17th April 2013
How many times have you found yourself shouting at your computer to ‘hurry up’ as it is being slow at bringing up a webpage on the internet? The answer – too many times!
Most of us are online every waking moment one way or the other. Computers are accessed throughout the day, our smart-phones are constantly connected and pushing data and if our connection goes down we’ll “freak” out – our daily routine is disturbed!
An article caught my eye in the Birmingham Post about broadband speeds across the Midlands and how areas differ much in broadband capabilities and speeds. This is often annoying if you’re one of the many homes outside of major towns and cities that can’t get a decent broadband speed; I even read that a village in rural Lancashire recent laid their own fibre optic cables as they were fed up of using dial-up! But what if you’re a business and the speed of your connection isn’t just an annoyance – it’s a real barrier to the evolution of your IT infrastructure.
As one of the IT support staff at Harris Lamb studying part time for a BTEC in IT, Networking and Telecoms for part of my responsibilities and involve giving fee earners the help they need not only with in-house support but also the IT that ‘looks out’ for the business, which includes the website editing and help within e-marketing. Increasingly I have also been helping some of the agent’s research Broadband capacities in various locations where we are marketing large office space. For instance is the Broadband connection speed a ‘selling feature’ of the building and if so, would this information help us market properties?
I sometimes think that having a properties broadband capacity and connection speeds advertised on particulars and property details would be better use to occupiers than having a buildings insulation standard being set out as we do with Energy Performance Certificates (EPC’s)
With more and more talk of ‘cloud computing’ these days (which should really be referred to as ‘virtualisation’, but that’s a blog for another day), what happens when a company wants to utilise emails from a cloud server? Or even backup to a secure cloud service? Well if your one of the lucky occupiers that are located near an exchange, you can easily utilise bonded ADSL technology, relatively cheaply, to establish a large enough ‘pipeline’ to enable such off site solutions. Your connection speed is likely to be strong, and some service providers even offer ‘first mile’ services, giving service level agreements on lines within a mile, or so, of an exchange – happy days.
But assume for a minute, you are a company based in a suburb, or out of the city core, with your nearest exchange some 5 or even 10 miles away. How do you make the most of modern advancements in virtualisation when it even takes you half an hour to download an album from iTunes? This is where the real problem presents itself – COST. You can obtain a super fast connection in this situation – but you will have to pay for it. Leased lines, connections provided specifically for one, or a small number of users, benefit, can be rather pricey – not just to run, but to install in the first place. In fact, in some cases we have heard of companies moving offices because it’s cheaper to rent space closer to an area of good connectivity than it is to install and contract a leased private line!
With barriers to business like this in many more areas than people realise – it’s no surprise that offices outside of city cores can struggle to compete. A recent study online suggested that 13% of the UK last year, only 5% was receiving connections classed as superfast, with the average speed between 35.8Mbps to 44.6Mbps.
Isn’t it time, with such ubiquitous connectivity now available in major locations (Birmingham City Centre has a free wi-fi service, indoors and out) that fast, reliable connectivity was rolled out across the majority of the UK? With the speed of infrastructure improvement mostly driven by private sector service providers, which in turn is driven by profits, perhaps the government needs to increase its work and see that, this isn’t just about surfing the net; internet connectivity is a real requirement for business growth outside of major cities and towns.