Not another leased line blog!

What Is A Leased Line?

A leased line is a dedicated, fixed-bandwidth data connection, it allows businesses to have a reliable, high-quality internet connection with a guaranteed upload and download speed, as well as uptime and resilience.

“Leased” refers to a connection that is presumably rented from the Internet Service Provider, otherwise known as the ISP. The reason some businesses opt for a leased line connection is that this service goes above and beyond what a standard broadband connection can. Leased lines are also ‘symmetrical’. This simply means that the upload speed and the download speed are exactly the same.

Point To Point.

A leased line connects two points together, the ISP (internet service provider) and the Business Premises/Location. Leased lines do not use contended lines, a contended line means you share the line with other users in the area. Think about your home internet connection. When you get home, your phone, tablet, and laptop all connect to your wifi to allow you to browse or download – but the connection becomes noticeably slower the more devices and users that are using it. This is because the connection is ‘contended’, and bandwidth is shared amongst everyone that’s being supplied by the ISP.

Leased lines are uncontended. This means that they are not shared with any other users. A dedicated leased line has the bandwidth you require and only you have access to it, so the connection won’t dip or be affected during peak times.

As a business, you can see the benefits of an internet connection being uncontended. We’re sure you’re already aware of the impact of a slow connection when it comes to downloading, uploading large files or using the connection for video conferencing. These issues are all a thing of the past with a leased line.

How Does A Leased Line Work?

The technology is no different to fibre optic broadband. A fibre optic leased line works by sending pulses of light down the fibre optic cable. When you send data through a fibre optic cable the equipment at each end is waiting for the light, namely whether the light is on or off – representing the binary 0s and 1s of digital data. The equipment at either end records and stores it back as 1s and 0s.

The data travels at the speed of light. The only limiting factor is how quickly the equipment at either end can send and recognise the light.

Leased Line Options.

Leased lines fall into one of three possible options. All of which have confusing names and synonyms, so we’ll try to break them down a bit.

Full Fibre – Also Goes By The Name Of ‘Fibre Ethernet’ And ‘Ethernet Access Direct’

This is the Boss of internet connections. It’s direct and incredibly fast. Being 100% fibre optic from the business premise direct to the ISP, delivering speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second. With Full Fibre being the fastest and most reliable it usually comes with a bigger price tag.

Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM – Also referred to as ‘Ethernet Broadband’)

This connection uses the traditional copper lines on the network to deliver a connection to the business premises, then a full fibre ethernet connection from the exchange. This is an ideal solution for premises that don’t have a local fibre cabinet. Speed is slower than full fibre but the service is symmetrical (like we explained above). This is cheaper than Full Fibre but a great mid-price option.

Ethernet over FTTC (EoFTTC / Ethernet over Fibre to the Cabinet)

For a business that does have access to a local fibre cabinet, EoFTTC is similar to the EFM we spoke about above, but it’s cheaper than EFM as it uses a mix of fibre and copper. Speed and drops for this type of leased line come down to the distance of the premises to the cabinet, as the last part of the connection is using copper pairs. Service providers offer this as a symmetric connection but they are able to increase the download speed above the upload speed. This is the cheaper of the three options but comes with performance limitations.

As A Business, Do I Need A Leased Line?

It’s easy to read this blog, and many others out there, and become attracted to the idea of getting a Leased Line purely to have lightning-fast access to the internet. In an age where more and more applications are becoming cloud-based, it may make total sense. However speed is only one factor when considering a leased line, and it shouldn’t be the only factor to make up your mind. For example, having a symmetrical connection makes modernising your telephone system to a VoIP system far more reliable.

Any business would benefit from a leased line, however, there are particular businesses who definitely NEED a Leased Line.

Speed Sensitive Data Transfers

Financial markets as an example, need up to the second intelligence on markets or even traders seeing up-to-date stocks globally. Complex configuration websites that require back-and-forth interaction to build and specify products for potential customers.

Software and SaaS

Cloud-based services have become part of the standard of business operations now, things like your CRM (Salesforce/Hubspot/Dynamics). Data-focused tech businesses that need reliability and continuity are perfect candidates for having a leased line.

VoIP users

As BT are preparing to switch-off the ISDN and PSTN networks, more and more businesses are upgrading their telephone systems to a more future-proof solution. Although you can run a VoIP system off of a standard fibre broadband, anything over 20 connected users will need a more robust and resilient connection. Calls need fast response times from upload and download (speaking and hearing) and symmetrical connections are favoured for VoIP.

What Should I Be Asking A Leased Line Provider?

Once you have made the decision that a leased line is for you, and you have connected with a supplier, here are a few questions to ask them. Make sure you get satisfactory answers before committing to a contract.

How Do You Support Me During The Installation?

Installing a leased line can be complex and should be regarded as a project. There are various elements to handle, from surveys of the premises and supporting areas and engineers visiting the site. Ask your provider about their internal team that will be managing the project, how often you’ll get updates and how problems are managed. You want peace of mind that everything will run smoothly and lots of industry jargon will confuse the process – so make sure they’re using language you understand and keep asking questions if you’re not sure.

Service Level Agreement. How Resilient Will It Be?

Following the three options we ran through earlier, the dedicated fibre optic service is the most reliable of all. Copper-based broadband is susceptible to environmental factors like electronic interference and water ingress in the network. If and when dedicated fibre services do go down, they are treated as priority fixes, normally within 5 hours. This is something you need to check and be reassured about that a fixed time is in your agreement, especially if you’re an entirely online business. Otherwise, 5 hours will feel like a lifetime.

Is There A Back-Up/Fall-Over Service? If So, Is It Automated?

Ask the question if your leased line comes with a backup or fall over should the connection be lost or fail. Will you get a notification of the failure? If a failure does happen, and there isn’t an automatic backup, what do you need to do and when will you know your main connection is back online? This might feel like overkill but a business without the internet is a business losing money.

Circuit Visibility

Completely understand what you’re ordering and buying, leased lines can be sold as “wires only” which allows you to plug in your equipment at the termination points and configure the network yourself. This gives very little visibility to your service provider and could slow down any type of service support you need on the connection if you have any issues.

How Long Does A Leased Line Take To Install?

This can be a difficult question to answer as there are so many contributing factors, from the site survey, local infrastructure, equipment supply times and so on. The best indication of the time scale would come from the site survey. For example, if a road needed to be dug up to install a new duct, the applications needed to request a road closure or restrictions must be made to the local council. Don’t be put off or surprised if you hear the time scale being between 45- 90 working days. EFM has a much shorter lead time due to the lack of new fibre needed to connect.

How Can I Check If Fibre Broadband Is For Me?

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