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5 Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best ISP for Your Business

December 22nd, 2020 [UPDATED]
Originally Published May 31st, 2019

How do you choose the best business Internet Service Provider?

With the proliferation of cloud services, and day-to-day business operations becoming increasingly reliant on the Internet, choosing the right business Internet Service Provider (ISP) is more important than ever. Businesses located in markets with many broadband providers, such as in Los Angeles or Orange County, have plenty of options. We’ve prepared a guide to help you find the right provider for your needs.

Understanding the business Internet options available to you upfront can help you get the most from our guide and land on the right ISP. Practical evaluation starts with the type of Internet service itself, which can inform your ISP selection.

Types of Internet Connections for Business

  • Cable Internet – Cable is a widely available Internet service that uses coaxial cable lines (the same that deliver cable TV) to provide a broadband Internet connection to your business.
  • Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) Internet – DSL is another widely available Internet connection because it uses standard phone lines to deliver broadband access.
  • Fixed Wireless Internet Fixed Wireless Internet delivers broadband access using a tower, antenna, and an express line of sight (LoS), and a fiber-optic backbone. Towers broadcast a wireless signal (via radio waves) to the antenna at the business location.
  • Fiber Optic Internet – Fiber service connections use fiber optic cables that run directly from the ISP to the business location.
  • Satellite Internet – Satellite delivers broadband access via an Internet signal to a satellite in space that’s passed to a dish at the business location.

These Internet options vary by availability, performance, reliability and cost. Evaluating your business needs on these criteria is vital to selecting the right Internet service for your business.

5 Factors for Choosing Your Next ISP

1. Reputation

One reliable way to vet a new provider is through reputation research. Whether this consists of reading through online reviews posted on Yelp or Google, or speaking directly with neighboring businesses, understanding an ISP’s reputation is a sound method of narrowing your options.

TIP: Many providers offer both residential and business services, which have different needs and expectations for uptime, quality-of-service (QoS), and more. Be conscious of the type of customer when evaluating reviews.

2. Service Level Agreements (SLA)

A service-level agreement (SLA) is a contractual commitment between an Internet service provider and a customer. An ISP’s SLA should provide guaranteed service metrics such as uptime, latency, jitter, packet loss, and response/repair time. For example, GeoLinks’ SLA offers the following service targets:

  • 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%

Note that some Internet providers don’t offer guaranteed service levels at all. In fact, a variety of providers avoid service-level commitments altogether with language like this:

“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.”

Make sure you carefully research an ISP’s SLA before sourcing that provider for your services.

 
Best Internet Service Provider Customer Support
 

3. Customer Support

In an ideal world, you’d never have to engage with your ISP following service installation. That’s simply not the case.

Whether you have billing questions, experience service issues, need technical support, have upgrade inquiries or product add-ons, at some point or another, you’ll need to engage with your ISP’s customer support team. Research the quality of support the company offers before signing up.

Giant ISPs make you sit through automated phone menus, place you on lengthy holds, and may eventually transfer you to a contracted party outside of the U.S. You can do better—even from companies with cutting-edge technology. GeoLinks, for example, offers 24/7 in-house customer support, and customers can even ask for support reps by name.

And don’t overlook responsiveness. If your business does experience a technical issue, how long does it take your provider to respond and address the problem? Time is money, so whether it’s hours wasted on hold or weeks waiting on a repair, how your ISP handles customer relations directly affects your company’s line.

4. Agility and Flexibility

As a business grows and changes, its overall telecom needs will as well. For example, a law firm hiring ten new associates is likely to need a bandwidth upgrade. The scope of services you need may change over time as well, and some providers offer business phone and Internet bundles to streamline telecom – and billing – needs with a single provider.

Some ISPs offer additional services such as VoIP and SD-WAN, while others do not. When selecting your ISP, you need to make sure you explore their entire product suite and service offerings. All of this can become time-consuming and burdensome.

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 your business, you can rely on a single provider to upgrade and adapt to your evolving business needs.

 
Business Internet Bandwidth Requirements
 

5. Bandwidth Availability

If you don’t know how much Internet bandwidth your company needs, check out “Your Guide to Determining Bandwidth Requirements.” Understanding your bandwidth needs is essential to ensuring that you’re sourcing an ISP that can provide the speeds your company needs.

Bandwidth availability may fluctuate from carrier to carrier based on your location and the type of Internet access you are looking for (i.e., Fiber vs. Fixed Wireless vs. DSL, etc.). Furthermore, if it does appear the ISP offers what you are looking for, make sure you understand whether you’d be getting a dedicated or shared circuit, as this factor also will impact the reliability and consistency of speeds.

Is GeoLinks the right ISP for your business?

Chat with one of our in-house experts to see if one of GeoLinks’ business Internet services is right for your business.

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How Do I Know When it’s Time to Upgrade to a Business Internet Plan?


How Do I Know When it’s Time to Upgrade to a Business Internet Plan?

How to identify the signs that your company may need to upgrade to Dedicated Business Internet

Deciding when to upgrade to a Dedicated Business Internet plan is a key decision in any company’s growth. When your company’s Internet connection slows down, or worse, goes offline, it can cost you lost sales, harm your reputation, and cause operational delays. For example, when your business upgrades to a new CRM, or grows an in-house team adding new devices to your network, it’s not a given that current bandwidth and existing infrastructure are equipped to support the transition. Thus, it’s important to understand the network requirements your business needs to operate. Specifically, it’s imperative to realize when it’s time for your company to upgrade to a Dedicated Business Internet plan.

What is Business Internet?

When you upgrade to “Dedicated Business Internet”, you’re moving to a dedicated Internet connection. Unlike shared Internet circuits, a dedicated circuit provides private Internet access to a single location. This means bandwidth is delivered and accessible exclusively to the circuit owner guaranteeing they receive the bandwidth they sign up for. Keep in mind that upgrading may require switching telecom providers.

While shared Internet circuits may be adequate for residential or small business use, as businesses grow, the cost of downtime and inefficiency inherent in shared solutions becomes prohibitive. Research shows that companies on average experience 87 hours of downtime each year. This equates to an average cost of $42,000 lost per hour, for a total cost of over $3M/year. As multiple devices proliferate and companies come to rely on their employees’ ability to communicate and facilitate online transactions, (such as collecting payment) the impact and cost of slow or unreliable Internet access grows exponentially.

Benefits of Dedicated Business Internet

Dedicated Business Internet offers many benefits to companies that need more reliable connectivity.

  • Guaranteed Bandwidth
    When you don’t share your circuit with other companies, you know you will get the download and upload speeds promised. Not sure how much bandwidth your business needs? Learn “How to Determine the Amount of Bandwidth Your Company Needs”.
  • Faster Throughput
    Dedicated Business Internet gives access to to low-traffic backbones so connectivity is fast from origin to destination. If Internet access is like getting on the freeway, then Business Internet users get both faster onramps and a pass to the carpool lane because their Internet traffic is routed onto low-traffic backbone circuits that experience fewer delays.
  • Matched Upload and Download Speeds
    Unlike shared circuits which typically have inconsistent download than upload speeds, Dedicated Business Internet connections offer packages with guaranteed symmetrical upload and download speeds. This becomes useful for businesses that require robust file transfers, online streaming, and video conferencing.

Dedicated Business Internet Service Level Agreements (SLA)

Speed and performance for a Dedicated Business Internet connection are guaranteed with very specific, enforceable Service Level Agreements (SLA). Shared Circuit SLA’s typically claim to make their “best effort” to provide contracted services, without any recourse if the circuit gets crowded and performance drops. Dedicated Business Internet SLA’s list specific deliverables for service. As an example, here is the guarantees that come with GeoLinks’ Business Internet SLA:

  • 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%

Should You Get Dedicated Business Internet?

Now that you know the benefits of moving to a Dedicated Business Internet circuit, how do you determine whether or not it’s time to upgrade. One of the first questions to ask is whether you are experiencing network problems on your current shared circuit. Here are a few examples of businesses that would typically require Dedicated Business Internet:

  • Hotels where broadband service is part of their offering to guests.
  • Medical practices where reliable communications and data access can literally be a matter of life and death. They may also be subject to regulation requiring them to maintain reliable connectivity.
  • Real estate offices and banks, both of which handle large volumes of electronic transactions and often transfer large files in bulk to support purchases or financial arrangements.
  • Restaurants or retail establishments with POS systems. If their Internet goes down, so does their POS system. This prevents them from collecting debit or credit payments.

If you’re currently experiencing any of the network issues mentioned above, or are in a business where reliable internet is essential to your day-to-day operations, then it’s time to seriously consider upgrading to Dedicated Business Internet. Still not sure if the benefits outweigh the hard cost? Calculate the Return on Investment (ROI) of upgrading.

How to Calculate the ROI of Dedicated Business Internet

The basic formula for ROI in any business is net gain/cost. Choose a time frame as the basis – with larger IT upgrades like this you’ll want to consider at least a year, if not more. Compare the costs associated with keeping your current shared solution. Then compare the costs or cost savings of upgrading. Keep in mind that some costs are hard, while others are less tangible.

Here are a few examples of hard costs and cost savings to consider:

Hard Costs:

  • Installation and hardware fees
  • Monthly recurring ISP charges

Cost Savings:

  • Improved internal and external communications
  • More reliable video conferencing, VoIP, and web access
  • Reduced risk of employee and systems downtime
  • Increased capacity for growth and expansion
  • How much would it cost you if your internet went down altogether for 1 hour? 1 day? 1 week? What would you pay for peace of mind?

Once you have costs and benefits of both scenarios, you can compare ROIs and also look at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). The final decision whether to upgrade to Dedicated Business Internet should take into account the tangible business benefits, ROI, and TCO as well as the harder to quantify benefits such as improving your business infrastructure.

Let’s Recap

Do your day-to-day business operations require reliable Internet access? If yes, it’s time to upgrade. Have you recently changed your company’s internal systems, such as onboarding a more robust CRM? It’s time to upgrade. Are you expanding your team or increasing the number of devices (such as computers) connected to your network? It’s time to upgrade. All in all, does it give you peace of mind to have a contractual SLA that you can rely on? It is time to upgrade.

To learn more about GeoLinks’ Business Internet Plans, chat with one of our team members today.