From the Desk of the vCIO: How to Choose an Internet Service Provider (ISP)

April 21st, 2017 by Rocket IT

Setting up a new office, adding a secondary Internet connection, or replacing an expensive/poor ISP is a daunting task.  The variety of services, contract types, acronyms, and other traps in the buying process can be overwhelming and leave you stuck with a bad contract.

When selecting the right ISP for your organization, there are four basic questions you’ll need to answer. Let’s break down the various options to help you hone in on a provider:

 

Question 1 – What type of Internet Connection is even available to my building? – Fiber, Cable, T-1, Wireless?

Before we dive into the plethora of vendors, costs, and speeds, we need to determine what types of service can even be delivered to your building.  If your building is in a bustling office park, you can expect to have a wide range of choices.  If your building is in a rural location, you may be limited to only T-1’s or Wireless connections (we’ll talk about what that means to you in the next section). Do some research on what’s available in your area so you know what you have to choose from.

We can help with narrowing this down for you!  Give us a call.

Question 2 – How is the Internet Connection delivered to your building? – Fiber, Cable, T-1, or Wireless?

The biggest factor in cost, performance, and reliability in an Internet connection is the medium by which it is delivered to your building. Now that you know what’s available, here’s what the difference in those options means to you. You may have more than one available, so pick the best one for your needs and budget.

  • Fiber – highest cost, highest bandwidth, highest reliability. Recommended when the Internet connection is a critical part of your business.  Costs range between $600 and up.
  • Cable – recommended as a secondary connection. Low cost, high bandwidth, mediocre reliability.
  • T-1 – high cost, lowest bandwidth, highest reliability. An older technology at this point, and should only be used if no other reasonable options exist.
  • Wireless – moderately high cost, moderate bandwidth, ? reliability. In some areas, it’s possible to do point-to-point high-speed wireless signals.  Most appropriate when other technologies don’t exist.

Question 3- How much bandwidth do I need? 

The bandwidth is your pipeline, so it determines the speed of your connection. We measure that in megabits per second or Mbps. For an office staff relying heavily on the Internet, a rough rule of thumb is to expect that each employee will require 1 Mbps of bandwidth for a smooth experience.

  • Fiber’s bandwidth generally ranges between 10 and 2,000 Mbps.
  • Cable is generally 50-200 Mbps.
  • T-1’s are 1.5 Mbps each (which is why they are poor options, being so low!)
  • Wireless is in the 10-100 Mbps.

The more devices you have connected to your network, and the more active they are on it, the more bandwidth you’ll want. This isn’t just limited to your employees’ desktops anymore. This also includes smartphones, tablets, and anything else that communicates with the outside world. Also, if you work with large files, stream video or audio a lot, or use cloud services, then you’ll want more bandwidth available. When looking at what you’ll need, keep in mind that you won’t want to just focus on how much you download, but also on how much you upload.

Question 4 – Do you need phone service on your ISP connection?  Which type?

Nearly every ISP offers optionally-bundled phone services with their Internet Connection services.  These can often be secured at a reasonable cost alongside Internet.

If you do need Internet, you’ll need to know how many concurrent phone lines you require – what is the maximum number of users who will be on the phone with external parties at once?

You’ll also need to know what type of phone system you have. Your phone vendor can assist with this, and help you make the right decision for your organization.

 

Now that we know what the choices are, what type of connection, how much bandwidth is needed, and what type of phone service you need, we can now move to determining which provider is best for you.  Consider the following when making your final decision:

  • Peer Reviews of Provider – being saddled with a poor provider is an incredibly frustrating and time-consuming problem. Talk to your IT provider, business contacts, and neighbors in your building to learn how their experience has been with their ISP.
  • Up-front and Monthly Cost – how much will the bandwidth cost?
  • Do you need a secondary provider – Even fiber goes offline on occasion. Do you need a secondary connection via Cable?
  • Contract term – some providers require 3 year or 1 year contracts, while others are month-to-month.
  • Provisions for breaking the contract/moving – do you have options available for if you want to break the contract without a termination fee? What about if you move to an area that isn’t serviced by your ISP?

 

 


 

EH 2About the Author-

 Eric Henderson is Rocket IT’s virtual Chief Information Officer. He is also the tallest person at Rocket IT (by a fraction of an inch).

 

 

1200x627- vCIOHave you found that you need the expertise of a Chief Information Officer to help you make strategic decisions on how to leverage technology to meet your unique business goals, but aren’t ready to commit to hiring a full-time executive to fill that need? Learn about our virtual CIO services.