Are you on the hunt for the best internet provider? If so, you might want to stop and think about what you’re actually looking for. Selecting an internet provider doesn’t necessarily have to be a daunting task, but there are some major factors you should consider before making a final decision. Most of these factors are simple and can be easily determined by considering your personal preferences. However, if there’s more to your situation–maybe you’re running a business or hosting a local area network–then you’ll have to weigh a few particular technical aspects. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the more simple factors and then dive into the complicated ones (if they are relevant to you).
The Meat and Potatoes
- Availability and accountability: Easily above all else is the importance of availability. It doesn’t matter how fast your internet speed is, how much space you have to work with or how much money you are saving–if your internet provider isn’t available when you need it, you’ll inevitably encounter issues that will have you regretting your patronage. It is highly recommended that your internet provider has 24/7 customer service and is willing to take responsibility for when things go wrong.
- Speed: Of course, speed would have to make the list of fundamentals. Nobody wants to spend 30 minutes buffering a 5 minute video in high-quality, and it’s never fun having to stare aimlessly at your monitor as you wait for your incoming e-mails to arrive. A typically “quick” internet will download files at around 1 Mb per second (note that there is a difference between the Mbps of internet and the actual speed of downloading a file).
- Cost: This is another no-brainer. For some people, money isn’t an issue. For others (or better yet, for most), being fiscally conscious is paramount. The simplest approach is to at least make sure you are getting what you pay for. Do some critical price comparisons when shopping for an internet provider so you don’t find out later that you could’ve been getting better speed and customer service at a lower price.
- Customer service: Although this does tie in well with availability and accountability, you should still take some extra precautions when it comes to customer service. The easiest way to go about this is to call up the customer service line of an internet provider that you are currently considering and see how long you have to sit on hold and if the representatives carry themselves professionally. If you’re satisfied with the results, then that’s all you need to know!
The “Big Guns”
Okay, so you’ve considered some of the essentials of selecting an internet provider. The average Joe might be done at this point, but if you’re someone who is running a business or has some other unique situation, then you’ll want to weigh a few more critical factors.
Money, money, money!
What is most relevant here is cost because, well, it’s different for a business owner. There’s no doubt that you need to get what you pay for, but you also need to be a lot more microscopic when it comes to comparisons. Since you obviously won’t be looking at dial-up, we’ll examine your three top options and their corresponding average prices:
- DSL: A digital subscriber line typically works well for many small businesses because its speed is efficient and its price is reasonable. Business-class prices can range from $30 to $90 per month and, depending on your proximity to your ISP’s exchange, you can reach speeds up to 15 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads.
- Cable: Over the years, cable has surpassed DSL in popularity mainly because of its fantastic speeds and flexibility. With cable, you can reach speeds up to 100 Mbps for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads. The only downside is the price can get high and it can also vary–you’ll be forking out a number between $70 and $300 depending on how fast you really want to fly.
- Fiber: There is perhaps no better efficient internet connection type than fiber-optics. With speeds reaching 150 Mbps and monthly pricing ranging from $70 to $200, it can be faster than cable and cheaper! The only catch is that this type of connection is limited because not every internet provider out there supports it. You will have to do some research about your area to find out if your company can benefit from fiber-optics.
Also, when it comes to costs, make sure you look into installation fees. If you run a large business and are looking to support a large server, internet providers can differ greatly in how much they will charge you to come on your property and set everything up. Again, if you want to save the maximum amount of money, then you must ask a provider plenty of questions!
Choosing a Dynamic or Static IP Address
If you are indeed setting up a connection for a business, you’ll eventually have to decide between a dynamic or static IP address. As with everything else, there are pros and cons to both. Most internet providers will assign you a dynamic IP address simply because it makes it easier on them. You’re safe to settle on this if you enjoy the luxury of not having to configure your IP, but if your situation demands a broader setup such as hosting servers and remote connections, then it would be ideal to go with a static IP address. So basically, it’s a choice between simplicity and customization.
Hosting Your Website with Adequate Space
A lot of internet providers these days offer web-hosting options that can be very helpful for your business. If you know for a fact your business will have a website in the future but are not very knowledgeable about website design/hosting, then it’s paramount that you do substantial research before shopping around. If your provider does offer website hosting, make sure it at least offers enough space for your content before you pull the trigger on the deal.
 http://www.usa.gov/topics/science/communications/internet/service-provider.shtml (Retrieved 5-7-2012)
 http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/246479/how_to_choose_an_isp_for_your_small_business.html (Retrieved 5-7-2012)