Choosing a service and provider
Phone and broadband services are vital to businesses. Some 83% of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) agree that they would not be able to achieve their goals without them.
Despite this, 34% of businesses say they don't have the confidence to identify products and services that could benefit their organisation.
Whether you're a business setting up for the first time, or are shopping around for a better deal, it's important that you make the right choice.
Services for businesses range from standard services to specialist and bespoke products.
These include call-related products such as PSTN and ISDN lines, internet products such as ADSL and fibre broadband, data connections such as leased lines, and other services such as VoIP and business mobile. See our jargon buster for more details on these.
New technology could suit your business. Speak to your provider about what your need.
There are plenty of providers that cater for businesses. One way to compare services is to use an Ofcom-accredited price comparison website.
Service availability: rural and urban
Our Mobile and Broadband Checker can help you check the range and quality of services in your area. By entering a postcode, you can check the availability of superfast broadband, average download speeds and the quality of mobile coverage for the major providers.
Every business wants to keep its overheads down. but opting for the cheapest deal may not always be the right choice.
Providers offer different levels of service, and higher levels of service usually cost more.
It might be worth spending more in return for a better Service Level Agreement ('SLA'). For example, a deal that offers quicker repairs.
More details are outlined on our contracts page.
Research a provider's track record in customer service. Take a look at our latest report on customer service satisfaction with the quality of service they receive from their telecoms provider. We also regularly publishes data on complaints made against the major telecoms and pay-TV providers.
Staying connected is critical to businesses.
Bear in mind that not all products come with a SLA for service availability, and only some are fully resilient (100% 'uptime').
This means that from time to time there may be temporary 'downtime' in your service. For example, a 99.9% SLA would mean that on average your services might be down for ten minutes per week.
Providers offer resilience options for various products. Discuss this with your provider. You might only need this if your business needs a constant connection.
Providers can impose internet traffic management under certain circumstances. This could affect your services if you are conducting data-intensive activities. Read our internet traffic management guide to find out more.
Many providers sell both residential and business products and services, and because around a quarter of SMEs operate from a home office, in some cases you might have a dual use for your connection.
If you are a business thinking about a residential service, check the terms and conditions, as not all providers will allow you to use a residential tariff for business purposes. This also applies to mobile contracts.
There are advantages in specific business products. For example, landline products will often come with improved service levels, priority customer service, and other features, such as an option to set up a Freephone business number.
Business broadband products can include faster speeds, static IP addresses, email addresses for your company, website domains and webspace if you want to build a website. They might also include enhanced security features.
Business mobile tariffs could benefit to your business. They may offer shared data plans that are spread between several handsets, cheaper calls between those handsets, and access to relevant apps and tools.
You might be able to negotiate particular details with your supplier before agreeing to a service. You can request information about the conditions in your contract, as explained on our contracts page.
Royal Mail is required to provide First and Second Class services for every residence in the UK (in some rare cases, exceptions apply).
Many businesses use the same Royal Mail services as residential consumers
However, if you send lots of letters and parcels, check other options. There are a range of different tariffs and parcel services (such as tracking and collection from your premises) available to business customers.
In some areas of the UK, alternative operators to Royal Mail collect and deliver standard mail directly to your customers. These services do not always need a volume or spend discount.
Franking is a way of printing pre-paid postage onto letters or labels using a franking machine with a credit account. Businesses pay lower postage prices compared to stamps, but need to buy or rent a franking machine. There are annual maintenance and inspection costs. Many services which can be bought with a franking machine are regulated universal services. Only Royal Mail services can be bought using franking machines.
Businesses can also access discounts to the stamp price if they have an account with Royal Mail. This is subject to a minimum spend per year.
Business mail or 'bulk' services: Many postal give discounts on stamps to businesses which post lots of mail, or who sort their own mail in-house. The minimum volume (or spend) varies and depends on the services you choose.
Packet and parcel services: Different parcel companies operate through high street stores, or can collect parcels directly from your premises before sorting and delivering them to your customers. Options are more likely to be available for businesses that send high volumes of goods, but a range of services for smaller businesses (and residential consumers) exist.
Look at providers’ websites for more details or to compare prices.
Your rights and how to complain are different if you don't use a Royal Mail service. Find out more in our Postal services: knowing your rights section.