‘Superfast Broadband’What is it?High-speed data connection, which uses fibre for most of its length but in most cases will usecopper (phone type) wires for the last part of the connection into the home or businesspremises.What difference does that make?ADSL (broadband) suffers from attenuation over the distance of the copper wires – so thefurther you are from the exchange the slower your broadband will be. ‘Superfast broadband’takes fibre out from the exchange and into the street cabinet – or in some cases directly intothe customer premises.How fast is ‘superfast’Speeds available (from BT Openreach products) are from 10 to 80 Mb downstream and to 2to 20Mb upstream. This compares with 1.2Mb upstream and 24Mb downstream on thefastest ADSL broadband.Why would I need it?More and more services are being delivered over data connections, and demand for betterperformance and greater data transfer is rising very, very quickly. This is driven by IP TVand video (applications such as iPlayer, live sport, feature films), social media, internetshopping, online public services etc etc. People are also storing things online such as photos,and uploading/downloading these takes significant bandwidth. With superfast broadband youcan do these things better, and even do them all at once! For business users, the potential iseven greater and includes all manner of ‘cloud services’, low-cost but high-quality videoconferencing, online data back-up, centralised servers, hosted accounts packages, business-grade VoIP and many other applications.Where’s the catch?Superfast broadband has limited guarantees for the actual speed that you’ll be able to achieve,and has the same kind of repair times as traditional ADSL broadband. The service may be‘contended’ so that the activity of other users on your street cabinet or exchange will impactthe performance of your connection. Business users should consider this carefully as the costof Ethernet connectivity - with guaranteed performance and fast fix times – has dropped verysharply over the past 2 years and is likely to continue to fall.
Cloud ComputingWhat is it?Cloud computing in its broadest sense is using services that are provided from powerfulservers and large data storage facilities that you can connect to across the internet. In simpleform it could be a website that provides you with an email service on your web browser (suchas Yahoo or Gmail), it would include photo storage and sharing (such as flickr). At the otherend of the spectrum it can be used to run servers and mission-critical applications forbusiness, able to be accessed by multiple offices and by mobile staff from any location in theworld.What are the benefits and advantages?One of the key benefits is in mobility – you don’t need to take your PC with you to be able toaccess files and applications, you can get them through a tablet or smartphone with relativelylittle memory and processing power. The number of people watching live Olympic action on‘smart’ mobile devices was huge this year (over 3 million people during the 2 weeks of theLondon Olympics), and it is a trend that is growing very rapidly. Cloud services give youaccess to all of your personal or office data from anywhere at any time. Some researchersbelieve we are approaching the post-PC era, where the data and services we use are all in thecloud, and we use portable devices to access them even when in our homes and offices.There is also benefit in cost-savings, particularly for business users. Instead of buyingexpensive software you can ‘pay as you go’ for the services you use. This is very relevant interms of scalability – adding or reducing users is quick and easy, and fixed costs and capitalexpenditure are replaced by very measurable, variable operating costs. There is alsosignificant advantage in ‘future-proofing’ because as improvements and new features areadded to cloud services all users have immediate access to them.Another advantage is the protection of your vital data (business secrets or family photos)from physical threats such as flooding or fire.Where’s the catch?Not all ‘cloud services’ are as safe, secure or reliable as you might prefer – as a general ruleyou will get what you pay for. For personal data, peace of mind should come from thereputation and credentials of the supplier. For business use, you can turn to ‘private cloud’where you can build and run your services from UK datacentres, and you can buy servicesfrom suppliers you can meet face-to-face rather than only online.