Increased reliance on Internet-based technologies correlates to an increased need for reliable broadband with greater bandwidth.

As a small/medium business, you’re constantly making choices of how best to spend your dollars to drive success. You might favor residential Internet services such as DSL or cable Internet to maintain low costs, but that may not be the best solution.

If you are like many business owners that chose lower cost residential based services, you probably have considered switching to a business-grade Internet service once you’ve dealt with undependable connections, slow speeds and unresponsive customer support centers staffed with operators lacking technical expertise.

Looking towards the future, as your business grows, so will your needs. According to Nielson’s Law of Internet Bandwidth, bandwidth usage doubles every 12 months. So if 6 Mbps is sufficient for you now, you may end up needing 12 Mbps not so far down the road. As your business depends more heavily on online applications, a dependable Internet service, such as fiber Internet or Fixed wireless, becomes vital for day-to-day operations. Solid reliability and high performance broadband will become crucial to your business operations. In that regard, residential services may not be equipped to meet your company’s needs.

How does business Internet surpass residential Internet?

Residential Internet is a “best effort” service, meaning the ISP (Internet Service Provider) does not provide clear performance specs. The reason being is that the user’s experience varies dramatically depending on the congestion of the network created from other customers. A key example is bandwidth. The bandwidth may sound high (“Get up to 15 Mbps download”), but there is no guarantee how often you will get 15 Mbps. Chances are that the 15 Mbps download will only be achieved during off-peak times, when there are less customers using their network. To keep their prices lower, residential based Internet companies rely on the assumption that residents will not all being using the Internet at the same time.

Conversely, business-grade Internet providers deliver 100% dedicated bandwidth that is guaranteed, and backed by a SLA (Service Level Agreement). When you pay for 20 Mbps, you’re guaranteed to get 20 Mbps.

To be fair, residential and business Internet are inherently used for different purposes and therefore vary in structure and performance. Residential Internet users typically
use the majority of their bandwidth for streaming video (downloads) and very little for uploads. Businesses use more symmetrical bandwidth. File sharing, cloud computing and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) are common business functions that utilize more symmetrical bi-directional bandwidth.

Why are these differences important to the success of your business?

Most of the time, residential Internet is used for surfing the web, checking email, streaming movies and some light work. Although a reliable Internet service may be preferred, it’s not vital, as the bandwidth is used for leisure.

Businesses, on the other hand rely on enterprise applications to keep company operations running smoothly. Generating sales, communicating with customers, fulfilling orders and streamlining internal processes all require dependable and robust bandwidth. Key performance metrics that are important for robust business apps are:

  • 100% Committed Information Rate
  • Guarantees your available bandwidth is 100%
  • =99.99% Uptime
  • Percentage of time your Internet is up and running
  • 99.5% Packet Delivery
  • Percentage of data packets that will successfully transfer

Real time services also require QoS (Quality of Service) to maintain an ideal user experience. QoS enables you to prioritize important network traffic above less important traffic to ensure a good user experience. VoIP and video conferencing are two key applications that require traffic prioritization.

At the end of the day, you will need to decide if your current DSL or cable Internet service is good enough for your company’s needs. Will it help you succeed and grow your business or will it keep you from that goal? Will it help increase productivity or impede it? Has network downtime negatively impacted your brand image or sales? Is your time better spent managing your business or calling your ISP for help? Only you can decide when it’s time to upgrade to a business-grade Internet service.