Here in the UK we are used to paying slightly above the standard rates for services and products available elsewhere. Many people remain resigned to the idea that life in Britain is now charged at a premium. From unfavourable currency exchange rates to fuel prices reflecting only the upwards movements in the markets and never the downwards re-adjustments, there is a realisation that the culture of “rip-off Britain” has grown in recent times. New studies have compiled data which thoroughly demonstrates our Internet speed is yet another area of life where rip-off culture is threatening to take hold. Unfortunately, this is a real and growing concern for not only the individual consumer, but also for the driving force of any potential economic growth: our small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).
There have been countless anecdotal examples over the years of dissatisfied customers receiving a fraction of the Internet speed they had signed up for. But now industry insiders are adding their voices to a growing campaign to see tougher regulations put on ISPs: regulations which aim to have broadband companies delivering on the performance levels they claim to offer in their adverts. Julian Palmer is one such industry expert, and in his white paper he details the many ways a speed test can detect if internet service providers are falling short of their promises. Palmer, whose background is in analytical problem solving for IT networks, has identified a series of key oversights of network management which can play a crucial part in overall online performance. The report offers an end-to-end analysis of current performance-related issues and an approach to the speed test that is informed by 30 years of professional work. The full white paper is available for download here completely free of charge.
So what are the main issues raised in the new report, and what are the implications for UK customers?
Palmer’s central finding is that the current Internet speed test which most customers will use could be flawed. He identifies that the greater portion of free online speed tests measure only the breadth of the broadband, but they do not actually measure the responsiveness. With the bulk of online activity – for example loading a single web-page – requiring only small units of data to be transferred at any one time, he points out that this current system of measurement may provide results that are accurate but not necessarily of much applicable use.
So how does all this affect end users? The simple fact is that when you sign a contract with any of the UK’s ISPs, you have absolutely no way of knowing the quality of service you will receive until it is already installed. Even with newer, tougher regulations, ISPs are obliged to provide just 10% of customers with the full capacity in order to allow them to advertise their service. For example if 100 businesses sign up to receive a service advertised as “up to 10mbps”, then only ten of those businesses are required to actually receive the full 10mbps speed. Unsurprisingly, industry watchdogs, consumers, journalists and media regulators are all pressing for these standards to be raised.
The implications for SME and enterprise businesses can be profound. The impact of a substandard internet connection can mean the difference between business growth or decline. More businesses each day rely on their Internet connection to run either the whole or parts of their business operations in the Cloud, meaning that any degradation in connection quality can have a dramatic impact on the bottom line as well as customer service levels. The next generation of operating systems are all focusing on server-side data management and cloud storage systems. If you are unable to run your data and voice applications with confidence due to poor quality internet connectivity, your business is at risk of losing ground to competitors or, worse still, failing.
A prominent online presence is central to successful business in today’s world. And good quality internet connectivity is integral to the day to day operations of the majority of businesses. As regulations continue to lag behind the realities of the broadband market, it has fallen to the individual to assume responsibility for the service their business receives. This means researching the facts and learning how to interpret the results. Not all online speed tests will provide you with that crucial information. As industry expert Julian Palmer sums up in his white paper: “The problem is not the in the measurement, it is in understanding the test results”.
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