Benefits of business broadband packages over residential
While you may find your home broadband connection is adequate for your work from home needs, you might be surprised to find that a business broadband package can offer significant additional benefits and be a lot more affordable than you'd think.
Business grade support and stability
When your livelihood relies on having access to the Internet, then good broadband stability, uptime and access to effective technical support becomes vital.
While it's frustrating when your home connection goes down, it rarely has any kind of serious impact. When a business connection goes down it can have a huge impact, from loss of revenue, to project delays, even the loss of potential clients. You want to know your provider will support you and get you back online as fast as possible.
Most home broadband packages are simply sold on a 'best efforts' basis with no guaranteed uptime or timescale for when technical problems will be fixed. By comparison most business broadband solutions come with a higher standard of technical support and customer service, with dedicated teams of technicians and faster turnaround for solving faults. Some business providers offer guaranteed uptime with compensation should broadband not be available for an extended period.
Unlimited downloads and prioritised traffic
Many people working from home - especially those running their own business - may find that they use a surprising amount of data.
Not only do day-to-day business activities stack up, data-intensive activities such as video conferencing are also becoming more popular, with meetings potentially taking place with participants all over the world.
While more and more home broadband companies offer unlimited broadband, there are often caveats to this, such as reducing connection speed during certain times of the day, or severely limiting your speeds if you're among the top proportion of heavy users. If you rely on this connection for work, then a speed reduction of this kind could be disastrous. This is why a lot of business broadband plans are not only unlimited, but also give business broadband customers priority over other traffic, meaning that you won't be slowed down at a critical moment and can rely on a fast, stable connection around the clock.
Whether you're running a home business, or working for another company from your home office, communication is key.
You need to be able to contact colleagues and clients on a regular basis to keep things running smoothly, and one of the most common and simple ways of doing that is over the phone.
Most companies charge the average home phone user more for making calls during the day, and this could work out to be expensive when working from home. Because businesses rely on using the phone during peak daytime hours, business packages are geared towards this, and call rates are reduced by a substantial amount.
Of course, traditional phone calls aren't the only option. Many business broadband providers offer VoIP packages for making calls over the Internet, reducing call costs even more. And, of course, others will provide mobile phone deals that offer not only competitive call plans, but also offer data plans that are useful when you're out and about.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
With a VPN connection your home office computer can behave just as if it's plugged into the network in your employer's head office.
If your employer has a number of offices situated in different premises, such as regional offices, then they'll likely use a form of site-to-site VPN (or virtual private network) technology to allow all those different locations to access the same file servers and intranet web applications. Some companies with just one premises will also set up a VPN simply so remote working employees can access the same company network as everyone else.
A VPN connection may be absolutely vital to your ability to work from home, the only way to access the files, servers and tools you need to do your job. Depending on how your employer's IT department have implemented security, you may not even be able to use your work email account without VPN access.
Unfortunately, in recent years VPNs have been increasingly misused by home users to bypass copyright restrictions such as measures to block illegal file sharing or to get around region locking on media content. Because of this, rights holders are pressuring home broadband providers to limit access to VPNs and some providers have lowered or are considering lowering the prioritisation or speed of VPN traffic.
If your employer requires that home office users connect using a VPN, or if you're hosting a VPN for employees yourself, then using a business broadband provider is likely to give a significant benefit. Business broadband providers tend to treat VPNs as first class, time critical traffic and give them the highest priority, so you won't need to worry about potential restrictions placed on VPNs for residential customers.
Static IP addresses
At its simplest, an IP address identifies where you are on the Internet so you can send and receive information. A static IP address is guaranteed to stay the same.
Most home broadband packages have dynamic IP addresses. This means that your IP address may change when you reboot your router, experience technical problems or simply because your provider ran scheduled maintenance. As there is now a shortage of IPv4 format addresses, some home providers may even use a technology called NAT to assign multiple home users the same IP address. This is fine for the vast majority of home users, but for businesses and people working from home, a static IP address that is truly unique and does not change is not only useful, but often necessary for the sake of security.
If your employer doesn't provide you with a VPN connection, you might find that you can only access your employer's network from a specific IP address. Being able to rely on the fact that no one else will have the same IP and knowing you won't run the risk of being locked out of critical servers in the event of your IP address changing are advantages well worth taking into consideration.
If you're in a more technical line of work and need to host your own network equipment or servers, such as email, file, database or backup web servers, then an IP address will be necessary to ensure that people outside your local network can access these consistently.
If you're self employed or running a small business where all employees are home workers then you may want to set up your own VPN that allows other employees to remotely access your local network as if they're on the same intranet. Having a fixed IP address for your home office network will be vital in this case.
Any computer, device or server with a fixed IP address can also be assigned a domain name or subdomain. For example, if your company domain was example.com you could define vpn.example.com or backup.example.com and point them at static IP addresses hosted on your home network and available from anywhere on the Internet.
Choosing a business broadband provider
There are clear advantages to taking out a business broadband package over a residential package for working from home, and there are many different providers to choose from, depending on your needs.
Business providers show their prices exclusive of VAT and will provide the invoices necessary to claim back broadband as a business expense. Many also offer additional benefits like domain, email and web hosting, VoIP calling, prioritised business traffic and lower contention ratios.
If you're self-employed and likely to expand out of your home into working in larger premises then also consider the additional business networking solutions each provider offers, such as premises moves, symmetric leased lines or EFM with guaranteed uptime, or even full fibre ethernet.