If you are in the market to purchase or upgrade internet service, prepare to be bombarded with a lot of technical and marketing terms.

The first thing to keep in mind is that broadband and high-speed are used pretty much interchangeably to describe any type of internet connection that provides speeds faster than traditional dial-up access. Or what is now known as the dark ages.

If you are lucky, you get a choice of what type of internet service provider you can get. For the small to midsize business market the most common are DSL, Cable, Fiber, and Satellite.

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is usually the cheapest of these options. The speeds can be a lot slower than Cable or Fiber, and it fluctuates depending on how far you are from the local telco office or POP (point of presence).

Cable is usually the next option price wise and has speeds that can cover most business needs. However, it’s a shared medium – meaning the infrastructure used to transport your services are shared by everyone in your neighborhood and speeds can vary depending on the nearby businesses, Netflix and gaming habits of your neighbors.

Fiber is a great option but can be costly and is not widely available.

Satellite is for the desperate souls who can’t get anything else but is better than dialup. These services are great options for small and midsized companies because they usually offer fast download speeds at a cheap price point. The downside to these services is the number of outages, the Service Level Agreement (SLA), and type of support you get are not as good as a dedicated business line.

Here are some other considerations when choosing internet service:

What type of download/upload speeds will you need?

A company hosting servers and services for their customers will need different features and services than small and midsized businesses that use the internet for mostly browsing the web and checking email. Make a list of all the things your internet service will need to do. For example:

• How many people will be using the internet service? Both internal and externally?
• Email?
• Hosted Voice over IP phone system?
• Video conferencing?
• File storage like Dropbox?
• Do you host your own servers and offer services to your customers?

It is important to keep in mind that while upload speeds for most businesses does not need to be as fast as the download speed, it is important for using services like Dropbox, video conferencing, and VoIP since you will be uploading your traffic to these services.

How will an outage impact your business?

You should understand how bad an internet outage will impact your business. Service providers will inundate you with the message of how great and reliable their network is. However, the truth is … all carriers have outages. What matters is how often, their support process, and how quick they fix the issue. The type of internet service you have will dictate your Service Level Agreement (SLA) with your provider and what type of support you will get. You should also look online to see reviews of the provider you are looking at and find out what their customers are saying about them.

How secure is the network?

Security of the network should be a major concern for any company that has systems attached to the Internet – even if it is only on dialup. Firewalls, Anti-Virus, Anti-malware, and good end-user training is something everyone should have as part of their company policies. With the proliferation of ransom-ware, malware, and viruses (yes, even on Macs) company systems are at more of a risk than ever before. A good IT consultant, periodic network checks, and knowledgeable end users will pay for themselves even though you may never see it.

Here’s what to do next:

  1. Make a list of all the ways you will use the internet, and how many people will be accessing it.
  2. Figure out what providers are available in your area.
  3. Find a good IT consultant. If you don’t have one on staff, having an expert guiding you will make a huge difference.
  4. Review your list of needs with either the IT consultant, or the internet providers in your area.
  5. Ask about network outages, what their support process is and how quickly they fix the issue.
  6. Secure your network. And don’t forget to train everyone on the importance of network protection.