How to Choose the Right Internet Provider for Your Small Business
Success in today’s highly competitive markets means not only pleasing customers but also operating at maximum efficiency. And one of the ways to do this is to ensure that you are getting the best bang for your buck with all the different tools and services you use.
High-speed internet is going to be the lifeblood of your business. You can’t do anything these days without a quality connection. And many internet service providers (ISPs) know this, so they will try to charge you way more than they should for an internet connection.
Finding the best connection for your needs at the best price will have a big impact on your business. But sometimes this is easier said than done. So here are some tips to help you make the right choice for your business.
Type of Internet
One of the first things you’ll need to do is understand the different types of internet. The term “broadband” is used to describe all the versions of high-speed internet that you can get. But under the broadband umbrella, you will have a wide range of options. Currently, you will need to choose between:
- Digital Subscriber Line (DSL). This was the first type of high-speed internet to ever come out. The connection is delivered through your phone line, which helps stabilize speeds. But DSL connections tend to be on the slower side, especially since they are dependent on how far away you are from your ISP’s nearest equipment station.
- Cable. Many of us have cable internet in our homes because the connection is delivered in the same way as your television signal. Speeds for cable internet tend to be higher, but you will need to share bandwidth with other subscribers in the area. This is why cable internet ISPs can advertise high speeds and then get away with delivering much less. It’s all in the fine print.
- Satellite. Like the name suggests, this connection is delivered through a satellite signal. It tends to be much slower, and it’s really only a practical option for homes in rural areas where there are no other connection options.
- Fiber Optics (FiOS). This is one of the newer forms of broadband internet, and it’s growing quickly. Fiber optic cables allow for faster speeds and less limitations, making this a popular option for many homes and businesses.
Overall, your best options are probably going to be FiOS and cable. However, DSL could be a good option if your office is located near your ISP. You may be able to get great connection speeds for a much better price.
Much of your decision as to which internet service provider to use will depend on how much speed you need. Connection speeds are measured in megabytes per second (Mbps), which refers to how fast data can travel over your connection. Here’s a breakdown of popular speed options and what you can do with each one:
- 1-5 Mbps: This is good for general browsing and light social media use. But it probably won’t be enough for your business needs
- 5-10 Mbps: At this speed, you will be able to do basic video conferencing and light streaming of standard definition videos
- 10-30 Mbps: You should be able to stream 1080p HD videos with this type of connection speed
- 30-80 Mbps: You will need this type of communication for high-quality video communication, such as video conferencing.
- 80+ Mbps: Anything above 80 Mbps is considered super-fast. You can even get connections up to 1000 Mbps, which will allow you to do pretty much anything you want super quickly.
Generally speaking, you’re going to want to be in the 30-80 Mbps range, but if your business engages in more intensive activities, then you’ll want to opt for faster connections.
However, there are some things you should keep in mind when evaluating network speeds, such as:
Bandwidth vs. Speed
Although they are both measured in Mbps, these are not the same thing. Speed refers to how fast data travels from the server to your browser, whereas bandwidth refers to the overall speed capacity of the network.
A good way to think about this is by comparing your connection to a pipe. Speed refers to how fast the water moves through the pipe, whereas bandwidth deals with how big the pipe is. A bigger pipe means more water can pass through at the same speed. But a smaller pipe means that water still travels quickly, but much less water can go through at one time.
As a result, when choosing your provider, make sure to ask how many users can operate at top speed. The last thing you want is to pay for a speedy connection and then find out that no one can ever actually enjoy this speed because you don’t have enough bandwidth.
Upload vs. Download Speed
This refers to not only how fast data moves but also in which direction. Most ISPs emphasize download speeds because the majority of individual consumers take more information from the internet than they put back. However, if you rely on cloud services, then you will be uploading a lot, so make sure your network has enough upload speed to meet your needs.
Shopping Around and Negotiation
The ISP market has become far more competitive in recent years. Newcomers have helped bring prices down and raise levels of service. As a result, it’s important you do some shopping around.
Start by determining your needs, and then do a search for ISPs in your area. Then, start calling them up and asking them if they have any promotions. Business accounts tend to be quite lucrative for ISPs, so don’t be afraid to drive a hard bargain. Mention you’re considering going with one of their competitors, and this should help encourage sales reps to offer you better deals.
And don’t be afraid to walk away. If you’re not happy with an offer, then just move onto the next ISP. You’ll surely find someone who can give you what you need at a price you can afford.
Another thing to consider when looking at ISPs is the additional services they offer. For example, do they offer phone service? Cable TV? Mobile phone coverage? You may need these services and by bundling things together you can usually get a great deal.
Get Connected Right Away
It’s going to be hard to do business without an internet connection. So, if you’re just starting out, or if you’re planning on moving to a new location, start looking at this stuff now so that you can reach a deal and have an internet connection from day one.
About the Author: Kevin is the founder and CEO of Vast Bridges, a customer acquisition and lead generation service based in Jacksonville, Fla. His specialization is in helping businesses develop a strategic growth vision, and this often includes helping them cut back on overhead and make smart decisions about the services they use. And as an entrepreneur himself, Kevin is always looking for ways to help others realize their business dreams.