Modern business happens online. Business software is based in the cloud, clients are called via web apps, and collaboration happens on online chat platforms. If your internet service goes out, business stops. So when choosing a high-speed internet plan for your business, it pays to carefully weigh your options.
Simply going with whichever provider is cheapest can harm your business down the road. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing your business’s internet service provider.
1. Location and Logistics
Before looking at the criteria that really set providers apart, you’ll need to determine whether your preferred provider is available in your location. Check the options in your area, and be sure to consider both local companies and the well-known names. While it’s great to “buy local,” you may need capabilities the bigger vendors are better able to provide.
After that, compare price points and packages. You’ll want to avoid bloated packages that offer things you don’t need, like phone lines. Your business also likely has a price range you can’t exceed, so only evaluate plans that fit that target budget.
Once you’ve narrowed down the options and created a list of plans that could make sense for you, the real work begins.
Probably the most important thing to consider when choosing high-speed internet is the speed that’s promised. The number of Mbps (megabits per second) delivered is an important factor when deciding whether an internet plan is right for your business. Look at both upload and download speeds to make sure you’re getting symmetry between the two — reducing lags and video call freezes.
Most home networks have just 50-100 Mbps, but a business should aim much higher. You’ll want around 500-1,000 Mbps (1 Gig) or even more. The number of devices used in even a small office will tax slower plans, and you can’t risk a moment of lag time. A higher speed also allows you to keep the same plan as your business grows.
Bandwidth is closely related to speed, but it’s not the same thing. If you imagine internet cables as a road, speed is how fast the cars are traveling. Bandwidth is how many lanes they’re able to travel down. More lanes mean easier travel.
Bandwidth is also measured in Mbps, and a plan’s promised Mbps typically addresses both. Remember that the advertised Mbps is usually the highest limit of the range of bandwidth a plan offers, so aim high when choosing. Also, keep in mind that fiber almost always offers better bandwidth than cable.
With the basic requirements of speed and bandwidth addressed, it’s time to investigate reliability. Does the provider consistently deliver the high-speed internet they promise? Customer reviews and online ratings can give you an idea of who has a reputation for outages versus a reputation for reliability.
Online publications can give you a good overview of which provider performs best in different areas. Review and compare these resources, and you’ll soon discover who has the best reputation for reliability and customer satisfaction.
5. Low Equipment and Installation Costs
Some providers try to slip unreasonably high equipment or installation costs into your deal. Keep an eye out for those costs so you’re not caught off guard.
These one-time costs won’t matter quite as much as your long-term monthly rates, but they’re still worth considering. This is especially true if other providers offer similar service but cheaper installation costs. As you work to get your business off the ground, you’ll want to minimize your up-front investments.
6. Fiber Optic Internet
Delivering internet over cable is tried and true, and if that’s all that’s available in your location, you likely won’t suffer for it. But fiber optic internet is the best bet across the board. It’s faster and more reliable than cable by a large measure.
Fiber optic cables can deliver data faster than even the most efficient cable can. Fiber internet also sends data on a dedicated line that’s not shared with your neighbors, so their internet usage won’t impact yours. Downtime is also much less likely because fiber is less susceptible to things like power outages and temperature fluctuations.
7. No Data Caps
One of the most frustrating things internet providers do is put caps on the amount of data you can consume. They may technically offer high speed internet, but they’ll limit the amount of data that can be used at any one time. This causes your streams or calls to suddenly stall or slow for no apparent reason. Some providers even charge extra when you go above data caps.
This is obviously a bad deal, especially for a business, so try to avoid data caps whenever possible. You may need to read the fine print carefully to figure out whether your provider enforces data caps. The best providers will make it known that they never do.
8. Good Customer Support
No internet service is perfect all the time. If something does happen, you want to make sure you have a provider dedicated to fixing the problem. Great customer support is key for any provider your business may use, and internet providers are certainly no exception.
Research the companies known for great customer support, and pay attention to how customer-focused the sales reps you talk to are. Before signing on to an internet plan, investigate the customer support options that will be available to you.
9. Robust Security
Cybercriminals are everywhere these days, so you’ll want to be sure that your Wi-Fi provider has taken that into consideration. Criminals can spy on Wi-Fi networks or hack routers if they’re not fully secure.
Ask providers whether they offer 24/7 threat monitoring. Do they block IP address spoofing in order to prevent distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks? You can change easy-to-hack default passwords on the hardware you’re purchasing, but your ISP should take the lead in securing your connection.
A good internet plan is an important investment for any business, and doubly so for one that’s digital-first. This list will help you start vetting internet plans so you can choose the best one for your business.