Finding the best broadband plan for your business can be tough. Let us help you make the right decision.
There are a lot of different business broadband plans out there and it can be tough to determine which one is right for your unique business needs. That's why we've put together this guide to help you compare the many Internet service providers (ISPs) out there and find the broadband plan that will both save you money and help your business bloom.
Why should I choose a business broadband plan?
In this era of always-online smartphones and fast-paced social media, a solid Internet connection is more important than ever. This is doubly true if you're a business owner since flaky Internet can directly impact your ability to serve customers and consequently keep the lights on.
This is where business broadband plans come in. Unlike traditional home broadband plans, business broadband plans are designed to prioritise speed and reliability above all else, ensuring that you won't have to suffer a choppy connection during a crucial video conference or constant drop-outs as you're trying to upload an important file to your clients across the globe.
Note: to be eligible for any business broadband plan, you'll need to have a valid Australian Business Number (ABN).
What type of business am I running?
The size and scope of your business is a key factor in choosing the right broadband plan. If you're operating a small startup with just a couple of employees, your Internet needs are going to differ significantly from that of a large, 50-plus person organisation. A startup might have little need for corporate firewall services and denial-of-service security packages, whereas bigger businesses that deal with confidential customer data will almost certainly want to invest in such measures.
What type of broadband should I get?
There are three main types of broadband Internet currently available: NBN, cable and ADSL.
The NBN, or National Broadband Network, is the most future-proofed solution for broadband Internet. Built on a backbone of high-speed fibre optic cables, the NBN is split into four main tiers: NBN 12, with speeds of 12Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps for uploads; NBN 25, with speeds of 25Mbps for downloads and 5Mbps for uploads; NBN 50, with 50Mbps for downloads and 20Mbps for uploads; and NBN 100, with 100Mbps for downloads and 40Mbps for uploads.
While the NBN is the fastest and most flexible broadband on the market, it's still in the process of rolling out across Australia. Before poring over NBN plans, then, you'll want to check if the NBN is available in your area. If it is, you'll also want to take note of the particular NBN technology installed at your place of business, since different NBN technologies support different maximum speeds.
Thanks to its multiple speed tiers, the NBN can service businesses of all shapes and sizes. Small businesses looking to teleconference with clients around the world will find NBN 25 plans suitable for their needs, while bigger organisations with always-online point-of-sale (PoS) systems will likely want to spring for a faster NBN 100 plan.
ADSL is the slowest of the three connections and operates over the copper phone line network. ISPs are currently phasing out their ADSL plans to make way for the NBN, since the ADSL network will be disconnected as part of the NBN rollout.
This means that any ADSL plan you sign up for will have a shelf life for only as long as it takes for the NBN to reach your area. Once it does, you'll have to switch over to a new NBN plan.
Internet speeds on ADSL vary considerably depending on a number of factors, such as the distance from your place of business to the nearest telephone exchange, the number of other users accessing the same ADSL network at any particular time, and the quality of the phone lines installed at your place of business.
At best, ADSL speeds typically go up to 20Mbps for downloads and 820Kbps for uploads. Slow speeds and the prospect of imminent disconnection make ADSL a poor choice unless your business' Internet needs start and end with basic email and web browsing capabilities. If you're going to have more than a couple of employees online at once, or you're planning on downloading and uploading a lot of data, you'll want to go with something faster.
Cable Internet is generally much faster than ADSL and operates over the same coaxial network used for pay TV services like Foxtel. Internet speeds on cable are still affected by factors like network congestion and location, but with plans starting at 30Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps for uploads and going all the way up to 100Mbps for downloads and 2Mbps for uploads, the boost to performance over ADSL is dramatic.
Furthermore, the cable network is being integrated into the NBN rollout, so you shouldn't be forced to switch plans any time in the near future. The only catch with cable Internet is that it isn't available as widely as ADSL, and few ISPs other than Telstra and Optus offer it. If you're a small- to medium-sized business and you're going to be regularly downloading and uploading files, teleconferencing, or communicating with customers online, cable Internet is worth looking into.
How much data do I need?
After speed, data allowance is the next big factor to consider. How much data you'll need every month depends on what kind of online activities your business will be engaging in along with how many employees will be using the Internet on a regular basis.
At the low end, some business broadband plans offer just 200GB–300GB of data every month. For a business that only employs a couple of people and uses the Internet mainly for email and web browsing, this might be sufficient, but bigger and more online-focused businesses are going to need something more substantial.
Fortunately, many ISPs offer plans with unlimited data every month. Most businesses should choose this option to avoid dealing with throttled Internet speeds or excess usage charges from exceeding their monthly limit.
What other factors do I need to consider?
If you're a small business, paying a full-time tech-support team to keep your Internet running smoothly might not be on the cards. That's why you'll want to consider what kind of business support you'll be getting from an ISP before signing up with them. 24/7 availability is a must, because the last thing you want to hear when you can't access critical documents in your cloud storage is a recorded "out of office" message from your telco's support line.
The speed and reliability of business broadband doesn't come cheap but you can still save yourself some cash if you bundle a phone service in with your Internet plan. Bundle plans typically work out cheaper than paying for phone and Internet separately, especially if you go with a voice over IP (VoIP) phone service instead of a traditional landline.
Since VoIP uses your Internet connection to make and receive calls, you won't have to pay line rental and you'll often enjoy cheaper call rates to boot.
Flexibility is an important trait for any business, big or small. When it comes to broadband Internet, this means mobility. Being able to work online on-the-go can give your business a crucial advantage, increasing productivity during long commutes and ensuring employees can continue to access the Internet while they're out of the office.
If your business spends a lot of time in transit, it's worth taking a look at our guide to business mobile broadband plans.
The business world never stands still and what's right for your business today might not be what's right for it tomorrow. That's why it's important to look for a broadband plan that won't tie you down with long-term commitments.
Many ISPs will lock you into 12- or 24-month contracts, hitting you with hefty cancellation fees if you decide their service is no longer satisfying your business' needs. It's better, then, to look for ISPs that offer no-lock-in, month-to-month contracts, since they give you the freedom to cancel at any time without paying through the nose for the privilege.
While you're comparing contract terms, it's also worth looking at the various fees different ISPs charge on top of your standard monthly bill. When you first sign up for a business broadband plan, you'll likely have to pay a one-off activation fee to get your service switched on. Additionally, if you need assistance setting up your modem or your place of business requires cabling work to support your new Internet service, you'll have to cover the cost of having a technician come out and take care of it.
Speaking of modems, some ISPs will charge you for this crucial piece of hardware necessary to get your Internet up and running. Others might bundle a modem in for free but charge extra for a modem-router capable of sharing your new Internet connection among multiple users. Since a low-quality modem can slow even the fastest Internet connection to a crawl, it's worth spending a little extra for hardware that won't fall over at the first sign of heavy use.
The aforementioned factors are common to most business broadband plans, but many ISPs offer extra services to distinguish themselves from the competition.
- Static IP address. A static IP address is vital if you plan on running a private server on your business network. For example, you may want to host important company documents on a file server at your place of business. By assigning that server a static IP address, you'll be able to share that address with employees so they can access it remotely over the Internet. In comparison, a regular dynamic IP address would mean you'd need to update employees with the new server address every time you rebooted your modem.
- Unlimited calls. Unlimited phone calls are another perk to keep an eye out for. Rather than charging you for every call your business makes, ISPs like iiNet and Optus offer phone packages that come with unlimited local, national and mobile calls every month. This can save you a lot of money if calling customers and clients is something your business regularly engages in.
- Free account calls. Larger organisations that provide employees with work phones should also consider whether an ISP offers free on-account calls as Telstra does with its BizEssentials plans. This lets you add up to 500 fixed or mobile services to your business' Telstra account and make unlimited voice calls between them for free Australia-wide.
- Dedicated webmail services. If you don't want to rely on services like Gmail or Outlook to manage your business' emails, some ISPs provide dedicated webmail services with their business broadband plans. While this grants you greater flexibility over features such as custom email addresses as well as better customer support should anything go wrong, you'll want to check how many email addresses each plan comes with and the total storage space you'll have available to you before signing up. You'll also need to consider an anti-spam filter, unless you want your employees inundated with messages from Nigerian princes.
- Backup network. A broadband backup service can be a lifesaver for businesses that rely on being online all the time. In the event your fixed broadband service is disrupted, ISPs like Telstra will switch you automatically to their mobile broadband network to keep you connected while the outage is resolved. As soon as your fixed broadband service is available again, you'll be switched right back.
- Business applications. Getting the right software is important for any business, which is why Optus and Telstra bundle their broadband plans with store credit to spend on business applications in their respective app stores. With products like Microsoft Office 365, Sage One Accounting and Norton Security available, this offer can boost your business' productivity without breaking the bank.
- Security. Security is one factor of the online world businesses can't afford to ignore. You don't want unauthorised users prying into your business' private files, which is why it pays to look at the security services different ISPs provide. From anti-spam filters to protection from denial-of-service attacks, you can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your business.