costs money. If you used our downtime calculator, you will have a good idea of just how much money!

Make sure you understand your SLAs and how to claim compensation of your provider falls short.

Business broadband recovery

Business broadband recovery is the other side of the equation. If, after all of your investment and preventative measures, something happens that is out of your hands, how do you recover as quickly as possible?

The simplest way is to plan for the worst while hoping for the best. We touched upon diversity earlier by suggesting a backup connection into the building using a separate entrance point. Or using powerline connectors for smaller business. But what else could you use?

Mobile broadband backup

The improvements in speed and coverage of Britain’s mobile networks has now progressed to a point where it is possible to use them as a broadband backup. You could use a mobile broadband dongle for individual computers or a router with 4G access for internal networks.

Each mobile provider has either PAYG mobile broadband access or fixed price access for just this situation. Prices, coverage, data caps and speed are dependent on the provider you select. Do your research, make sure your area has a strong signal and you should have a cost-effective and flexible backup solution.

Routers with 4G LTE capability are now commonplace and do not cost much of a premium over non-LTE routers. They can be configured to automatically fail over to 4G when your primary link goes down and alert you to the fact.

Getting something back

If you do lose your broadband connection, what should you do? Here are some practical steps you can take.

  1.    Test your own equipment first. Reboot your computer(s) and your router, just in case.
  2.    Call your broadband provider to report the fault. Note down the date, time and the agent’s name as well as any ticket number.
  3.    Monitor the fault ticket using a customer portal if you have a backup connection or use your phone.
  4.    Note any conversations you have with the provider, any promised ETAs and refer to your SLAs to manage expectations.
  5.    Be calm and be reasonable.
  6.    Note the exact time of service restoration and compare it against what your contract or SLA says.

In most situations, the broadband provider will be able to restore your service well within your SLA. If they don’t, having exact times of failure versus restoration as well as a running record of who you spoke to, what was said and any promises made will help you claim compensation.

You may be entitled by law to compensation for any downtime that falls outside your contract. Your first call should be to your provider to make a claim. You need to give them all of the evidence and allow them to come up with an offer. You don’t have to accept this offer if you think it is unduly low. You can negotiate until you reach a settlement you are happy with.

If your provider will not pay compensation or will not make a fair offer, you can submit your complaint to an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme.