Reliable internet is crucial. Here’s how to find the right partner.
These days, it doesn’t matter what business you’re in: Ensuring your internet access is reliable, seamless and cost-effective is one of the most important factors in the success of your business. Even a few hours of downtime can cost money – and more importantly, it can take a long time to get back on track after a service outage or after you’ve changed providers.
So you want to get it right the first time if you can. But how?
Know what you’re looking for
The more you know about what you want, the easier it’ll be for you to compare apples to apples when looking at the offerings of different providers. Will you need many workstations to have internet access at once? Does your business regularly upload or download large files? Do you want wireless access throughout your premises?
Making a list of the number of users, your primary concerns, and the kind of access you need will help you narrow down your options.
Know your connection options
DSL, cable, satellite, fiber and dial-up: There are a wide variety of types of internet connectivity. Some, like dial-up, are only used in limited circumstances (like geographical areas where higher-speed options aren’t available), but the more you know, the more you can make the right choices.
Know the locations you need to cover
Knowing where you need internet – the number of offices and where those offices are located – can be an important consideration. While most of southern Ontario has good high-speed internet coverage, there are still some remote locations that have limited options, and this may be a factor.
Look for a contract/price combination that makes sense
Typically, an internet service provider will offer packages that provide shorter contracts for a higher monthly cost or longer-term contracts for a lower monthly cost. Both will come with fees for early termination, but these will also vary. Spending some time considering the combination of contract length + monthly cost, and what that will mean for your business, will help you make a decision that you’ll feel good about later.
Data caps and throttling
Most business plans in Canada don’t impose data caps for small businesses, but some of the super-low-price providers do throttle service after a certain amount of data. It’s worth double-checking that the ISP you choose won’t limit the amount of data your business can upload or download in a given period.
Customer service accessibility
While you may choose an ISP based on technical or price factors, the truth is that over the long term, it’s the customer service that will make the difference between “I love our ISP!” and “I hate our internet people!”
Good ISPs have robust customer service departments, with real live people you can speak to in the event of an issue. More importantly, good customer service also involves notifying you before you even notice there’s a problem. Before you sign a contract with an ISP, ask about their customer service department, and ask what their service levels are: Are they available 24/7? Where are they located? What skills/experience do their technicians have? Are they required to respond to a request in a certain amount of time?
You don’t have to be a tech person to choose a great ISP
If you’re not an IT professional and your business isn’t computer-related, it can sometimes feel daunting to choose the right ISP for your small business. But it doesn’t have to be. Doing a little research and preparation – and asking around for referrals from other small business owners – can ensure you get the right provider, even if you’re not an expert yourself.