By Becky Allen
Like most things in life, Internet Service Providers are not “one size fits all”. Some providers offer lots of extra services that make things run smoothly for your business. Others may offer bandwidth at a lower cost, but without the bells and whistles. So how do you decide which provider to choose?
The most important question to ask yourself is, “How important is a reliable Internet connection to my business?” Think back to the last time you lost your Internet connection. Were you able to continue doing business? Or did your company lose money while your employees were left helplessly waiting for the connection to be restored before they could get on with their work?
If Internet is not an integral part of your business and you can handle an occasional outage or slowdown, then you will be able to consider some of the less expensive, and less reliable, solutions to meet your business needs. However, if your business is dependent upon its Internet connection, you will need to put more thought into finding a reliable provider and carrier. Since no provider can truly guarantee 100% uptime, it might also be a good idea to invest in a backup solution as well.
Here are some questions to ask any ISP before you contract with them:
How will the connection reach my business? Will it be a physical connection or will it be wireless? If it is wireless, be sure to ask about the technology the provider uses and how things like weather, land topology and other factors might influence your connection. If it is a physical connection, ask what medium the provider uses and how much redundancy they will provide for you circuit. Also, ask if you will have dedicated Internet access, or if your speed could be impacted by other people using their Internet connections.
What happens if there is a problem with my service? Does the provider have a number you can call to reach them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Who will answer your call? Ask what would happen if your connection went out at 6 p.m. on a Friday. Would you have to wait until 9 a.m. Monday morning for someone to begin troubleshooting your problem?
How much is this going to cost? The most reliable connections are not always the cheapest connections. Often, pricing is influenced by factors such as bandwidth and the length of the contract term, but there are many other variables that may have an effect on your price. Be sure to ask your carrier if there will be any up front installation charges and if your price will be locked in for the term or if there is a chance it could go up.
What services do you offer? Bandwidth is the most obvious service, but that is just the beginning. Some providers offer services such as email hosting and spam filtering, while others provide a connection to the Internet, but leave everything else up to you. Your business may prefer to have the ISP handle filtering and hosting duties, or you may prefer to have full control over your connection and take care of these things in-house.
Do you have any references? A good provider will be able to give you names and contact information for people who are using their service. Be sure to call the references and ask about their experiences.
Where do you get your Internet? A provider is only as reliable as their provider, so this is an important question to ask.
Sho-Me Technologies is proud to work with a number of Internet Service Providers to deliver Internet over our fiber optic network and we will work with you to find the best Internet solution for your business. Please contact us for more information.