How do you choose the best Internet Service Provider for your business?
With day-to-day business operations becoming increasingly reliant on the Internet, choosing an Internet Service Provider (ISP) is more important than ever. For those lucky enough to be in a market privy to a multitude of carriers, such as Los Angeles or Orange County, there are five primary factors to consider when either onboarding with or switching to a new ISP.
One of the most reliable ways to vet a new telecom provider is by researching their reputation. Whether that be by reading through online reviews posted on Yelp or Google, or talking directly to the neighboring businesses in your area, understanding an ISP’s reputation is one of the most foolproof ways to really know what you’re signing up for.
That being said, make sure you’re being conscientious of what type of customer the reviews are coming from – i.e. are they from residential customers or from other businesses like yourself.
2. Service Level Agreements (SLA)
A service-level agreement (SLA) is a contractual commitment between an Internet Service Provider and a client. An IPS’s SLA should typically outline guaranteed service metrics such as uptime, latency, jitter, packet loss, and response/repair time. For example, GeoLinks’ SLA is fairly straightforward and offers the following:
- Response Priority: Critical: 4hrs or less
- Network Quality of Service
- Network Availability: Target of at least 99.999% uptime
- Round Trip Latency Under 40ms
- Jitter under 10ms
- Packet loss target < 0.1%
On the other hand, some providers don’t offer a guaranteed service level at all. For example, there are a variety of providers who simply state:
“X company does not warrant that the service will be uninterrupted or error free nor make any warranty as to the results obtained from the use of the service. X company does not guarantee connectivity at any time, for any length of time or at any particular speed.”
Therefore, when deciding to onboard or switch to a new Business Internet Service Provider, make sure you carefully research the provider’s SLA so you know what service quality to expect.
3. Customer Support
While in an ideal world businesses would never have to engage with their ISP past service installation, unfortunately, that is just not the case.
Whether a client has billing questions, service issues, needs technical support, has upgrade inquiries or product add-ons, at some point or another, chances are a business will have to engage with an ISP’s customer support team. Therefore, research what type of support the company offers.
A larger carrier, for example, might make you sit through an automated phone menu, place you on a lengthy hold, and eventually transfer you to a contracted employee outside of the U.S. Alternatively, a medium sized ISP, such as GeoLinks, offers 24/7 in-house customer support; customers are even able to ask for customer support reps by name.
Another element to consider is overall responsiveness. If your business does experience a technical issue, how long does it take a provider to respond and address the issue? Time is money, so whether it be hours wasted on hold, or weeks waiting on a repair, how an ISP handles customer relations directly affects its business customer’s bottom line.
4. Agility and Flexibility
As a business grows and changes, its overall telecom needs will as well. For example, if a law firm hires 10 more associates, they will likely need to upgrade their overall bandwidth. Furthermore, if juggling multiple carriers and multiple bills becomes too large of a strain on a company’s accounting apartment, a business may wish to streamline all their telecom needs with a single carrier.
Some ISPs offer additional services such as VoIP and SD-WAN, while others do not. Therefore, when selecting an ISP, make sure to explore their entire product suite and offerings. Choosing an aggregator, (an ISP that is capable of reselling multiple ISP products and services) such as GeoLinks, ensures that no matter the growth or changes in a business, a single provider will be able to upgrade and adapt to evolving business needs.
5. Bandwidth Availability
Do you know how much Internet bandwidth your company needs? If not, check out “Your Guide to Determining Bandwidth Requirements.”
While it may seem obvious, when choosing an ISP, it’s necessary to ensure they can provide the speeds your company needs. Based on your location, and the type of Internet access you are looking for (i.e. Fiber vs Fixed Wireless vs DSL etc.) bandwidth availability may fluctuate from carrier to carrier. Furthermore, if it does appear the ISP offers what you are looking for, make sure you understand if it is a dedicated or shared circuit, as this too will impact the reliability and consistency of speeds.
Feeling overwhelmed? If you’re struggling to decide which ISP is the best for your business, consider contracting an IT consultant. Typically vendor agnostic, IT consultants are able to evaluate all the carriers available in your area, evaluate the above criteria, and present a business with its best option.