Are leased lines still a good choice for your business?

Leased lines have been around for years. That’s because they’ve long been the most reliable way for businesses to get and stay connected. A leased line is a dedicated, high-speed connection between your business premises and another location. Leased lines are most often used to provide internet access. However, you can also use them to create secure links between offices, or to provide other services, such as a unified communications system.

Leased lines have traditionally been regarded as the ‘gold standard’ of connection. However, they’ve always been more expensive than other connection types.

The cost of a leased line usually depends on the speed of your connection and the distance between the points you are connecting.

Recent years have seen the speed and reliability of cheaper internet connections improve. Fibre optic connections are now available in many parts of the UK, sometimes offering fast connections of more than 100Mbps (megabits per second).

So, given these changes in the market, when is a leased still a good idea?

What’s special about a leased line?

As we’ve said, leased lines can be expensive. That’s partly because a leased line is dedicated just to your business, and partly because providers usually guarantee many aspects of the service. For instance:

  • You pay for a specific speed of connection, and you should receive that speed. It’s not like cheaper services where you’ll receive an ‘up to’ speed or have to share available bandwidth with other customers. If you pay for a 1Gps (gigabit per second) connection, that connection is all yours.
  • You get a service level agreement (SLA). This forms part of your contract with the leased line provider and sets out what level of uptime you can expect (for instance, 99.99% uptime). This means the connection is very unlikely to fail. And if it does, you have a right to compensation.
  • Because leased line providers know that companies expect a reliable service, most also provide excellent levels of support. You’ll usually receive 24/7 technical support, with a guaranteed response time should an engineer need to visit your premises.
  • Because your leased line is a dedicated, private connection for your business, it is inherently more secure than shared connections like ADSL or fibre broadband. For instance, you can send files between your offices straight directly, without them going near the public internet.

In short, when you get a leased line, you pay for quality and reliability. That monthly fee might seem expensive, but it guarantees you fewer problems in the future.

Understand what leased lines are good for

As you’ve probably gathered, leased lines are not for every business. You might find the cost prohibitively expensive. But even if the price does fall within your budget, evaluate your requirements carefully rather than assuming that a leased line is best.

Although the market has changed, leased lines are still an excellent choice for certain businesses.

In general, you should consider a leased line if you’re confident you’ll make full use of the connection. That means you’ll be using a significant proportion of the bandwidth for a significant proportion of the time.

For instance:

  • You have lots of employees. If they all need to access the internet for work, the guaranteed speed of a leased line means you can be confident you won’t run into frustrating connection slowdowns.- You want to run your own services through the connection. A leased line provides sufficient reliability to host a website on your own servers or run a secure VPN over which remote workers can connect to your network.
  • You’ll use it round the clock. Many business connections sit idle outside of office hours. Given the cost of a leased line, that’s a waste. Perhaps you can run additional services at night, such as online backup.
  • You need to upload quickly. Unlike many cheaper connections, leased lines offer the same speed for uploads and downloads. This makes them good for applications where you upload lots of data, such as online backup.

If some of those points sound familiar then it may be worth evaluating leased lines in your business. However, be sure to compare leased line options with the newer breed of ‘smart’ internet services, which may offer similar benefits.

When leased lines aren’t so good

Although leased lines stack up well when it comes to reliability and security, they aren’t always so good at being flexible. When you consider that a leased line exists for your exclusive use, you can see why there may be little flexibility. The costs of any changes have to be built into the cost of your service – your provider can’t average them out across all customers using the connection.

For many companies, if their needs are undemanding, a standard fibre connection may be adequate.

Alternatively, companies that need to connect several different sites may opt for an IP VPN system. While a leased line has two endpoints, an IP VPN system is a ‘mesh’ network that can connect a number of different points.

Finally, as technology evolves, new ‘smart’ services are appearing on the market. These are analogous to cloud computing: they provide performance and security comparable to leased lines, but with additional flexibility. For instance, you may be able to dial your connection speed up or down with no penalty.

Many smart services can separate services that are delivered through the same connection. This stops them interfering with each other and increases security, because each runs on a separate ‘virtual local area network’ (VLAN).

Leased lines remain an important part of the business IT landscape. They’re still the most reliable way to get a guaranteed connection into your company. But while costs have fallen, leased lines can be expensive compared with other options. Evaluate your requirements carefully before you make any commitment.

Learn more about Exponential-e’s smart business internet services.

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