Broadband has been a hot topic for the past 24 months and, while it got off to a stuttering start, serious inroads are now being made. Broadband is an umbrella term for a range of technologies including the probably more familiar ADSL and cable modems.
In its simplest form, broadband uses a single cable to transmit multiple channels such as cable TV. When we talk about it in IT terms broadband uses these multiple channels to offer a big, fast pipe into the internet.
For ADSL this connection is provided over a standard telephone line, while the cable operators use their digital networks. The effect is basically the same.
Broadband can have a huge impact on your business thanks to the way it works. Unlike telephone lines, all broadband connections have a single monthly fee. You no longer have to factor the cost of internet phone calls into your operational costs.
For the majority of us this represents a huge saving. The internet can now be used all day at will. This means that items such as email will arrive in real time and can be dealt with more quickly.
But, it's not just the cost that should be considered. Broadband is a lot faster than any dial-up connection. If you have a small office, then sharing an internet connection over a modem is a painful task.
Websites take an age to load and downloading anything becomes an exercise in futility. It is reasons like this that a dial-up connection will often be restricted to a single PC.
A broadband connection, currently offering anything between 128Kbps and 1Mbps, means that small businesses can roll-out the internet to all employees at a reasonable price. The benefits are immediate. Staff can now perform research online as and when they need.
With many good information sites available this can cut down the amount of time it takes to perform a task. This has to be a good thing. But with this increased freedom comes the issue of policing internet access.
After all, you don't want to provide all this technology only to have employees spend the day surfing personal websites. You will have to provide clear guidelines for use. In addition, security becomes more of an issue. With an always-on broadband connection you are more at risk from hackers.
Before you start getting worried about this prospect, take a deep breath. Many security vendors now offer products aimed at the broadband market. These are easier to install and maintain than the big corporate equivalents, meaning that you don't have to rush out and pay an expensive consultant to protect your company. You will be able to perform all of this in-house.
As we can see, the benefits of a fixed-cost, fast and always-on connection far outweigh the downside of needing better security.
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