Explore the best UK business broadband providers with our comprehensive guide. Discover top services, deals, and tips for your business needs.
In our modern, interconnected world, it has never been more important that all businesses have fast and reliable broadband. From ordering to invoicing, from suppliers to customers, so much of our business is carried online these days that setting up your broadband is one of the first jobs that you’ll have to do when moving into new premises. But even if you’re not moving your business, it’s always worth looking at the full range of options to check that you’re getting everything you can from your broadband supplier.
It’s easy to be wowed by the big numbers quoted by business broadband providers, but getting the right connection is about more than speed alone.
Speed and bandwidth aren’t quite the same thing. Put simply, internet bandwidth is how much data can be downloaded or uploaded from your computer, while internet speed is how fast the data can be uploaded or downloaded on your computer. High bandwidth also facilitates multitasking on multiple Wi-Fi devices. This means you can efficiently support a lot of users and devices at the same time while maintaining consistent speeds and performance. When you sign up for an internet plan, your provider gives you a maximum speed that your plan can hit. That’s your bandwidth. It represents what you can accomplish when your Wi-Fi is firing on all cylinders.
Of course, having the highest speed possible is worth very little if your connection is glitchy and constantly dropping out. As such, reliability and uptime are key considerations to take into account when choosing a business broadband provider. For business broadband providers, you should expect 99% uptime.
There are always going to be maintenance periods for upgrades and fixes to infrastructure, and there are going to be unplanned outages when something goes out. That’s inherent to the technology involved. You’ll also need to check how these outages are communicated to you. You can prepare for such times better if your provider gives you plenty of notice that they’re going to be taking place.
Broadband provides an 'always-on' connection, and this increases the security risks that your business network or equipment could become exposed to, such as viruses or hackers. These risks could potentially be disastrous for your business. They could compromise your critical data, and lead to loss or theft of valuable information.
Business broadband packages most often come with better security options and more proactive measures than home broadband, to ensure that your data and network remain secure. Your business broadband provider should include, as an integral part of their offering, a range of security systems such as network-wide email screening services, anti-virus and anti-malware software and a hardware firewall to intercept malicious attacks, and off-site data backup solutions.
Problems with your connection will likely cost your company money, so it’s important that your business broadband provider is there for you should things go wrong. But the levels of customer service can vary greatly from provider to provider. Online reviews can help to establish the level of service that they offer, but you should be checking whether they provide 24/7 telephone assistance or online chat only, and how quickly they can get an engineer out to you in the event that anything goes wrong that you cannot rectify yourself.
For all the talk of speed and bandwidth, reliability and customer support, pricing plans and contract length are important if you're going to maximise the value that you get from your provider. Many business broadband providers will offer ‘sweetener’ deals for new customers, but these will have an expiry date, at which point the price will increase.
You’ll also want to bear in mind what price increases the suppliers will be implementing during the duration of your contract, because these can significantly increase the amount that you’re paying. Since these increases are often pegged to inflation, these can be large increases during periods of high inflation.
Are you prepared for that, or would you be happy to look elsewhere to change your provider to another one in order to take advantage of other offers? You should pay special attention to the length of the contract offered, since once you’re tied into a contract, you may have to pay hefty fees to leave it.
Since businesses have a range of different needs, business broadband providers can offer a range of different features. Scalability is very important. Should your company grow in size, how easy will it be to upscale your broadband infrastructure and how painless will any transition be?
Other additional features that business broadband providers may offer could include static IP addresses (which allow you to host your own servers or websites), enhanced VoIP features for software such as Skype, Zoom or Microsoft Teams, and landline telephones.
Vodaphone’s big selling point is their affordability. They’re one of the cheapest business broadband providers, and there can be further reductions if you’re already a customer of theirs. Their customer service also has a strong reputation, and they offer several unique features, including a free app which gives you more control – you can easily change wifi passwords, choose when people can get online and even boost the speeds for priority devices.
EE offer some of the fastest broadband speeds around, though their pricing is not quite as cheap as Vodafone. But a slightly higher cost may be compensated for by stronger coverage and service, while their merger with BT means that their customers can take advantage of BT’s extensive network of Wi-Fi hotspots. The big downside to all of this is a lack of flexibility; you need an EE fixed phone number and their contracts all last for 18 months.
Virgin are also one of the best options for broadband-only deals because they’re not reliant on you having a BT phone line, and the only speeds that they now offer are among the very fastest, while they’re also known for their outstanding customer service. If you have a problem, they’ll have an engineer out to you quickly. They also have the advantage of offering shorter 12-month contracts, and if you’re prepared to pay a little more, this can even be reduced to 30-day rolling contracts. But they can be expensive - certainly after the end of any introductory offers - and because their service is now completely dedicated to fibre broadband, they’re only available to just over half of the population of the UK at present.
Plusnet scores highly for customer service and price, with some of the lowest prices anywhere for both standard business broadband and fibre. They also have a more flexible attitude towards contract lengths. On the downside, it has been said that their customers have to wait longer than most to speak to someone, although even this potential headache should be balanced against the fact that they have one of the lowest complaint rates of any provider.
The big selling point of BT’s service is free nationwide wifi hotspot access. They have more than five million of these across the country, and their full access coverage doesn’t end there, either. If you’ve had coverage issues with other suppliers, BT will usually be able to get you connected. On the flip side, they tend to be more expensive than other suppliers, while their customer service has a less than stellar reputation.
Zen aren’t as big an organisation as some of the others in this list, and they’re not as cheap as some of the others for either standard broadband or fibre. But this doesn’t mean that they should be dismissed out of hand. Zen is more flexible than most with their contract lengths, with 30-day rolling contracts and 12-month contracts available for standard broadband, while their customer service has an excellent reputation.
The unique selling point of Sky Business is the VoiceEdge digital call service. This works in conjunction with your digital phone line and has a great range of call features. For example, you can set calls to ring on up to 5 phones simultaneously. Also, it has a great call-forwarding feature so that you never miss a business opportunity. But they don’t offer the same high speeds as some of their competitors, and are also a touch more expensive, while they’re a little light on extra features beyond their digital call service.
TalkTalk are inexpensive and they do have the not-insignificant advantage of promising no price increases during the lifetime of your contract with them. But this comes at a cost. Their service isn’t available in all areas, and they suffer from low customer satisfaction scores with regard to complaint management.
The broadband offered by 3 Business works slightly differently to other providers, in that they use 5G mobile technology rather than fixed fibre connections. They can offer fast speeds and relatively low prices, but the downside is pretty much what you’d expect from a provider that specialises in mobile technology; wireless broadband speeds are always subject to the quirks of the property they're being received in.
bOnline are unique on this list as the only company to only provide services to small businesses. As such, you can be sure that they will have the knowledge and expertise to be able to help you find the right package for your specific business needs. They’re also fairly inexpensive, with 12-month contracts and introductory offers for new customers. Their big drawback, however, is customer service. Their lines are only open during normal business hours from Monday to Friday. If you have any problems outside of these hours, you’ll have to wait until the following morning or the following Monday.
While your business broadband provider will provide the connection in the first place, there are things that you can do to maximise the benefits of your chosen broadband service.
Research high-speed internet options in your area and invest in the fastest and most reliable option.
Encourage employees to limit their bandwidth usage during work hours, such as by avoiding streaming video or music.
Use Content Delivery Networks such as Cloudfare to store and distribute large files, reducing strain on your internet connection and improving download speeds.
Ensure your Wi-Fi network is optimised for speed by placing routers in central locations and avoiding interference from other devices.
Keep your router’s firmware up-to-date to ensure it is running efficiently and securely.
Install ad blockers on your browser to reduce the amount of data and bandwidth consumed by advertisements.
Regularly scan your devices for malware and viruses that could be slowing down your internet speeds.
Use Quality of Service settings to prioritise critical business applications, such as video conferencing or file transfers, and to manage and allocate bandwidth to different applications and devices based on their importance to the business.
A load balancer can distribute network traffic across multiple internet connections, ensuring a fast and reliable connection even during peak usage periods.
Most of the big business broadband providers will be able to get your connection up and running within two weeks. BT advertise 5-10 days and that they may not even need to visit your premises to get you set up, while Virgin states that they can get you set up in 4 days. All providers should be able to give you a definite date at the time that you sign up with them.
When choosing a business broadband plan, it’s essential to think about your company’s future growth. As your business expands, your internet requirements may increase. If you’re looking to expand your company, select a plan that offers scalability. This ensures that your business won’t be held back by limitations in your broadband plan.
There are a range of packages available for start-ups and small businesses, such as Zen’s 30-day rolling contracts for start-ups. It is best to draw up a list of your specific requirements before you start shopping around for a new provider.
Service level agreements (SLAs) are contracts that define the level of service that a business broadband service provider will deliver to its customers. SLAs can – and should – give you guaranteed levels of service quality, covering things like uptime, network performance and customer support. Most of the bigger business broadband suppliers offer them.
Yes, you can get business broadband at home. But it’s important to understand your network needs before deciding whether it’s the right option for you. If you’re simply working from home a few days a week then you likely don’t need a business broadband connection, and a faster home broadband service may be enough to keep you connected.
If you’re planning on having employees working from your home, or if your work involves a lot of file transfers, data processing and video calls then a business broadband connection at home could be a good option.
There are a plethora of options available to businesses looking to change their broadband provider, and although it can look daunting, changing could save you money - particularly if you’ve been with the same provider for some time - while the extra support and features available could transform the way in which you do business. Maybe it’s time to have a look at your existing contract and see if it’s worth your company making that change as well.
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