New year: new suppliers

Inside the enterprise: consumers seem keener than businesses to switch suppliers. But reviewing contracts is an easy way to cut costs.

New Year resolutions

After the excesses of Christmas and New Year, it is little wonder that January sees a plethora of tips, especially in the popular press, for losing weight and saving money.

Indeed, the more proactive PR firms send these "feature ideas" out well before December.

But among the exercise regimes and the make-do-and-mend suggestions, one piece of research, from ISP Review stood out. According to the website, one in three consumers are considering switching their broadband provider this year.

Cutting down on over-priced or over-specified broadband is a fairly painless way to stretch the family finances. And it is a trick that businesses, and not just smaller businesses, could copy.

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For SMEs, switching broadband or indeed telecoms suppliers is a fairly simple process: use a comparison site, or Google, to shop around for a better deal, request a MAC (migration authorisation code), and sign up with the new provider.

There are a couple of caveats, such as checking on any fees to terminate the existing contract, and ensuring that if the business uses ISP-based email (not usually a great idea anyway) that mail services and any domains are transferred. All in all, it should be done in a couple of weeks, and the savings, in percentage terms, are

significant. There are business-grade ADSL deals out there

for 10 a month, but plenty of companies on legacy contracts pay 25 or more for fairly basic internet connections.

For larger businesses, or those that make more demands of their internet pipe, it is a little more complicated. But there are also some more interesting options.

Companies that do not rely too heavily on their broadband might, for example, be able to switch from an expensive, dedicated leased line to business-grade DSL, and save a significant monthly sum. ADSL2, especially Annex M, provides upload speeds of over 1Mbps: more than enough for IP telephony, for example. Put in two bonded connections, and there's the added benefit of additional redundancy as well as more bandwidth.

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But companies should also look at products such as metro Ethernet, and also fibre from the likes of BT and Virgin Media. BT, for example, has been rolling out its fibre connections to more towns over the last year, and

Virgin Media now has services designed specifically for data-heavy applications.

Even if these products do not suit, the fact they are available should be a useful tool for renegotiating with existing suppliers.

That, really, should be the lesson businesses draw from squeezed consumers. With the outlook for 2012 still uncertain, it makes sense to keep the fixed costs of doing business as low as possible.

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And if that means spending some time on researching broadband, telecoms and mobile contracts or even software licences, support deals and other outgoings and giving suppliers a hard time when the contracts are due for renewal, so be it. It's your money after all.

Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT Pro.

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