April 15, 2020



Well we are a few weeks in now and many are settling into this new kind of norm. The juggling of working from home, staying home, keeping the kids entertained and home schooling. The realities of it all are also coming to the fore…

Many small businesses are discovering that now they have several, if not all of their employees working remotely that their internet connection into and out of the business is just not up to scratch. What has previously been absolutely fine coping with the odd person being home based, is now creaking to a standstill with the multiple users. Questions are being raised around “Why is it taking so long to get that file?”, “Why is everything so much slower…?” Well the answer is the bandwidth is now cluttered with many more users than the system has probably ever had to cope with before.

While there is no magic wand to sorting it, there are many things that can be done to improve it if you know what you are dealing with. So, let’s take a wander through some of the jargon surrounding this area:

What is ADSL?

Well, its full name when spelt out is Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. Basically, it’s broadband through your copper phone wires and it generally enables faster data transmission over copper telephone lines than a conventional modem can provide. However, the term ‘asymmetric’ in here means practically the transfer of information is faster down (i.e. into your business), than it is up (i.e. out of your business). So that’s where your trouble might start if you have lots of your team wanting files at the same time.

What is FTTC?

Let’s start with Fibre To The Cabinet. This is generally a blend of traditional copper wire cable and fibre optic cable. It uses fibre optic cables right up to the street cabinet (you will have seen those out and about as those green cabinets by the side of the road). Then from there a copper wire connects the cabinets to homes and businesses. The reason why this last stretch is copper is because it is incredibly expensive to install fibre into a home or business, so this more economical solution is used for that final stage.

What is FTTP?

You may have guessed this one – it is Fibre To The Premises. This is where a pure fibre optic cable runs directly into the home or business. The result of which is a super high speed broadband service. Sounds great doesn’t it, but practically it comes at a price. The price of this depends largely whether there is a fibre connection near the premises already. On some occasions installation charges in the thousands are not unheard of, but usually you can get free installation if you sign up for 3 or 5 years. The scale of speeds range from 50 mbps (down and up) right the way up to 1000 mbps and typically prices start at around £350/month.

What is EFM?

Alternatively this is known as Ethernet First Mile. The first mile bit means that the connection to the cabinet in the street is fast, but the connection from the cabinet is still over copper wire. Many providers can offer this as a low cost leased line technology which give cost savings over more traditional fibre leased lines. The added advantage of which is that this approach operates with a symmetrical bandwith meaning the upstream and downstream speeds are the same. What’s more the bandwith is not shared, so should remain consistent and not slow down. However, EFM is generally limited to 40 mbps, so slower than a leased line.

What is bonding?

Bonded broadband is where multiple lines (two or more) can be combined together. This combination of the upload and download bandwidth into a single connection means that overall the connection becomes more resilient and much faster. Bonding is only really useful if it’s done in a cloud. It’s not comparable to FTTP but it can be set up quickly (in about 10 working days) and might be a useful as a short-term fix.

So, this is a lot of jargon; over what is really simply how your employees are connecting and using data lines into and out of the business during this period of lockdown. Interestingly, businesses are more and more recognising the challenges of being in this situation and are actively looking at ways that working like this can be improved. Some figure that once we are through this, they may operate in a different way and want to encourage more of this working lifestyle. Some believe this may not be the last situation that we have like this and are taking the opportunity now to make improvements. They want to ensure that they avoid the last minute scrabbling around that many faced when originally facing this situation.

Whatever the reasons, there are decisions to be made which ultimately boil down to these various approaches. So, if you’re thinking something might need to change with how it is working for your business at the moment then give us a call as we can help talk through your options.

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