Being online is no longer an option for many businesses today. In fact, in today’s highly connected, data-filled world, it’s more important than ever to choose the right internet service provider (ISP) for your business. Now, there is no one ISP that is really “the best” for every business since this determination will depend on your needs and preferences plus the nature of your business. This being said, there are some factors to consider as you go about narrowing down your options and making a decision about which ISP to choose for your business.
Before we get started, let’s briefly run through the main types of internet typically available for business use. This will give you a good idea of where to start your ISP search. This list includes:
• Cable: The most widely used and available option, cable internet delivers broadband connections via a coaxial cable cord. Various speeds are available based on what plan you choose.
• DSL: With this internet option, a standard phone line is used. Digital subscriber line internet is slower since it relies on phone line transmission.
• Fixed Wireless Internet: A tower antenna along with an express line of sight coupled with a fiber-optic backbone allows this type of internet to be delivered to your business location.
• Fiber: Pulses of light sent through glass or plastic fiber optic cables quickly send internet signals to your business with fiber optic internet service. Speeds are extremely fast.
• Satellite: With satellite internet, a signal from a satellite in space makes its way to your business through a nearby satellite dish. Speed and reliability can be a bit iffy.
- Hybrid fiber-coaxial: Combines the benefits of both fiber optic and coaxial cable transmission modes. It provides voice, internet, cable TV, and other digital interactive services to individuals and businesses. One of the best hybrid fiber-cable internet provider is Spectrum internet.With the type of internet you choose, consider the general internet needs your business has on a regular basis and what works best for your budget. Assuming you’ve already made this determination, let’s talk about some of the top factors to consider as you determine which ISP is the best one for your business.
Once you get an idea of what type of internet you’ll likely need and prefer for your business, take a look at the reputation of each internet service provider you’re considering. Be sure to look for what’s said online about an ISP’s business-related services since many ISPs offer both residential and commercial options. With reputation, pay particular attention to:
• Quality of service based on customer comments and feedback
• Customer service access
• Expectations for uptime
Tip: Go beyond what comments are highlight on an ISP’s website since these are likely carefully selected. Instead, look at review sites and other third-party sources.
Service Level Agreement Wording and Guarantees
The purpose of a service-level agreement (SLA) is to go over what you can expect from the internet service provider in terms of how your internet service is provided. This is especially important for business purposes since it can be helpful to have basic standards and expectations guaranteed in writing. SLAs typically cover metrics for such things as:
• Response expectations or priorities
• Uptime and latency
• Repair time expectations
• Jitter and packet loss
• Network availability
It’s not unusual for ISPs to avoid making any specific guarantees or commitments with service. For this reason, it’s important to see how an ISP’s service level agreement is worded before you make any commitments on your part.
Granted, it would be great if you could sign up for business internet from an ISP and never have to contact them again for the duration of your relationship. Unfortunately, this isn’t realistic. There will inevitably be times when you’ll have billing questions or need help with something going on with your service or connections. Should such situations arise, you’ll appreciate having an ISP that provides reasonably reliable customer support.
More often than not, the larger and well-known ISPs have automated phone systems and frustrating wait times, at least if you want to talk to an actual person. Other times, you may end transferred to a third-party call center. For this reason, you may want to look at smaller ISPs or ones that have customer service features that include:
• 24/7 availability
• Emergency assistance options
• Online chat options
• Multiple contact methods – e.g., phone, text, social media, email, etc.
Responsiveness should also be considered as part of how a particular ISP handles customer service. Because time is literally money when it comes to some important business operations, you don’t want to be waiting around for several hours – or days –just to get a response. One way to get a feel for response time is to dive into online reviews. Another option is to ask other businesses you might know that are already using the same ISP you’re considering about response times.
Ability to Grow with Your Business
Most businesses grow over time as needs and priorities change. You may also reach a point where you’re doing more things online. Additionally, you might decide to expand your business operations, which typically involves bringing on more staff and having more connection needs. It’s also possible for the scope of your internet-based business priorities and needs to change over time as newer technologies become more mainstream.
Because of the possibility for change in the business world, another factor to consider is how flexible a provider is in terms of being able to grow with your business. This is when you’ll want to focus on things like:
• Additional service options that might include VoIP and SD-WAN
• What business-specific products and services are currently available
• Ability to switch to different services, or upgrade
Ideally, you want an ISP you feel will be able to grow with your business. For this reason, it’s best to stay away from internet service providers with fairly limited options beyond what you currently need.
Bandwidth Options and Availability
For this one, you’ll want to have a good idea of how much bandwidth your business will likely need for the internet-related activities you need to do. The availability with bandwidth will vary by ISP depending on what type of internet is offered. Once you find an ISP that fits your bandwidth needs, see if this is a dedicated or shared circuit. With a dedicated connection, the connection is dedicated to one user. However, if an ISP provides shared circuit connections, the bandwidth is split among the different users and the various devices connected to the internet.
We also recommend going beyond looking at what’s stated on an ISP’s website with business internet options. Take some extra time to contact an provider you’re considering so you can ask questions specific to your business internet needs and priorities. This is also a good way to see how easy it is to actually contact someone. By being a well-informed customer, you’ll be able to make a more confident and beneficial decision when choosing the best ISP for your business.