It’s only a week since my last entry on this blog where I stressed the benefits of home working. Now it’s becoming apparent that for this sort of networked technology to truly fly the infrastructure that underpins it is going to need some sort of overhaul if we’re going to come anywhere near the aims of the Digital Britain report. For the moment there isn’t the broadband bandwidth to give all of the UK the 2 megabyte connection everyone thinks is desirable.

Let’s be clear: this blog is run by Microsoft Office Live, which has clear vested interests in everybody having access to lots of broadband bandwidth, Wi-Fi hotspots, home networking, the lot. The thing is, it’s in everybody else’s interests too. Maybe you or your colleagues don’t want to work in each other’s absence all the time, but if you wish to put a company video – for technical support, for promotional purposes, for any reason at all – onto your own Microsoft Office Live site or indeed embed a YouTube video onto it (this is really easy) then you need to be sure your customer isn’t going to get frustrated. They’ll get frustrated waiting for it to download, or getting poor quality video because they have a slow connection because of low broadband bandwidth at their end. If you have a shopping cart system on your website then you want people to click through to it and complete their transactions really easily. You don’t want them to get to a WiFi hotspot over which you have no control, click, wait a while then click along to your competitor to see whether it works any faster.

This is the reality of where we are with Digital Britain at the moment. Those things happen to people with excellent websites, through no fault of their own. It’s not actually technically right to think of the Internet as one ‘cloud’ out there. Every piece of data has to make a succession of ‘hops’ from one system to the next to get relayed to wherever it’s being displayed on the Net; I’m writing this piece in my office in London, by the time you see it it’ll be hosted by Microsoft in (probably but not necessarily) Reading, you’ll see it in Newcastle or somewhere by logging on to your ISP…so it goes on. If any of the hops the information has to make have lower bandwidth then clearly you get a slow-loading web page and a frustrating experience.

None of this reflects on whoever designed the site in the first place, except that it kind of does. It is they who will lose the business, they who won’t see why the customer didn’t make it to the checkout. It might have been down to the ISP, maybe the quality of the broadband hotspot, maybe something else because somewhere along the chain there was something underperforming.

It would be good to see something done about this. Sooner rather than later.

This is a guest-post from Guy Clapperton, a freelance journalist who has specialised in the small business arena for over a decade.

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