I don’t think most folks understand the extent to which businesses are adapting to broadband. My firm interviews businesses all over the country, and there is a drastic difference between the ways that businesses with and without good broadband operate today.
One of the best examples I can give you is to talk about a specific business. It’s a casual bar/restaurant that attracts customers by offering good food and arcade games for customers. The business is not part of a big chain and was created and is operated by the owner. A customer might spend an evening at the business and not have any clue about the extent to which this business uses broadband. But consider the following ways this one local business uses broadband:
- Customers make reservations using a service that is hosted in the cloud. The business does not keep a local reservation book and is completely reliant on the reservation service to know who will be showing up for the evening. The reservation service provides updates to the owner so that he is aware of heavily-booked days so that he can make sure there are enough employees on hand.
- Most of the food and drinks to supply the kitchen and the bar are ordered using online vendor portals. The owner rarely has to talk to vendor salespeople and rarely has to go shopping for supplies.
- The software running the games is located in the cloud. If the broadband connection dies, the games instantly go dead. The owner says one of the coolest features of the cloud software is that customers can see how they scored on a given game in past visits – and people will try to beat their own best scores.
- The merchant services software that accepts and processes credit cards is hosted in the cloud. The business uses touchscreen terminals for customers to pay their bills and enter tips.
- Payroll is totally in the cloud. Employees log in when they come and go for the day, and payroll is calculated automatically. The merchant services software also processes tips directly to each waitperson.
- Accounting for sales is in the cloud. All food, bar, and game sales are automatically added to the accounting books.
- The background music in the restaurant comes from a cloud service.
- The business has a voice over IP telephone that only works when the broadband is functioning.
- There are security cameras inside and outside the business to keep a record of who comes and goes. The cameras are tied into a burglar alarm service hosted in the cloud.
- The restaurant is active on social media and posts comments and pictures throughout the day.
- The owner keeps a backup copy of all accounting and other key records in the cloud.
- One of the biggest uses of bandwidth comes from providing free WiFi for patrons. At business times that can accumulate to a lot of bandwidth.
The owner of the business fully understands the degree to which the business is reliant on broadband. To protect against outages, the owner always bought a broadband connection from two different ISPs. Unfortunately, when there was storm damage, it turned out that both ISPs were on the same physical route, and the business had to shut down for a day. The owner changed to a different ISP that uses a different physical path from the business.
I’m not highlighting this business because it is extraordinary – just the opposite. This is a business that is using the tools that are available to any business with broadband. There are now millions of businesses that are fully reliant on broadband to function, and that’s something we don’t talk about enough.
One interesting thing I’ve found in talking to businesses that don’t have good broadband is that they usually have only a short list of functions that could be done better if they could buy faster broadband. I’m not surprised about that because such businesses can’t imagine the changes to their daily work life that would come from fully integrating broadband into their business.