Plusnet Business broadband offers some solid and affordable options for the small business owner either working from a small office or from home. With reasonable pricing and all the usual business broadband accoutrements such as static IPs available on request, Plusnet Business is definitely worth a look. But how does it fare in 2020?
Domestic users rate Plusnet highly for its customer service, but business customers also look for reassuring levels of security, reliability, and a solid upload speed. Signing up for a business broadband account is a bigger decision than your average domestic customer faces – after all, getting it wrong could cost you dear. "We'll do you proud" says Plusnet - but will it?
Plusnet offers its business customers four packages. The most basic, Business Broadband, comes with up to 18Mbps download speed on a 24-month contract. You get a pay-as-you-use call plan for your landline and a data allowance of 25GB – although you do get unlimited overnight usage between midnight and 8am. An unlimited version of the same plan comes on a 12-month contract.
If you want more speed, Plusnet's Business Fibre Broadband comes with a download speed of 76Mbps, 50MB of data and, again, a pay-as-you-use call plan on a 24-month contract. Again, there is an unlimited alternative that comes on a 12-month plan. There's no middle speed option here as you typically find with operators using the Openreach network. No 38Mbps or 50Mbps deals – it's 18Mbps or 76Mbps. Fast or slow and that's your lot.
You get the Plusnet SafeGuard security package as standard with any Plusnet Business broadband deal, along with a dynamic IP address. However, you can also request a static IP once your account is created. This means that your IP address remains the same all the time and allows you to access your computer from any where in the world. You'll also get a free web address and email addresses.
Plusnet's business broadband packages are all competitively priced, although with the unlimited fibre plan you'll need to watch out for a sharp price increase after the initial 12 months.
Unlike most suppliers, Plusnet operates a two-tier pricing system. In areas where it costs more to provide the service (around 10% of the UK), you'll be quoted a higher price. It's important, then, to make sure you know exactly what you're signing up for.
Note that Plusnet also lists line rental charges separately for its business plans, so you'll need to factor those in when totting up the total cost. In fact, it's only been displaying them to business users since the end of 2017, when the company had its knuckles rapped by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for misleading customers by leaving line rental charges off its advertisements.
With all four packages, you have the option of three call plans. The first includes free anytime calls to UK landlines, 0870 and 0845 numbers and Plusnet Support. The next comes with the same, plus 500 minutes to UK mobiles, US mobiles and landlines in 20 countries. The last option comes with 1,000 minutes rather than 500.
So will these packages be fast enough? Well, it depends, of course, on the type of business. A small retail outlet, for example, probably won't use its broadband all that much, beyond sending emails and processing card payments. An office-based business with several staff, though, will really need a fibre connection; and depending on the number of people using it, unlimited downloads are likely to be a necessity.
As always, it's important to remember that advertised speeds generally aren't the same as those you actually get, particularly at peak times. However, Plusnet will advise you on likely actual speeds if you give the company your postcode.
Upload speeds can matter more for business customers than domestic consumers: the ability to get bulk files out to suppliers or customers is essential. Plusnet says its basic broadband services have an upload speed of 2Mbps, while the fibre deals offer 19Mbps. Both compare well with the competition.
Once your service is ready, Plusnet will let you know. Installation is very straightforward, it says, and there are step-by-step guides to help. In some cases, such as if you don't already have a phone line, or if you're switching over from a cable service, you may need an engineer to install a new line.
Plusnet will let you know if this is the case and arrange an appointment for a time that suits you. An engineer may also need to carry out work at the telephone exchange and green cabinet – and, be warned, you may lose phone service while this is done.
Switching provider should take between 10 and 12 days. As with most providers, you'll see your speeds vary over the first ten days while the system establishes the best combination of stability and speed for your service.
To get going, you'll need an active Plusnet or other BT compatible landline and one microfilter per active phone socket. While you can use your own router, it makes sense to take Plusnet's, which is free to business customers.
When the ASA ticked off Plusnet for not specifying line rental charges in its ads, it also ordered the company to make its £4.99 delivery charge clearer, which it now duly does.
Plusnet carries out Quality of Service (QoS) traffic management on its network for all customers using its basic Business Broadband service. What this means is that if one person in the office is on Skype and someone else is downloading a file, bandwidth priority would be given to the person using Skype, as this is the most time-sensitive application.
It's a useful feature if you have a relatively low broadband speed or have a lot of people using the network and is only applied, says Plusnet, when the network is actually under strain.
As part of the BT group, Plusnet offers flexibility in terms of reconfiguration, expanding capacity and and fixing problems with its network. According to Ofcom, Plusnet broadband customers are less likely than broadband customers overall to have reason to complain about the quality of their service, with only 8% having done so.
In its latest (2018 because Ofcom is always a year or two behind) report, regulator Ofcom found that the company's broadband customers were more likely to complain than the average, with 101 complaints per 100,000 subscribers compared to an average of 58. The commonest issues highlighted were service quality and contract issues.
And Plusnet’s domestic landline and broadband customers also waited longest to have their call answered – six minutes, 47 seconds on average – compared with just 33 seconds for the best performer, TalkTalk. This made it the slowest out of all the major providers.
There aren't any specific figures for business customers, unfortunately, but you do get support 365 days a year, 24 hours a day from a specialist business team, and Plusnet claims that business calls are always answered promptly.
Refreshingly, the company also claims that you'll be able to speak to the same person throughout the process of resolving your problem. You can contact Plusnet via an 0800 number or online, and there's also a thriving community business forum.
Despite some hiccups over the last few years, Plusnet still offers excellent customer service if you're prepared to wait a bit longer to get through, which is one of the biggest priorities for most business customers. Its traffic management system maximises performance for customers on its bottom-end plan, and its network is generally very reliable, while prices are comparatively low. We'd say Plusnet Business is an excellent option, especially for smaller businesses.