Picking an ISP for your company shouldn’t be taken lightly. After all, you are going to rely on this connection for almost every business operation. So, when you buy a mission critical service we suggest doing your research.
This is what most people are focused on. What is the internet speed? Probably the most common question we get when a business is considering internet for their office. So, you obviously want to know what the download and upload speeds are. We go into that in way more detail in our article about called titled, How much bandwidth do I need for my office?
Today we are really going to dive into all the areas beyond just speed that you should probably think about.
Dedicated vs. Shared
There are tons of providers and products within each provider available in the marketplace today. You have Cable, DSL, T1, Ethernet over Copper, Ethernet over Fiber, Fixed Wireless, Satellite, etc. Let’s first take a look at dedicated vs. shared internet connections.
A dedicated connection is a fixed amount of bandwidth for your office’s use only. This is typical a symmetrical connection, with the same upload and download. For instance, 100Mb/100Mb (or 100Mb download/100Mb upload). You do not share this speed with anyone other than the users that you give access to on your network.
Shared connections on the other hand work a little differently. You buy a certain speed, such as 25Mb/5Mb or 50Mb/10Mb and you are sharing that speed with the other customer’s in the area that have the same service. So, even though you purchase a 50Mb/10Mb, you may run a speed test and only get 35Mb/7Mb or something. That is because other users in the area are pulling from that same pool of bandwidth. If you know you need a certain speed, you may want to spend the extra money for a dedicated connection or get a little more than you need on a shared circuit.
SLA – Service Level Agreement
A typical service level agreement refers to what the carrier is willing to commit to as far as performance. If these performance metrics are not met they typically will offer some kind of credit to your account for the performance issue.
There are a few common performance areas of many SLA’s. They normally reference a Network Availability Guarantee, a Latency Guarantee, Packet Loss and what the credits will amount to if they don’t meet these metrics. These are some of the typical requirements of a carrier SLA. Each carrier has their own SLA and none of this is standard, so make sure you read through this document before you sign with a carrier. If you have any questions on any of the terms make sure you have your attorney review this as well.
Local Technical Resources
How many trucks and technicians do they have locally in your market? This is an important question to ask because if or when you have a service issue you want to know they have local techs. Many carriers will outsource this if they don’t have large presence in your market. Sometimes they are able to offer a lower price because of this. You just need to ask yourself if you are ok with limited local tech resources when your internet is down.
If the internet goes down in most companies, business stops. With today’s technology driven world we highly recommend that companies have a backup internet connection. With the low cost of a secondary cable or DSL connection it really makes sense to have another connection available for use if your primary goes down. We talk about this in more detail in our article, Why you should have a backup internet connection for your business. To justify this expense just ask yourself, what is the cost of lost revenue and productivity if we lose internet for an hour, 2 hours, or more?
Cost is always a consideration when purchasing any business service. Keep in mind higher price doesn’t always equate to better service and vice versa. You really have to take a look at the technology you are getting for what you are paying for. With that in mind, don’t go for the cheapest solution if it doesn’t meet your business requirements. You don’t want to end up with a subpar connection that slows you and your staff down or worse has a lot of down time. Buy the solution while keeping your budget in mind.
Unfortunately, you typically don’t get a chance to experience this until something happens. So, before you sign with a new provider call their customer service number. How quickly do you get a live person? Where are they located? What was your experience? This will give you a taste of what you can expect if you become their customer. Consider working with a telecom broker or consultant. Most likely they will know what to expect as far as support intimately. They can also be a huge advocate for you when there is a service issue or something needs additional visibility.
One very important but often overlooked area is lead-time. This is HUGE. So many companies sign a lease for a new office and neglect to order their internet and phone services until a few days before they are needed. Don’t let this be you. Some carriers can move quickly but it’s never a good idea to wait until the last minute. Depending on the product it could take anywhere from a few business days up to many months to get your service installed. So make sure you plan your internet and phone install as far as advance as possible. This way you don’t end up in your office without the tools to get to work.
These are some very good guidelines to follow when choosing an ISP for your company. But keep in mind every business has it’s own very unique requirements. As with anything, align yourself and your company with professionals can be an advocate for you, while you focus on your core competency.