8 Things to Consider Before Changing Your Business Internet Service Provider
We’ve all been there.
You’ve been with your current Internet Service Provider (ISP) for years & you get an email/phone call/visit from a competitor offering you better service, more bandwidth and more features for less than what you currently pay.
It’s a great deal that you simply cannot pass up, so you sign the paperwork to get the ball rolling. Sounds pretty straight forward, right? Wrong.
Changing your business ISP is not as simple as changing your ISP at home. There are a number of important factors that need to be taken into consideration when changing your company’s internet service provider and failing to carefully plan the transition can disrupt business operations.
Too often we receive a phone call from a business that goes something like this:
“We were with [ISP X] and changed to [ISP Y] last week and we still have no internet access or email – HELP!”
How can you prevent this from being you? Here are 8 things to think about before signing up with a new ISP or at least one day before your new ISP service kicks in.
- IP Address/Addresses – An IP address is basically the internet equivalent of a physical street address: it’s how other computers on the internet know how to find you. If you’re hosting your own email, web or other server, then you require a static IP address. This means you’re assigned a specific address (or usually, 5 specific addresses) from your ISP which you can then assign to different servers or devices that need to be accessible to others from the internet. In most cases, that’s not necessary, and there’s no need for a static address, which would mean it’s assigned by DHCP from your ISP. However, the need for a static IP address is a critical factor that a lot of companies overlook, and it’s not always simple (or possible) to change from DHCP (typically the ISPs default) to Static addresses.
- Firewall/Router – This is a device that sits at the “edge” of your network, keeping bad things out and handling traffic routing for your outbound data. If you are on a DSL connection, your firewall/router may be provided by your ISP, so if you’re changing to a different hosting type, you may need to purchase a new firewall with the move. Either way, this device holds your old ISP’s information and will need to be updated with the information for your new ISP. Other things to be taken into consideration are your firewall/router capabilities & configurations. Do you have the password to access this device? Do you know what rules are on the device (rules control traffic through the device) or if any of those rules will need to be changed with the ISP changeover? Is this device adequate for your new internet connection? A 3-5 year old device may not be able to handle the amount of data you can put through it on a fancy new Fiber connection, so it might just need to be replaced completely.
- Hosting – Where is your website/email hosted? This goes hand-in-hand with the IP address issue previously mentioned. If you’re hosting your own mail/website, you’ll need to make sure that you update your IP address information accordingly as it will change once you switch. Equally important is planning to move your email/website services elsewhere if they are hosted by your current ISP. (FYI: This is a great reason why you shouldn’t be hosting your business email/website with your ISP in the first place so that you can be fluid on changes like this without major disruption.)
- Lead Time – Whether you’re changing ISPs, starting a business or moving a business, it’s important to keep in mind that most ISPs have a 30-60 day lead time to bring a new location online. It’s imperative to plan ahead in these situations and not put off until it’s too late.
- Customer Service/Support – This is one that’s often overlooked. It’s hard to know what the customer service/support will be like at a new ISP, but asking for references is a great way to try and find out. From what we’ve experienced, AT&T DSL Support is pretty terrible while Cbeyond and Cox are both fairly good when it comes to support and repairs.
- Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) – VoIP is a great technology that can decrease your phone bills, but you need to make sure that it’s supported by your new ISP and Firewall. Frequently this is sold as part of your internet package – Cbeyond and Cox both have packages of Data & Voice for reasonable rates – but if your VoIP is with CBeyond and you want to move to Cox, you have to make sure that Cox’s VoIP package matches what you’re getting currently. Or if you have a 3rd party VoIP provider, check with them on their requirements before signing that new ISP contract.
- Bandwidth Needs – Beyond price, bandwidth is usually the driving force behind ISP changes. However, it’s important to know how much bandwidth you need and whether what you’re getting suits your business. If you’re not hosting anything, and your main internet usage is email/web access, then your main concern is download speed.
- DSL – is a fairly dated technology at this point. Not that it’s terrible, but it has its limitations. In addition to the subpar AT&T DSL Support, our experience with DSL for our customers has usually been pretty poor and unreliable (AT&T business U-Verse being the exception to this rule). It is usually the least expensive option, which is why it gets traction. Normally you get ~ 1.5Mb down and a paltry amount of upload, sometimes no better than a dial-up modem.
- Cable – is basically the same service many of us have at home, but provided to a business with additional “business-class features.” Cable is one of the better deals on internet access, where you can get a good deal of download bandwidth, but are usually limited on your upload bandwidth, which could or could not matter to you depending on what your main use for your internet access is. A typical Cable internet service plan is 20Mb down and 5Mb up, but both of those numbers can be increased for a higher monthly cost.
- Fiber – is one of the newer technologies being rolled out in San Diego. Most providers sell it as a “buy as much as you need” package, and it’s almost always symmetrical (meaning upload and download are equal). If Fiber available in your area, we highly recommend looking into it. An up-front construction fee may be involved (as Fiber may be available nearby, but not necessarily run to your building), but it’s the best option if you have a growing business and you think you’ll need more bandwidth in the future. You can choose 10Mb symmetrical today, and if you need 100Mb in a year, there’s no change needed on your end, your ISP is able to just “turn up your speed” and it’s immediately faster. Fiber can provide just about any amount of bandwidth that you need, but is often sold in 5Mb minimum blocks and is usually symmetrical.
- T1 (and similar) – These are (usually) a highly robust connection that can be paired for more data. Most T1 lines have been in place for quite a while and you can just “tap” into them at a location as they’re pretty much everywhere. They’re not the cheapest way to go, but you get high reliability with guaranteed bandwidth for a reasonable price. If the choice is T1 or Fiber, Fiber is the way to go. Each T1 is 1.5Mb, can be combined for more bandwidth.
- Service Setup – Always remember that the tech sent out by your ISP is merely there to ensure that THEIR connection works, not that YOU are up and running on their new connection. The latter part is almost always up to you.
As you can see, there are quite a few important things to consider when making an ISP change as a business. If you have any questions, or need any assistance with planning your ISP switch, we’re more than happy to help out.