You won’t always find cubicles, receptionists, or even chairs at a new business.
However, you will find wi-fi. Data is the lifeblood of any company, and the quality of an internet connection can be life or death for today’s small businesses.
That’s enough to put pressure on any entrepreneur shopping for an ISP.
Budgets and deadlines are both generally tight during the early days of a new business, and not every provider is going to give you the quality service you need to succeed.
We’re here to help – read through, and we’ll give you some tips on finding the best ISP for your needs.
See Who’s In Town
Sometimes the debate begins and ends with seeing which providers are actually active in your city. If you happen to be a bit off the beaten path, then you may only find one or two ISPs to choose from.
On the other hand, larger cities generally have a healthy selection of competing companies. A big metropolitan center can have you spoiled for choice. Tech hubs doubly so – in cities like Kirkland, WA Frontier, Xfinity, dishNET, and Verizon are among the at least 20 providers jockeying for customers.
If you do happen to be in that situation, then it’s time to start narrowing your search and evaluating what each individual company has to offer.
Determine What You Need
Everyone wants to have the absolute quickest connection around, even if it’s not necessarily what they need. Fast internet generally doesn’t come cheap, and if your company doesn’t require those crazy high speeds, you’re spending more than you need to.
Types of connection will vary by provider. Deciding which one best fits your company can help narrow the field of competing ISPs. Plans you’ll see will include:
DSL internet connects through existing phone lines but, unlike dial-up (the one type of connection we can’t recommend to anyone) doesn’t force you off the phone while surfing the net. Companies that use the internet for communication and as an informational resource should be happy with a DSL plan. However, anyone with eCommerce aspirations might want to look at other options. High-speed DSL lines exist, but tend to be more expensive than other services with comparable speeds.
The other choice you’ll probably see most frequently. Cable internet is delivered via the same infrastructure that normally carries television signals. With some exceptions, it’s a cut above DSL in terms of speed. All but the most data-hungry online businesses can make do with a high-speed cable option.
Satellite internet, despite recent improvements, remains slower and less reliable than most other options. If you’re thinking about using it, it’s likely because you don’t have any other options. Not every town has the wiring necessary to support DSL or cable internet, but satellite-based connections can go just about anywhere.
If you’re certain that you need a fast – as in very, very fast – connection, fiber may be for you. While you’ll likely find them only in larger cities, fiber packages can give you a blazingly quick connection. If you’re planning on real-time video collaboration or something similarly dependent on fast response times, shelling out extra for a FiOS plan may be a good idea.
Pick Your Partner
Remember that your relationship with an ISP doesn’t end after you purchase a plan. Research available ISPs to get a sense of how existing customers feel about them. Complaints about hidden costs, reliability, and customer service should all raise red flags. You’ll find those for just about every company, given how frustrating an internet crash can be, but if a Google search gives you nothing but negativity? Take notice, and weigh those problems against the value of their offered plans.
Bottom line: there’s no universally applicable flowchart for finding your right provider. Instead, there’s a bundle of factors to consider. Slow down, take your time, and work through all of them before you make a decision.
Neal Bricker is a net guru and tech journalist. Tracking technology is both passion and profession for Neal, who has covered new and exciting tech for a number of publications.