Whether you’re working from home or providing internet to your small business’s office, there’s more to consider when choosing an internet service provider (ISP) for business than for personal use. Even with an office of only 8 people, internet failure for one hour means an entire business day’s worth of productivity went out the window. While no internet service can be perfect all the time, some providers are more reliable than others. If you’re looking into a new internet service for your small business, read our pro tips below and be sure to keep an eye out for these criteria:
24/7 Customer Support
Technology is not always our friend, which is why you need the best friends you can find at your ISP. A quality tech support service will be available any time of day (if you work from a home office, you know 1am is not an unreasonable time to need service). The speed with which an issue is given attention and even the courteousness of the staff can make all the difference in the world when you are experiencing problems. Investigate whether your provider has local support that can visit your location if an issue cannot be resolved over the phone. Perhaps the best way to gauge the tech support is to ask friends who have used the service; if you don’t know anyone personally, check reviews on reputable consumer watch websites like consumer search.
IP Address Options
Your IP address, or the identifying number assigned to your computer as it connects to the internet, can take one of two forms: static or dynamic. Dynamic IP addresses draw from a pool of addresses that gets shared among other dynamic users. It usually changes each time the user logs in, and several users will often be assigned the same number at the same time. This is often the cheaper option of the two and is acceptable for less internet-dependent businesses. Static IP addresses stay constant and are recommended for VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) or for using your computer as a server. It’s more expensive than dynamic hosting and is allegedly less secure because it is easier to track an unchanging address — but it is indispensable when you have more rigorous internet needs. Make sure your ISP provides the IP Address options you need, and allow for changes if your needs change in the future.
Of course, no discussion about ISPs would be complete without touching on bandwidth. This number, measured in megabytes per second (MBPS), the big selling point ISPs use in their advertising, but you should be aware of the fine print. Bandwidth comes in two forms: upstream and downstream. Downstream bandwidth is the speed that users can download data from the internet – the bulk of most internet usage. Upstream bandwidth—the speed with which you can upload items—is typically a fraction of the downstream speed, but should be considered if your business requires large files to be uploaded on a frequent basis. Be cautious when comparing advertised bandwidths; usually, the number you see is the maximum speed under the most optimal conditions. The actual speed may be lower, so you should investigate the minimum guaranteed speed.
A good ISP will include a security package for you. Security is important for any user, but it’s crucial for a business owner. Features should include firewall protection, which is software or hardware that protects your computers against outside attackers. Both hardware and software firewalls offer specific advantages, but the best protection includes both. Other security features an ISP may offer include virus protection and identity protection software, data backup, and network monitoring. Evaluate the security features offered by various ISPs to determine who offers the most; if you are sold on an ISP that offers less free protection than the competition, they may offer more if you tell them you are considering another company that offers more. …