For those who believe in the need for speed

MANY small and medium enterprises are failing to keep up with their competitors because they are relying on modems to access the Internet rather than switching to broadband connections.

A Perth Internet solutions firm believes there are significant productivity increases to be gained from high-speed access, but many businesses are resisting switching from narrowband to broadband because of the increased cost and reports of poor reliability.

Broadband is a relative term given to connection speeds in excess of 56 kilobits per second. ADSL operates between 256Kbps and 6Mbps, and while ISDN connections are slower, operating between 64Kbps and 256Kbps.

Cynergic consultant Jeff Robson said faster connections could deliver productivity increases across a range of tasks, from downloading large files to connecting multiple offices across the world and using remote applications.

“People can get a lot more done in a lot shorter time. Instead of waiting 10 minutes or half an hour for a file to download, broadband connected employees can get that file in a minute,” he said.

“We’re not talking about your local plumber or someone like that. The main area broadband can deliver benefits is with multiple offices connecting themselves together.

“We’ve had quite a lot of interest in that area from Perth, interstate and international businesses.”

Mr Robson said that, because Perth tended to be home to a large number of branch offices that needed to communicate with the head office interstate or overseas, there had been strong interest in broadband locally.

“I guess just recently, that’s where most of our interest has come from, businesses that have multiple offices and they want to connect them all together,” he said. “That’s where they see the biggest productivity gains coming from because, at the moment, they might be using modems to connect to the Internet and using email to share files.

“Broadband enables your business to transfer files and set up their network so they can browse the network neighbourhood and share files with an office next door or in New York … and with ADSL, it’s a lot cheaper and easier than people think.”

A recent survey by the Yankee Group in the US found 75 per cent of small businesses had seen their productivity increase and two thirds said switching to broadband had made them more competitive.

One of the major obstacles for some SMEs looking at broadband access in Perth is the increased cost. A business grade 56Kbps modem connection might only cost $75 a month but business grade ADSL can cost upwards of $170 per month, depending on the speed.

Telstra has come under recent criticism for the reliability and performance of its ADSL service.

Large demands on the ADSL network have led to slow connection speeds and outages.

Mr Robson also said media focus on Telstra’s connection issues had put many SMEs off adopting the technology since many businesses did not realise there were other ADSL alternatives.

“The negative comments have been in relation to the speed and reliability of Telstra’s service,” he said.

“People are paying the money for ADSL and they’re just not getting the service.”

However, Telstra’s recent revision of the wholesale ADSL price after pressure from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission may improve the ADSL provided by Telstra resellers to SMEs.

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