A reliable, secure, and fast broadband connection is as essential to a business today as its staff, customers, and products or services. Without it, most firms are simply unable to function in the modern world. But if you’re one of the many SMEs complaining about slow speeds or poor customer service, now could be the time to seek out a new provider. In recent months, the big broadband companies have launched some fantastic bargains specifically targeting the SME market.
It appears to be the case that many companies are less than happy with the digital service that they currently receive.
- Six out of ten have experienced problems with their broadband provider, according to research from Talk Talk Business.
- One in five is desperate to switch providers.
- Only half think that they’re getting a good deal, and more than a quarter admit they’re confused about what their business really needs from its broadband package.
Such confusion is understandable. Costs vary widely, as do service levels. And different companies have varying needs from their broadband service, with some being more data heavy than others. Business owners need to weigh up a variety of options when deciding whether they could be getting a better deal elsewhere.
The new broadband offers
- Talk Talk was the first company to start the recent price war, targeting small business customers in September with its offer of a no frills £4 a month contract. It claims this could save SMEs on an equivalent BT package £594 a year. The offer, which is called Simply Broadband, includes unlimited broadband, one free static IP address, and free connection and free installation of one new line if needed. Monthly line rental is £14.50.Talk Talk also offers businesses a Complete Broadband package, costing £10.50 a month, plus £14.50 line rental, which has all the features of the budget deal, as well as up to four static IP addresses, and some free business calls and a cost-free premises move thrown in for good measure.
- Virgin Media wasn’t far behind its rival, also launching its range of offers for SMEs last month. Its basic Red Value bundle costs £50 a month, including line rental, though the first two months are free. For this, companies get unlimited usage, a static IP address, up to 50Mb download speeds, and free calls at any time of day.The next tier up is called Red Speed, and costs £60 a month – again, the first two months are free. This superior service includes up to 152Mb download speeds. There’s yet another level, with the top offer named Red Performance, costing from £500 a month. It provides a 30Mb to 100Mb connection with the same download and upload speeds, plus customers get an enhanced Service Level Agreement.
- BT Business Broadband is the most popular broadband provider in the UK, and it still often ranks best in terms of customer service and satisfaction. Its most simple offer for businesses comes in at £10 a month. This includes ten free email addresses, up to 10 GB of downloads, a free wireless router, and free unlimited BT Wi-Fi access on the move. BT’s response to the price wars has been to offer its Superfast fibre broadband at a £5 discount, making it £20 a month, offering speeds up to 38Mbps.
Other cut-price broadband deals for small businesses include Plusnet, which charges just £2.50 a month for its most basic business package, plus line rental, though the charge reverts to £13 a month after a year; XLN Telecom, which at its most cheap costs £3.50 monthly; and OneBill Telecom, which has a bargain fee of £3.75 a month.
These deals may be the best on offer at present, but packages are constantly changing and being updated, as providers jostle with and undercut each other to win a bigger slice of the lucrative SME market. The best idea is to check on comparison websites such as USwitch.com, Gocompare.com, or Moneysupermarket.com for the most accurate, and up-to-date information.
How good is your connection?
A big grumble from many enterprises is that their connection isn’t fast enough for their company’s needs. A recent report published by the City Growth Commission of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA) called on politicians to work with regulators and industry to improve broadband provision in UK cities, bringing them up to a minimum speed of 1 GB to help urban small businesses, and boost growth. And speeds really do matter to a firm’s success. It’s no coincidence that the areas of Britain that Ofcom ranks as having some of the worst broadband performance also lag behind in business growth stakes. Enterprises that upgrade their connectivity often report a linked increase in efficiency, productivity, and sales.
The Government already offers small businesses up to £3,000 worth of help improving their broadband infrastructure through a voucher system, outlined on this blog before. But it’s been recently announced that too few SMEs have taken advantage of the SuperConnected Cities scheme. Due to this, the programme will be streamlined further, with a forthcoming advertising campaign to encourage more business owners to take part.
Business bosses that want to get an idea of how their current broadband package compares with others can test their broadband speed using Uswitch’s speed trackers. They can then also employ these online tools to check service in other areas – useful if you’re thinking of moving premises – and even see which provider is proving the fastest speed this month. Current searches suggest that in the last 30 days Virgin Media topped the poll as the fastest provider nationally, for example, while Luton in Bedfordshire was the place with the fastest speeds on average.
Secure your broadband from ‘burglars’
Finally, always make sure that your business’s broadband connection is password-protected, and that the code isn’t too easy to guess. One reason that your internet may be slow could be people nearby piggy-backing on your signal. One in three Britons has ‘stolen’ a neighbour’s Wi-Fi, according to a study by broadband firm Hyperoptic, even correctly guessing passwords to crack into a signal. More shocking still, over half of Londoners have tried to gain access to nearby broadband surreptitiously, so ensure your service is secured and only accessible by staff and authorised individuals.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net