‘However, with an infinite number of Internet providers all promising the best, most secure and reliable network, how do you distinguish between them all and find the service that best suits your growing business? ‘
‘The network is at the heart of what all small businesses can achieve from their IT. Working with an untried or untested Internet provider could undermine the rest of the good work your business is doing for its clients’
Andy Horn, managing director of Easynet Connect advises on the importance of choosing the right Internet provider
Choosing the right Internet provider is especially crucial to start-ups and small businesses because not only does the network allow a business to communicate with its customers, but the service can be adapted to suit the company’s needs as it grows.
Many businesses take the Internet for granted, and its importance is only brought to the attention of the company when things go wrong. However, with an infinite number of Internet providers all promising the best, most secure and reliable network, how do you distinguish between them all and find the service that best suits your growing business?
Many small businesses are turning to cloud computing, where applications are delivered and hosted online, to solve the age-old problem of IT maintenance and help employees become more flexible and collaborative. High-bandwidth applications such as video place ever-greater demands on company bandwidth. Put simply, if you ignore your Internet connection, you could be setting yourself up for a costly fall.
Here are some simple guidelines to help small business owners choose the right Internet provider:
Back to basics – one size does not fit all
Getting the right connection certainly requires having knowledge of the reliance you have on the Internet as a business. Too many businesses invest in broadband without ensuring that it fully fits their needs, or blindly sign up to packages that vastly outstrip their real-life requirements.
It sounds simple, but listing out all of the applications that depend on your IP connection, and those you can’t function fully without will give you a quick set of requirements your connection needs to meet. If any of these services are being frequently lost, then it could well be time to review your connection.
The next step is to examine how your main applications use data – do they rely on downloading or uploading, do they use a constant amount of bandwidth, or create peaks and troughs throughout the day?
Consider these alongside the other uses of your connection, when they are most called upon, and how important they are. For example, ambient web browsing doesn’t require much bandwidth, but sending and receiving large files, running an online backup system and accessing online video will require a high quality connection for them to work well.
Many businesses find themselves with packages, which don’t grow and expand at the same rate as their business is. For instance, if you are planning on recruiting significantly in the near future, investing in more SaaS services, or will be taking on projects which require you to send and receive large files, then make sure your ISP understands these requirements and your package is arranged so that getting access to greater bandwidth doesn’t punish you financially.
Check customer testimonials
The network is at the heart of what all small businesses can achieve from their IT. Working with an untried or untested Internet provider could undermine the rest of the good work your business is doing for its clients.
Technologies such as cloud computing require flawless connections in order to succeed, making the quality of the network all the more important. Before selecting an Internet provider, be sure to assess its track record, customer testimonials and, most crucially, the strength of its SLAs.
Make continuity a priority
The growth of cloud applications (for example, Salesforce, which is now a fixture in a large proportion of the UK’s small businesses) mean that the potential cost of a day of downtime is now greater than ever. With businesses reliant on their network for their telephony and core applications, as well as simple Internet access, failure is not an option. Businesses must make continuity a priority and ensure that risk mitigation is front-of-mind when they spec out which service to choose.
Look beyond speed
Whilst it may sound predictable, the old adage that you get what you pay for is certainly true when it comes to network access. While some providers (such as those now espousing the credentials of their fibre offerings) may advertise impressive speeds at knockdown prices, these do not take into account other factors, such as system delays or whether or not the information you are sending will reach its destination.
Internet connection packages can be seemingly complex but finding the right one will pay dividends. Too many start up businesses select their ISP on the basis of connection speeds and bandwidth but fail to pay attention to issues such as contention ratios and connection quality, which make up the overall picture of how good your broadband connection really is.
Understanding the Internet’s technical jargon could help you avoid paying for the wrong type of product, which could be costly in the long run. Research the differences between DSL, ADSL, SDSL, leased line and fibre connections – and make sure you are investing in a service that truly meets your needs.
SMEs should expect more from their ISP, not just for a reliable technology, but also from value-added services and on-going support and consultancy. If your connection is lost, the ISP should do more than just provide a back-up line, but it should let you know when connections are dropped in good time and have polite and informed support staff, ensuring your calls and queries are resolved quickly.
As more and more companies look to move to cloud-based technologies, this is fast becoming an important factor – after all, your Internet connection is at the heart of enabling a cloud deployment and keeping you connected to your applications.
You should therefore demand 24-hour phone and technical support as part of your contract. Making sure you have full support from a reliable provider may cost a little more, but is ultimately invaluable in case your connection goes down. Running a small company is rarely a nine-to-five pursuit and you need support round the clock to reflect this.
Just think, if you were passed around a remote call centre for twenty minutes at a time, when dealing with your home connection, you would switch at the first opportunity. But when that time spent waiting is costing your business money, surely a change there should also go without asking?
For more information, visit www.easynetconnect.net