There are plenty of Internet service providers (ISPs) to choose from. The idea is to select one you feel will provide quality service and reliability at a price that fits into your budget. But it is not a decision to be undertaken lightly.
Here are some common mistakes people make when selecting an ISP, and some suggestions for how to avoid them:
- Not reading the service agreement carefully. Too many people assume that all ISP service agreements are alike, but that is not usually the case. Always read the fine print.
- Not knowing your business needs. A business that needs Internet access only for e-mail or occasional Web surfing can get away with dialup service. But if you need fast, reliable Web access, you need a broadband connection. If the Internet is your lifeline and you anticipate plenty of traffic, consider a T-1 line. Too many small businesses are not prepared for the volume of business they will receive, and many struggle with Internet service that does not meet their needs.
- Not finding out about customer service. Many business owners tell horror stories of awful customer service. Do your homework before you sign any agreement. Ask other people who use the same ISP and go to ISP Planet’s “Ranking by Subscriber” page to get an idea of how an ISP treats its customers.
- Not knowing all of the fees. Make sure you know exactly what is included in the package you sign up for.
- Choosing a small-time player. In an effort save money, some companies have elected to go with small-time ISPs, only to find out the service is not what they anticipated. Small operators are also more likely to go out of business. If you are serious about your business, consider an established industry leader.
- Not focusing on reliability. It is very frustrating when the ISP is not responding and your business is suffering the consequences. If an always-on connection is vital to your business, you cannot afford to skimp and settle for less.
- Not doing your homework. The Internet makes it easy to research the various ISPs. Shop around, read the reviews, and find a service that is geared toward businesses — not teens instant messaging one another.
- Choosing an ISP because of a “free Web site” offer. Many ISPs offer to help you build and host your own site. While this may sound like a good deal on its face, the “site” you will get may not be sufficient for your business, and you may end up with a long URL that will be impossible to remember. Unless your ISP also offers business-class Web hosting that will grant you the domain name of your choice, look elsewhere for Web hosting.
- Failing to match your ISP to your hardware. Not every ISP will work equally well with every system. You need to know in advance which will be best for your specific needs. For example, some ISPs do not work well with Macintosh computers. Find out about any hardware or operating system requirements before you sign up.