So you’ve heard a lot of jargon about internet bandied around – like NBN, streaming, download speed, Ethernet over copper, fibre. What does it all mean, and how do you know if the internet connection you’re getting for business will suit you now and into the future?

With more businesses moving away from desktops and servers to host software and files, to cloud based software and storage solutions, reliable fast internet connections are more important than ever. Read on to get a better understanding of what you might need and some things to look out for.

Internet connections are measured by two things – Speed, and Latency

Speed is measured in megabits per second for both upload and download – a fast download speed means you get your documents, emails, movies and games faster, a fast upload speed means if you do video calls, or store things on a cloud server (like OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud or Dropbox) it will be faster to upload.

Latency is the delay in the network from when you send packets of data from one system, to another. Gamers call this “lag”. Latency is impacted by distance to the exchange from your connection, and the same at the point of connection for the server you’re connecting to. If there is latency in the network it means the response time is slower when moving between websites and online software or games as an example. Latency is measured in milliseconds and a “ping test” will tell you what latency is in your network - which you can run using the same speed test. Anything under 40ms is considered low / ok.

A pretty standard ADSL2+ connection should net you between 2 and 11 megabits per second in download speed and up to around 1 megabits per second upload.

It’s easy to run a speed test on your system at home or work to judge your current internet speed and latency – simply go to www.speedtest.net

Different types of connections:

  • Mobile
  • Wireless
  • Copper
  • Fibre Optic
  • Satellite

Mobile connections use 3G, 4G and LTE (or a combination of) connections from microwave towers which connect to your phone or mobile device which has a SIM card to connect to. They’re not cheap per megabyte, but are usually purchased in small amounts for roving connections such as phones or tablets which are out of WIFI range.

Wireless Internet is different to WIFI or connecting wirelessly to your broadband connection. Fixed Wireless connections use radio waves and requires a point of site connection between a transmitting tower and a receiving point (usually a type of antenna on your roof) to provide a higher quality connection to your business or home. This technology can be prone to interference such as weather and trees, and has a limited range. The longer the range the poorer the connection and the more who connect through the slower the connection but if you’re close to a transmission point it can be a cost effective way for businesses to get a higher speed affordable connection.

Copper – this technology uses the phone network to take a data signal to homes and businesses, which is the technology used for ADSL1 and ADSL2 broadband connections. The more customers connected to the service, the slower it will become. It’s a shared “pipe” if you like. The original “dial-up” connections also used the copper wire network but this was on an analogue network. Nowadays the network is digital (Digital Subscriber Line or DSL) which allows two signals to be carried on the one line – this is why you can connect to the internet and talk on the phone using the one connection.

Fibre – Uncontended Optic Fibre is the fastest available connection because it uses optic fibre which converts the signal from electricity to light which travels via the glass optic fibre cables. Light travels about 100 times the speed of electricity, thus a huge boost in network speed. A fibre connection can be tailored to the needs of your business and is a 1:1 contention – which means you are the only business using the connection – you have your own “pipe”. In terms of price, it’s the most expensive. There may be high setup fees and high monthly fees as you’re paying for stability and speed and exclusivity of your connection. If high use internet connectivity is paramount to your business then this is the best connection for you.

Satellite – rural areas often use a satellite connection to get internet as it’s simply not feasible to lay cable to these areas. Signals bounce from your internet service provider via satellite to the dish on your roof and through to your devices. Such services must be professionally installed and can be expensive, but often less expensive than traditional connections.

Some connections use a combination of the above – for example fibre to the exchange, then using the copper network to take that connection through to the business or household. This option gives a dedicated upload and download connection of a higher than ADSL speed, which is uncontended (your pipe) but not as fast as a pure fibre connection.

What is the NBN?

The NBN stands for National Broadband Network, and its intent was to provide a fibre network throughout Australian business and households. To achieve this requires fibre cabling to be installed directly to each household and business premises, the costs and magnitude of this project are enormous for a country the geographic size of Australia. The latest NBN plan involves a cut down version which takes fibre cabling as far as the telephone exchange, and uses the existing copper phone network to bring a slightly improved quality and speed to internet services. Clients who want fibre will pay to have it installed directly to their home. That said, it isn’t a 1:1 service, the more connections to it the slower it becomes, however the available speeds are significantly higher than an individual connection. So for example, the speed available in the “pipe” may be 100mbps but this is shared between all who are connected.

So what if you need a faster internet service?

Your choices are limited by where you are located as to what will be available to you. Many larger metropolitan areas now have NBN level coverage available, so you’ll have fast and relatively inexpensive broadband for your needs. If you’re in a regional or rural area, your choices become limited. The speed and type of connection you will need will also depend on what you want to do with the connection as well. For example, if as a business you want to use Skype for video calls, use VOIP for your phones (Voice Over Internet Protocol), as well as use online software and store in the cloud, you’re going to need a pretty decent and stable connection or multiple connections to give you stability of service.

The gamble is, if you’re outside an NBN area the cost of installing fibre can be high, and you could be locked in to a 2-3 year contract, so it may be best to have a backup plan with your ISP to convert you to the NBN when it becomes available, or negotiate a shorter contract period.

An alternative is to look at a combined service such as TPG who offer fibre to the exchange and copper to the business which gives higher stable speeds without the really high price tag.

If you’d like more information on what may be good for your business, we have a number of suppliers who can analyse your needs and available services in your area. Contact us here