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Choosing a business network – ADSL, Fibre ethernet or EFM?

Choosing the right business network can be overwhelming. Even if your core business isn’t IT-related, it can feel like you need to be an expert to make the correct choices for your company as making the wrong selection could cause problems in the future.

When it comes to your internet connection you need to get it right, but it’s not as simple as plugging into the broadband connection as you do on your home network – business networks have much more demanded of them and vast amounts of data passing through.

The three main options available are Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL), Fibre ethernet or Ethernet First Mile (EFM) but for you to pick the right one for the challenge you are facing, it’s best to know a bit about them.

What is ADSL?

Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) is what has been the norm for some time for business internet connections before fibre and EFM came along – but what is it? ADSL is an internet connection that runs off your telephone line using the copper cable wire already installed for your telephone system. Although it uses the phone lines it is still an ‘always on’ connection – you can use your phone lines at the same time as the line is split in two with a microfilter so that you can use both internet and phone line at the same time.

ADSL is capable of tasks like downloading large files, computer-aided design (CAD) and online gaming and provides higher bandwidth and a much dater connection than its predecessor the voiceband modem but still using copper wire technology of the phone lines.

Advantages of ADSL

ADSL has been in use for years as the next generation to dial-up modems. It’s still popular now, and that is with good reason. One significant challenge you will face, particularly when setting up a new business or office is the installation of the internet connection – this can take 6-12 weeks, and any delays on top can interfere with your plans.

ADSL uses existing copper wires already installed for your phone lines. Add a microfilter, get your router setup, and you’re away. If you’re looking to get your business up and running quickly, then ADSL could be your best option.

ADSL is also your cheapest option. It’s basically home broadband, and that’s reflected in the cost. If you want quick installation and you want affordable ADSL may work for you, but what are the disadvantages?

Disadvantages of ADSL

ADSL is the cheapest option because it is the oldest technology. It still uses copper telephone wire, although it’s been improved upon because it has been found wanting by some businesses when it comes to connection speed. Although it allows users to download a large amount of data, the upload speeds are slow – it works off the idea that a home user will download a lot more data than they upload, but this isn’t the case for businesses. Connection speeds are not up to scratch for some business networks and are also dependent on the geographical location of the user.

If ADSL is not going the do the job, then what else is there?

What is a fibre-optic connection?

We have all heard the claims of ‘superfast fibre-optic broadband’, and these claims have led people to believe that fibre-optic broadband is the only way to go if you want a fast connection – but is that true?

Fibre-optic broadband is a superfast internet connection that uses special cables made from plastic or glass. These allow much faster data transfer than standard copper wire technology. There is not a lot of difference from a standard connection, so what are the benefits?

Advantages of a fibre-optic connection

There is no doubt that fibre-optic broadband is a lot faster than the copper wire technology alternative. In the following cases, it’s probably prudent to consider fibre-optic:

  • you are uploading and downloading a lot of data
  • you need apps that update in real-time
  • your business hinges on the speed of connection

Additionally, there is no danger of electrical or radio interference as there is with copper wire internet, and data is carried better over long distances using a fibre-optic connection. It IS a great option, but it is not all good news – there are some downsides as well.

Disadvantages of a fibre-optic connection

Fibre-optic broadband no doubt performs when it comes to connection speed – so why don’t all businesses use it? Firstly, is the cost – the cables are expensive and then getting them installed specially for your business also costs a lot. Month on month it’s also a lot more costly than the alternatives, great if you absolutely need it, but if you don’t, then why pay?

The other obstacle is installation times – fibre-optic cable isn’t everywhere like copper wire, so specialist teams need to come out and install it with a long lead time plus any delays you could be waiting months for your “superfast” broadband.

What is EFM?

Ethernet first mile (EFM) uses copper lines similar to ADSL. The ‘E’ in ‘EFM’ actually refers to the copper ethernet lines which delivers the service. The ‘First mile’ part refers to the distance between your business premises and the internet service providers nearest provision

The slowest technology used in an internet connection will dictate the speed, so where fibre is needed, and full-fibre connection must run between the ISP and the business, where EFM is concerned, it’s more traditional and cost-effective than copper wire runs this distance.

The configuration of EFM lines are known as ‘bundles’ – multiple lines are used rather than the single line of an ADSL connection. This technology allows speeds of 35mbps or more, as well as this upload speed and download speeds, are identical.

Advantages of EFM

Because of the ‘symmetric bandwidth’ offered by EFM then real-time applications, such a VOIP phone system run seamlessly – much better than they would over an ADSL line. EFM provides a cheaper upgrade from ADSL without having to bear the cost of a fibre-optic broadband connection

If your company is looking for a reliable service with excellent speeds but still need to be wary of the cost and do not want the added expense that fibre-optic broadband would have. It is undoubtedly more reliable than an ADSL line, but be careful when looking at EFM packages – if you are looking which EFM service is right for you, a guide like this one should be helpful.

Disadvantages of EFM

The issue of network latency could still be a problem for you when using an EFM connection, and if those millisecond differences that latency causes could be a problem to your business, you may have to stretch to the cost of a fibre-optic connection.

There are still some of the other issues already discussed with copper wire technology, but this is reduced somewhat with EFM due to the way the data is bundled, and disturbance should be minimal.