In this day and age, no business can succeed without being connected to the Internet. Businesses of all sizes use the Internet to connect with their customers, to stay in touch with their vendors, and to let the public know what is happening in their world.
Internet access companies are commonly known as Internet service providers, or ISPs for short. There are literally thousands of ISPs providing a wide range of Internet services, so when you are shopping around, it pays to do your homework ahead of time. You should know what your company needs in terms of Internet access and features, and look for a provider that meets your business goals and budget.
When shopping for an ISP, make sure they include these basic features:
- E-mail accounts. Look for ISPs that offer the best packages on e-mail accounts, including features and number of e-mail aliases.
- Customer service and support. While many ISP companies are still mom-and-pop shops, look for a provider that can provide the service and support that your business needs. Always consider the worst case scenario, and be sure you have someone you can contact if there are problems.
- High-speed access. You can connect to the Internet in a number of different ways, including dialup, DSL, cable, and even wireless. Over the past decade, thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable have been installed all across the country, allowing more businesses and households to connect to the Internet at a much faster speed. Wireless options are also increasing, and more businesses are including that feature as part of their Internet service package.
- Advanced spam-blocking features. A few years ago, spam blocking features cost extra, but these days they are more likely to be part of the basic features package.
In addition to the regular services, some ISP’s offer additional value-added services, including:
- Domain name registration. Many ISPs will include the cost of registering a domain name into their access or hosting packages. Prices for domain name registrations and automatic renewals will also vary, so make sure you get the best price available.
- Web hosting. Your ISP and your Web host don’t have to be one and the same, but you may be able to save money and simplify your bookkeeping by getting both services from one place.
If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by the myriad ISP options available, consider retaining a technology consultant. A little time and money spent now may save you lots of money in the future. Whether you do it yourself and hire a consultant, the time to do your research and due diligence is now — not once you’re locked in to an unfavorable long-term contract.