A reliable, fast broadband service is now as essential to the success of a business as capital, a solid business plan and hard-working staff.
But does every business require a specialised business broadband connection? Or can you get by with a cheaper, home broadband service?
To figure out whether home or business broadband is right for you, read on to learn about the essential differences between the two, as well as some of the pitfalls businesses could face if they choose a residential service.
Most of the big broadband providers also offer business broadband. You can compare Virgin Media Business broadband deals at our dedicated page for Virgin Media Business broadband or find a BT Business Broadband deal here on our BT Business Broadband page.
What do I get with a business broadband package that I don't get with home broadband?
What exactly does that extra outlay get you that home broadband can't?
1) Service guarantee and compensation
The best business broadband providers pledge to get your connection back up and running the next working day to minimise disruption and inconvenience to customers.
Service guarantees with residential broadband are much less common. And if providers do offer these guarantees, the timeframe in which they promise to get you back up and running is much longer.
In the event that a business broadband provider is unable to get you back online in the timeframe promised in the contract, you're often entitled to compensation.
2) Better, business-specific customer support
In the event that your broadband connection goes down, it's vital you get back online as soon as possible or you risk losing revenue and damaging your reputation. For that reason, business broadband deals typically offer around-the-clock, UK-based customer support so you can get help with any problems whenever they occur.
That's in contrast to home broadband, which operate customer support services that are only open at select times.
Business broadband customer support staff also prioritise business broadband callers, so you won't be stuck in a queue waiting to speak to an operator like you might if you chose a residential broadband provider.
3) Business broadband traffic is prioritised
The likes of BT and TalkTalk prioritise business broadband traffic over residential broadband customers.
The result is that the speed and quality of your connection won't be affected by other customers' usage patterns, such as your neighbour who downloads lots of HD video, and won't slow down at busy times of day, keeping your business up and running smoothly.
4) Better security
If your home computer is hacked it can be a major inconvenience.
But if your business broadband network is compromised, it could be a disaster for you and for your clients.
For that reason, business broadband services come equipped with higher grade security software.
5) A router that's made for businesses
Business routers and residential routers can differ substantially.
If you only need to connect between ten and 12 computers, a standard residential router or small business router will be fine. If you're a larger business, you'll need a larger router that provides coverage between 1,500 to 2,000 square feet and over multiple storeys.
Business broadband routers also provide higher levels of security, including a VPN server and firewall, and filter content, too.
6) Static IP address
Choose a residential broadband service and you'll get a dynamic IP address (this is a unique number to identify your computer). This means that your IP address will change every time you connect to the internet.
With business broadband deals, though, you're provided with a static IP address.
A static IP address allows you to use your connection for a host of business-specific features that are critical to the day-to-day operation of businesses.
With a static IP address, you can:
Host your own server, which is vital if your business needs to receive large files and ensures clients can connect to your server without complications.
Host your own website or domain name server.
Remotely connect to your computer from another PC so staff can access applications remotely.
Why is business broadband more expensive than home broadband?
With some broadband suppliers offering broadband free on select packages, the savings on offer mean it can be tempting to sign up for home broadband over a dedicated business service.
But that's actually a false economy — not only because, as we've seen above, you could end up missing out on revenue if something goes wrong and you're unable to get a quick response from customer support. Business broadband is arguably also better value because of the extras you get with it.
Choose BT business broadband, for instance, and you'll also get free Wi-Fi via its nationwide network, so you can get online while you're on the move. Other carriers offer similar services too, although larger providers are able to offer wider coverage.
All business broadband providers also supply customers with multiple e-mail accounts which will be specific to your business (for example: firstname.lastname@example.org) and will present a more professional image to clients.
Compare and buy business broadband deals here: business broadband comparison.