Over the past couple of years organisations have woken up to the critical importance of 100% Internet access uptime. With the reliance upon cloud based applications and the cost benefits of VoIP calls, continuous, fast connectivity has become an essential business requirement.
Yet the divergence in cost, coverage and quality of service available to companies in different geographic areas continues to challenge the evolution of a long term comms strategy.
In contrast, 4G network coverage is getting ever better. Speeds are great and with 4G data costs at a fraction of the 3G alternative, 4G clearly has a role to play.
Fixed versus Mobile
The recent BT broadband outages, the resultant downtime and loss of business, have underscored how much SME organisations now completely depend upon a reliable Internet connection. Indeed, quality and reliability of comms increasingly informs decisions regarding business location. However, far too many organisations still feel constrained by the lack of top quality fixed line connections available – and certainly by the huge variability in price.
Today, a fixed line Ethernet connection can cost between £300 and £2000 per month depending on location and the company’s data needs. While there are strong benefits, many SMEs understandably baulk at the investment, especially those facing the top end of the price range. Companies also recognise that a single comms connection represents a significant business risk – a secondary or back-up solution is essential to avoid expensive, non-productive down time.
The alternatives to fixed line options vary depending on location, and include point to point radio, satellite and mobile. Indeed, in many areas where the ADSL service is weak, growing numbers of SMEs have adopted 4G as a contingency comms solution – and discovered the failover performance far outstrips the main connection. Speeds are good, if variable, and more than adequate for the needs of most smaller organisations; and data costs are just a fraction of those on a 3G network. So is there any need to invest in a fixed line anymore?
Having tried 4G as a back-up or short term solution in new premises, the quality of performance has prompted growing numbers of organisations – especially SMEs – to use 4G as the primary connection. However, the variability of 4G can raise concerns regarding consistent performance for phone calls, VPN or cloud based Citrix sessions that require a consistent minimum bandwidth. So while a 20Mbps 4G connection is brilliant for routine Internet access, some organisations question whether it will always be enough for simultaneous data transfer or voice calls.
So what is the option? In fact, there is no need to make an either / or fixed versus mobile decision. The concept of primary versus secondary connection has been replaced by a bonded model that enables organisations to gain additional resilience and contingency from bonding different connections at the same site location together. With this approach, a company can bond fixed and/or mobile connections – including connections from different mobile providers for additional contingency – and gain the benefit of the combined bandwidth to deliver day to day performance improvements. In addition to delivering the key requirements today, namely consistent bandwidth plus business contingency, this bonded approach builds in future proofing.
The key message is that the choice is broad – enabling companies to invest in a comms model that truly reflects business needs irrespective of location. Is a mobile first comms strategy viable today? It all depends on business needs. Certainly the arrival of 5G will certainly challenge the validity of fixed line connections, but that is a few years away yet. In the meantime, 4G is becoming a compelling business solution – as both primary and back-up option.
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