Your internet connection has the potential to make or break your business. Downtime can be costly from both a productivity and reputational standpoint, so a reliable connection is essential. Likewise, it’s important to work with a provider that gives you the availability and speed you need. From choosing the right connection to selecting the best internet service provider (ISP) for your organization, we tell you everything you need to know in this comprehensive guide.
The Ultimate Guide to
How to Choose the Right Internet Service Provider For Your Business
There are many factors that go into choosing the right ISP, but you’ll want to base your decision on your current situation and what technology you expect to support in the future with your internet connection.
At the moment, you may have a handful of staff members who only utilize email and occasional websites – but that may change in the future. You might have plans to migrate systems to the cloud or to access a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone system. It’s important to consider how your connection speed will support your technology plans. Consider the following when establishing the right speed and connectivity option for your company:
Is there a seasonal element to your internet use, as with retailers that experience a surge of demand during the holidays?
Do you use a cloud backup provider, requiring a symmetrical connection so you can upload and download at the same speeds?
Do you have a large number of remote employees? They may be accessing smartphones and tablets and connecting to the network from their home or out in the field. Remote and mobile connections tend to demand a high level of bandwidth.
In order to choose the right business internet connection, you need to choose the right provider, and offerings can vary between providers. For instance, determine the level of support you’d like to see from your provider. Examine the service level agreement as well as the following:
- • What the provider offers in terms of security and uptime
- • Average resolution time
- • Access to 24/7 technical support
- • The average hold time for help desk calls
It’s important to note that some ISPs are more effective than others at delivering consistency in their internet speeds, overcoming obstacles related to geography and network congestion.
Choosing an ISP can be difficult because, like any technology purchase, you’ll only hear the positives from the provider. Talk with other businesses in your area to see what service they’re using, whether they experience any interruption in connection and what technology they’re supporting with the service. You may hear about an ISP you hadn’t considered, simply because they don’t invest a lot in advertising but rely on word of mouth to share how great their service is.
Checking service guarantees is critical as well. Find out how a provider’s SLA compares with those of its competitors. You should also look for a guarantee of a certain level of uptime or uninterrupted service. Find out what happens if you do experience an interruption in terms of credits to your invoice and average time to resolution. Other important questions include:
- • Are there dedicated support reps for business clients?
- • When you call, what expertise will the help desk have to resolve a problem or answer your questions?
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How to Choose the Right Business Internet Connection
Your internet connection is an aspect of your business infrastructure that nobody will ever notice — until it’s not working properly. Slow internet speeds can frustrate your customers, slow down productivity, and limit your access to new technology. You can eliminate many of these problems if you choose the right business internet connection.
What Internet Connectivity Options Are Prevalent in Today's Business Environment?
Cable: A cost-effective broadband option with wide availability due to a large national cable infrastructure.
ADSL: Asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) enables faster data transmission over copper telephone lines. This is a good option for businesses that want to take advantage of existing telephone line infrastructure, but do not require high bandwidth uploads.
Satellite: This is often a good option in rural areas because satellite doesn’t require cables or a nearby wireless tower. You’ll simply need a dish installed to bounce a signal from satellites. Compared to other types of high-speed internet, satellite connections can see speeds of 25 Mbps down and 4 Mbps up.
Fixed Wireless: Internet service is delivered through a radio signal from a tower and can reach speeds of 100/100 Mbps. This solution is often used as a backup or to provide dedicated connectivity for retail point of sale systems.
Fibre Optics: Fibre is attractive to businesses looking for fast delivery and dedicated symmetrical speeds. With these features, your business gets high speed, industry-leading 100% uptime, and the ability to upload just as fast as you download — a perfect solution for today’s cloud applications and services that require high bandwidth.
Gigabit Internet for Businesses 101
A fibre connectivity option offered by iTel is gigabit internet. You’re no longer utilizing your business internet connection just for emails and web browsing, so your connection is more critical than ever. You have likely integrated some cloud-based technology, and even your communications may be wired through the internet. These increased demands on bandwidth mean you’ve got to have the right connectivity to get the speed you require.
Gigabit internet guarantees speeds of 1,000 Mbps because 1,000 megabits is a gigabit, expressed as 1 Gbps. It’s important to note that many providers will guarantee a speed of “up to” 1,000 Mbps, but you should look for a guarantee of consistent service at that speed.
If your organization has a large number of users, or if you access multimedia tools, you may find that a gigabit of speed is beneficial. You can also choose gigabit internet if you have or plan to implement one of the following:
High-definition streaming to multiple devices. From customer-facing applications to collaboration tools, the demand for business bandwidth can take a toll on your network. Increase productivity and improve user experience across the board with the lightning fast connectivity of gigabit internet.
Faster downloading and uploading for file transfers. Many businesses are adopting cloud technologies that require vast amounts of data to travel offsite in both directions. Gigabit internet offers symmetrical traffic so you’ll be able to move more business processes to the cloud and experience cost savings and scalability.
A stronger, more reliable connection supports telecommunications. The guaranteed speed delivery of gigabit internet provides a foundation for advanced telecommunications applications and future technologies.
Videoconferencing: Communicating via video involves more than just replacing standard voice-based conference calls; it’s also replacing in-person meetings and helping organizations reduce costs related to travel. In addition, videoconferencing allows enterprises to all but remove geographical considerations when hiring for positions on virtual teams.
It’s easy to create a business case for investing in high-speed connectivity. Gigabit internet may be instrumental in moving your entire organization toward your business goals.
The cost to install gigabit internet depends primarily on whether your building is equipped for fibre-optic connectivity. If your building is not already outfitted with fibre, the installation cost depends on many factors, including the distance from the nearest fibre resources, physical barriers to a fibre line (such as railroad tracks or a river), building construction requirements, and the size of the building.
Following installation, you’ll pay a monthly fee, which depends on your provider, the terms of the agreement, and your location. Be sure to check over your contract for the terms related to each of the following areas:
- • Bandwidth or speed that’s symmetrical for upload and download
- • Pricing
- • Reliability and guarantees
- • Support and services
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How Costs Impact Business Internet Connectivity (and Fibre’s Role)
Connectivity is no longer about simply supporting email and a little website browsing while your employees are on break. Internet connectivity is a major component of the technology infrastructure that supports your business, with interruptions impacting a wide range of processes from communications through transactions on cloud-based applications.
For all of your online business processes, business fibre is the ideal connection in terms of speed and superior quality. While assessing the cost of business fibre requires an on-site evaluation, some aspects are universal:
Is your location already serviced by fibre?
Proximity is the single biggest factor impacting the cost of your installation. If your business is in a location where network providers have physically installed fibre, the location is considered “OnNet.” Fibre connectivity in these locations is cheaper, as no additional costly fibre connection is required.
Is fibre present nearby?
A “NearNet” location — one where fibre already exists in close proximity — also is cheaper than an OffNet location, which are not directly terminated with owned fibre or close nearby.
Is anything in the way of pulling new fibre?
For NearNet of OffNet locations, the presence of railroad tracks, a subway, or a river can introduce additional costs to a business fibre installation.
There’s no universal price tag for acquiring business fibre, but if your location is OnNet, your installation cost should be straightforward and relatively low. This doesn’t mean that installing business fibre is prohibitively expensive if you’re in a building that’s not OnNet. Introducing fibre connectivity may quickly pay for itself in terms of productivity, customer loyalty, and speed of innovation.
How IT, Telecom, and Network Technologies
Impact Your Business Internet Connection
Advancements in cloud solutions and other IT and telecom technologies are forcing enterprises to evaluate their networking approach for delivering business internet. Added bandwidth demands and the central role of the network in driving and delivering business objectives means the traditional networking model is no longer adequate. Here’s how some of today’s network technologies are impacting business internet:
MPLS VPN for Cloud Connection
MPLS has long been a reliable pathway for data transmissions, and – when combined with a virtual private network (VPN) – it can essentially be considered a virtual private cloud. Common MPLS uses include branch offices, campus networks, and enterprises that need reliability and quality of service. MPLS VPNs are delivered over a single carrier’s network, offering reliability and security superior to that of the public internet. Here are four reasons why MPLS VPNs are often a preferred business internet delivery option:
- Enhanced Performance and Better Traffic Control: MPLS VPNs support cloud applications with high-quality performance because they allow for prioritization of traffic types.
- Improved Reliability: Because MPLS VPNs are delivered over a single carrier’s network, the reliability is better, the traffic is not subject to the irregularities of the public internet, and networks experience generally lower latency and jitter. Security is also improved because it is confined to the carrier’s network, and mean time to repair (MTTR) is lower as well. MPLS VPNs also come with improved service level agreements (SLAs).
- Controlled Bandwidth: Using MPLS VPNs allows the enterprise to have a site-to-site and/or site-to-multisite connection through a single MPLS connection. This kind of link significantly reduces the amount of bandwidth required.
- Flexibility: With MPLS VPNs, it is convenient to add capacity on an as-needed basis and much easier than adding capacity with a traditional carrier’s service.
When it comes to supporting expanding cloud solutions and UCaaS, many enterprises are turning to software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN). It capitalizes on the reliability of high-end connections such as fibre, while also supplementing with lower-cost connections and other network pathways to support an optimized network approach. SD-WAN provides many of the benefits of MPLS, often at a lower cost. Other significant reasons why SD-WAN is an attractive solution for business internet include:
- Improved Visibility and Control: Businesses that have remote locations need tools to ensure that they know the status of their entire network. SD-WAN places a virtual overlay on the physical network, giving network operators a centralized management dashboard for all maintenance, provisioning, and troubleshooting. Not only are they able to quickly identify and manipulate any segment of the network, but they can also do so without traveling to a branch location to work through a problem or bring a new site online.
- Lossless Failover: In the event of a downed connection, SD-WAN provides the ability to sustain connectivity using other connections that automatically pick up service without loss while maintaining traffic prioritization and policies.
- Scalability: Enterprises that employ SD-WAN pay for only the number of users they need and can easily add or subtract the number of users on the network.
- Segmentation: Traffic utilizing business internet can be segmented according to automated business policy, with options allowing for segmentation by application, traffic type, user, or security vulnerability.
How to Maintain and Support Business Internet Uptime
Your enterprise relies heavily on your internet connection. If your connection is interrupted, your business essentially stops cold. Preserving business internet uptime requires that you invest in a failover method.
How Failover Impacts Business Internet Uptime
Enterprises should invest in a failover option that introduces diversity to the connectivity method. A wireless approach is the best backup for a wired internet connection. Three basic types of wireless connection are appropriate for a failover strategy to support business internet uptime:
All-in-one primary or edge wireless devices use a WAN and a wireless gateway to combine service in a single device. These are the most common wireless solutions used for backup, but they do have limitations. They only work if the router is placed in an open location that receives a strong signal, and they can’t be stored in a closet or basement.
A 4G LTE cellular gateway is a more specialized, standalone option, which is attached either on the outside of the building or near the outside to receive a strong cell signal. The device converts incoming 4G LTE signals to ethernet, which is linked to the router with cabling to distribute connectivity throughout the building. They can be powered by ethernet and don’t require any electricity.
A third option is available which enables the enterprise to eliminate all wired internet. It’s an “air” option that uses a single model with dual subscriber identity module (SIM), allowing the company to access SIM cards from different cellular providers at the same time. This is ideal for mobile companies or for locations where cable or digital subscriber line (DSL) may not be readily available.
An interruption to business internet uptime is an inconvenience for any company, but for those that largely operate in a cloud-based, online space, even a few hours of downtime can be a major problem. For the duration of the outage, they are essentially out of business. These critical business processes are interrupted when there’s no failover, and the connection is lost:
IoT Technology: Enterprises increasingly rely on devices to aid in productivity and improve the customer experience. From monitors gauging pressure on a storage tank to the tablet your physician uses to make notes during your checkup, there’s hardly an industry untouched by IoT technology.
VoIP: Businesses are replacing copper wiring landlines with VoIP solutions that use an ethernet cable to transmit voice and video calls over the internet. Without a failover connection, your enterprise may lose all contact with customers.
Other Communications: From email to collaborative tools and messaging, companies without backup support for business internet uptime will see operations interrupted and projects on hold until connectivity is restored if there’s an outage.
Cloud-Based Solutions: Companies are increasingly storing data in cloud servers and accessing the cloud version of their favorite customer relationship management software. While many of these applications have similarities to the in-house version, they will be immediately unavailable if the internet connection is lost and there’s no automated failover option.
Business Internet Security Threats and Best Practices
Since business internet security is vital to the health of a business of any size, a cornucopia of options are now on hand to help businesses build up their cyber security. All that remains is to pick the blend of options that are most appropriate for each individual business. Here are some business internet security best practices to be aware of:
Embrace a limited amount of (password) change
When was the last time you changed your passwords? If you can’t remember, it’s probably been too long. Changing passwords occasionally is good practice.
Cancel all outstanding credentials
When an employee leaves for whatever reason, shut down their credentials as quickly as possible. By removing outdated and unneeded credentials, you remove an avenue for unauthorized access into your systems.
Make your systems patch-perfect
Patches are some of the best protective measures when it comes to cyber security. Built by design to address security flaws and potential exploits, patches are issued directly by the companies that offer the software being used.
Add some training
Understanding the difference between phishing and spear phishing — and what to look for in each — can help block one major potential security problem right at the source. The difference is that “phishing” tends to be broadly dispersed while “spear phishing” is highly focused and thus has greater authenticity on its side.
Back up your systems
By backing up your systems, you automatically remove the biggest problem with ransomware: the loss of your files. If you’ve turned ransomware into a minor nuisance with offline backups, you’ve addressed a growing and downright insidious breed of cyber security threat.
One particular system known as a network security appliance (NSA) can really tilt the scales in your favor in business internet security. Sometimes called “thin clients” or “closed-box systems,” an NSA usually contains less hardware than normal and focuses on specific functions. One of these functions can be overall data control, which allows potential threats to be more readily spotted and addressed.
Consider one new hire
All of these solutions mentioned can be great, but they need to actually be used in order to get anywhere. Thus, consider one new hire: a dedicated cyber security manager to put these solutions into practice and keep them running. That one new hire can keep your business internet security remain strong and running.
From connection speed to uptime to security, there are a lot of pieces involved in selecting the business internet service that is the best fit for your business. Your connection has the potential to impact your organization’s productivity, bottom line, and even reputation. For secure, reliable business internet service, turn to iTel. Get in touch today for a better connection.
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