Small business backups: How the NBN can help

Alex Kidman
Mar 20, 2024
Icon Time To Read3 min read

Your small business absolutely should be doing off-premises data backups on a regular basis. Just because you’re not at the scale of a huge enterprise is no excuse – indeed, it’s arguably more of an excuse, because if you’re relying on your business accounts, email correspondence and any other valuable intellectual property to simply reside on one laptop or desktop computer, you’re one power surge or spilled coffee cup away from a potentially business destroying disaster.

Your business almost certainly needs an online requirement as well, whether that’s for direct online sales of goods, simple advertising, or using email or other communication methods to keep track of work, suppliers and employees. It can be tempting to simply opt for the cheapest possible consumer-grade NBN plan to run your small business, because every small business needs to save money where it can. Here’s a selection of NBN 50 consumer plans that, on the surface might be a good match for your small business needs:

Consumer NBN 50 plans

However, it’s well worth considering what you get from a business NBN plan. Here plan prices are typically a little higher, and to give that some comparative context, here’s a range of NBN 50 Business plans:

Business NBN 50 plans

So why consider an NBN Business plan rather than a consumer one when it comes time to do your precious backups?

There are two fundamental reasons. 

Service level guarantees

NBN Co as a business doesn’t want its network down for anyone at any particular time – and if you check NBN Co’s uptime reports outages aren’t super common – but one of the big differences between a standard consumer NBN plan and a negotiated business plan is the ability to incorporate a service level agreement (SLA) as part of your contract. This stipulates details such as guaranteed uptime, speed guarantees and penalties that may apply if your provider can’t actually provide service as per the SLA. Many business plans will also incorporate some kind of 4G backup system into the supplied modem-router, so that your business can keep on ticking even if the local NBN connection absolutely dies out.

The big benefit here for most businesses, including small businesses, will be the contention ratio that guides just how much of your speed you can actually expect to get from your connection. All NBN ISPs purchase their bandwidth on a wholesale basis from NBN Co, and then try to spread it as thinly as possible across all customers – that’s how they make their money.

It’s why typical evening speeds for consumers tend to dip in the evenings, when everyone’s busy bingeing Netflix, because the resources each NBN ISP has are spread extra thin. For business NBN plans, however, contention ratios (the quantity of bandwidth relative to customers) are typically kept lower to ensure that you can still continue to operate at optimal speeds. Again, this is often covered by your plan’s service level agreement. But that brings us to the other reason why, if you’re backing up online, a business-grade NBN plan is a much wiser investment.

Higher upload speeds

For most consumer uses, we tend to focus on the download speed of a given connection, because that governs how fast that Disney+ show will come down the pipe, or how quickly you can grab the latest AAA game patch in all its multi-gigabyte glory. While you do still need an upload connection with some speed in consumer-land, it’s the lesser part of the equation, and typically only a small fraction of the upload speed

Let’s say you wanted (and were in the correct location to get) an NBN 1000 plan. In the consumer space that would be an NBN 1000/50 plan from most providers, offering just 50Mbps upload speeds.

Comparatively, the top tier NBN business plans at the NBN 1000 tier typically go as high as NBN 1000/400.

That’s eight times faster, which means your business backups can (at peak) conclude some eight times quicker. If they were going to take an hour to finalise, they’d (at best speeds, not always available) finish in just seven and a half minutes. If you’ve got more than one system to back up, because you’ve got multiple employees with valuable data to protect, while you’ve still got to share that upload speed, having more of it to hand rather logically means that all of you will get through that part of your work more promptly as a team.

Naturally, those higher upload speeds aren’t just relevant for backup purposes. If you’ve got to send or share large files to clients or suppliers on a regular basis, being able to do so without waiting for a remote server to send messages or accept uploads will save you precious time – and that’s time you could be putting towards growing your small business into a big business. 

Alex Kidman
Written by
Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is some kind of word-generating AI from the future that somehow worked out how to sneak back in time to 1998 to start its journalism career. Across that time, including editorial stints at ZDNet, CNET, Gizmodo, PC Mag and Finder, as well as contributions to every major tech masthead, nobody has quite managed to figure out this deeply held secret. Let’s keep it between us, OK?