As a business owner you’re constantly on the go and being pulled in many different directions…but please grab a coffee and pull up a chair because it is time for an Internet intervention. There are many factors to consider before selecting an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for your business, and often times these factors are overlooked. If I had to take an educated guess, I would say that you are probably bogged down with so many other business-centric tasks that “whether or not Bob is able to access his Facebook account” is probably low on your priority list. Trust me, I get it.
However, when it comes to choosing the right ISP options that best fit your business, you can do some things to make your job easier. It will take some research but in the end you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that Bob will not be calling you as often about being unable to access his Salesforce account.
The first thing to look at is what connection is right for your business? There is a variety of them.
DSL: DSL is relativity affordable and is probably best for a small businesses that only have a few employees. DSL uses traditional phone lines and its download speeds are dependent on the ISP’s exchange.
Cable: Data is transmitted through the coaxial cable TV lines which are located EVERYWHERE! While cable speeds are impressive they can be heavily impacted by nearby business and homes are online at the same time. So, if one of our neighbors is getting caught up on the latest season of Stranger Things, your business connection can be impacted.
Satellite: Okay, here’s the oddball of the group (and we haven’t even touched Dial Up yet). Satellite internet can barely match DSL speeds and offer even lower latency beaming signals to and from earth. It can also be quite expensive compared to cable internet.
Fiber: Fiber is the future. Fiber is the future. Fiber is the future. I thought I would say it three times to add some emphasis. Fiber-optic internet transmits its data as pulses of light through microscopic glass or plastic strands with no electromagnetic inference. It’s the fastest option but unfortunately where it can be found is limited.
Dial Up: Before your dust of your old America Online discs please know that Dial Up is so outdated that this would be your last option. Literally, meaning the last possible option. If the world was ending and you had to choose Dial Up then you would choose Dial Up. It’s slow, and it’s cheap. It’s only recommended if you have low business internet needs and with this day in age of everything being online I am assuming that this is not an option for any business regardless of size.
Next up is speed. Now that you have your connection ready to go, let’s take a look at how fast you want this thing to move. Remember, Bob’s daughter uploads photos every two hours, um I mean Bob needs to access that Salesforce account.
15-25 Mbps: If you’re running a small business with limited staff this is probably the ideal choice for you. Also, please consider of what tasks your business is completing. If the internet is for light web browsing and email then this would work perfectly.
25-50 Mbps: If your office is small and conducts point of sale (POS) or large transfers, this option would be good to utilize. It also would be sufficient for video conferencing and other communications.
50-75 Mbps: If you have multiple employees this would be a good route to go especially if you have remote workers. The plus side of these speeds include data backup availability and increased transfer stability.
75-100 Mbps: If you have a lower double-digit employee count this would be the option to use because of its great bandwidth range. It would be able to handle audio and video streaming and also be able to work around any crowded Wi-Fi usages.
100-150 Mbps: If your business is rapidly growing then this speed package would be the best option. It’s able to accommodate most internet demand, such as, web hosting, e-commerce, and will be able to uphold increased data usage.
150-500 Mbps: If you have growing internet demands and a growing employee base this would be the best option for you.
500 Mbps to 1 Gbps: If you are lucky enough to live in a fiber-served area then there are higher speed plans available, which means endless possibilities. In addition to fiber-served , Comcast is now offering 1Gbps coaxial cable which is expanding higher speeds for a larger audience.
Now that connection and speed are covered, it’s time to look at the miscellaneous items. This section is not intended to make your head spin. It’s just some helpful items that can be considered the most overlooked.
Customer Service: What is the customer service hours and when will a technician be available? Granted, your business may not be operational 24/7 but let’s say you head into the office to finalize a proposal at 7am and the internet is down. What if your provider only offered customer service starting at 9am? It can pose a serious problem.
Downtime: Most providers provide near 98% uptime, however if that’s not the case then you need to find one that has a solid Service Level Agreement (SLA), because you may be compensated for the ISP not adhering to its downtime promises.
Contracts: It’s important to take a look at how long the contract is for and if there are any tricky termination fees. If you’re not happy with your ISP and want to terminate the contract it can potentially end up costing you a good chunk of change. It’s also very important to pay attention to the fine print! I know, no one reads the fine print, you say. However, the small print will have the Terms of Services (TOS) that will include what is acceptable and what is not acceptable when using their services. It can contain bandwidth caps or limits.
Data Caps: Speaking of caps as stated above, some ISPs will impose data caps (bandwidth limits) on accounts and then charge a higher rate or hit the brakes on your usage if you exceed that limit.
Bundles & Equipment: Many ISPs providers offer more than just internet services. You can even get phone or VoIP services. Also, make sure you know how much it will cost for equipment. Most ISPs allow you to rent their equipment and this ends up being included in the pricing, however if you’re planning on staying with the ISP provider for a long time, you may be able to purchase the equipment which can be more cost efficient. Also, if you don’t have this already, check to see if they’re able host your website. This can also help save on cost.
Emails: Please don’t tell me you have 10 Google accounts and that should suffice. Some ISPs offer packages that will include your domain name in the e-mail address and in the end will make your business look more professional.
Cloud Storage: Cloud storage can help you lessen the load on your drives and can have those important files be virtually accessible wherever you go. It is also ideal if you host remote workers. It can be a little more on the cost side, however it will help your growing business maintain efficiency in the long run.
VPN: A virtual private network creates an encrypted, secure connection (a tunnel) between the VPN server and your computer. It can help affiliate a secure network regardless if you’re in the office or working remotely. It is recommended to have your VPN through your Firewall.
Security: This should be the most important item to look at. Does your ISP provide anti-spam, antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-malware, or backup protection in case of a system outage? Do you have a Next-Gen firewall for security?One security issue can severely impact your business.
Static IP Address: It’s often important for businesses to have a static IP address – especially if they have any DNS pointing to their network for things like e-mail, VPN, or file sharing.
As you can see there are a lot of things to consider before choosing an Internet Service Provider, but in the end it will help alleviate some unwanted stresses. Most times business owners select their Internet Service Provider based on cost or the one that is the most convenient. This can potentially lead down a road of headaches and heartbreaks. Unless you have an endless supply of Tylenol and Kleenex, then this is not the way to make your decision.
At Fixbuddie, we’re here to help. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.