Mobile broadband has, until recently, struggled to fulfil its promise of actually providing a connection with broadband speeds. But with 4G networks deploying across the world, and existing 3G links being upgraded, mobile broadband is finally a realistic alternative to fixed-line services, in some cases providing a much faster connection than landlines.
The flexibility of mobile broadband makes it an intriguing proposition for businesses. Small companies or independent traders may prefer an internet service which is not reliant on a phone line, and for larger companies it’s a great way to keep employees connected when out of the office.
But is mobile broadband right for your business? Here are a few things you should know before kitting out your company.
Some services may be blocked
Operating a mobile data network isn’t cheap and capacity is limited, so carriers place far more restrictions on these connections than you would see on a typical fixed line broadband line.
That means applications you rely on may not work with mobile broadband. This could be particularly problematic for Skype and other VOIP tools, and also VPN connections, which many businesses use for secure remote access.
Carriers will typically offer business class packages with fewer restrictions, but these come at a higher cost. Before signing on for any mobile broadband you should confirm with the network what restrictions are in place.
Check the network coverage
Network coverage is the most vital part of a mobile broadband service. Obviously, no signal means no connection, but you also need to make sure that it is strong enough to provide a fast link. If 3G is not available the connection can drop back to 2G, which is too slow for internet access.
Carriers offer network coverage tools, so use these to check signal strength before buying. You can find a list of these tools for different providers in the Broadband Genie mobile broadband coverage guide. However, this is easier for those of you planning to use mobile broadband in the same location(s) on a frequent basis, if you’re travelling around you could check the signal in advance but you might also want to prepare for a frequent loss of connection, particularly if you’re moving around a country by train or car.
Keep an eye on roaming costs
Taking mobile broadband outside its home country can be very expensive, so you need to keep a careful watch if you or your employees do this. Any inclusive data you receive with your package will probably not count abroad so you’ll end up paying a costly per-MB fee.
Local Wi-Fi hotspots will usually be cheaper, but if you do wish to continue using your mobile broadband abroad then ask the network about international roaming add-ons to keep costs down. If you frequently visit the same country then consider purchasing a local SIM card or using a specialist international mobile broadband service.
Mobile broadband actually offers a much more secure connection than public Wi-Fi hotspots, since there’s no chance of someone on the same network sneaking a look at your traffic.
But there are other aspects businesses will need to consider. If you or an employee are using a mobile broadband dongle on personal equipment and accessing business files or systems it’s vital that sufficient security is in place in the form of anti-virus protection and other safeguards.
You should also use the PIN lock feature on dongles to ensure that no unauthorised users can get access. This will help prevent security breaches and large bills in the event of a theft.
We, at Microsoft, provide ‘Talking Business’ to help entrepreneurs and business owners’ succeed. We believe in your ability to innovate and in the ability of technology to help, so to support ‘Talking Business’ we have many resources available for businesses like you. We have an informative newsletter, blog posts by people in the industry, and a community looking to help small business succeed.
Follow us on twitter - @MicrosoftSB, or use the hashtag #TalkingBusiness to find out more information