We know that starting or owning a small business requires making a lot of important decisions. And choosing the right Internet service provider (ISP) can be a great feat… unless you come armed with insider knowledge!

Many small businesses, especially entrepreneurs, may be inclined to adopt residential-based Internet services such as DSL or cable to keep costs low. However, many quickly switch to a business-grade service once they’ve encountered unreliable connections, slow speeds and unresponsive customer support centers.

A common question broadband Internet users have about business broadband is: “Why am I paying so much for business Internet? I have 20 Mbps download speeds at home from the cable company and only pay $50.”

That is a very good question. Here’s the reason.

Business Internet Vs.  Residential Internet

Business grade service offers guaranteed bandwidth to the customer and its performance is backed by a business Service Level Agreement (SLA). If the service doesn’t perform to agreed-upon standards, there are remedies.  Most often these are bill credits.

In contrast, residential Internet functions as a “best effort” service and only promises to perform “up to” a specified speed. If the bandwidth is unavailable or performing slower than intended, there is not much the customer can do about it.

For example, up to 20 Mbps of residential Internet is sold to a home. However, as many as 200 other homes in that same area could have also been promised up to 20 Mbps.

The problem is that the source node servicing this area may be designed to serve an aggregated bandwidth of 100 Mbps. So if you’re utilizing bandwidth the same time as the other users on that node, and the total combined bandwidth exceeds 100 Mbps, then you will experience “slow broadband.”  Residential carriers count on the fact that their users will not all use bandwidth at the same time. But more often than not, use experience declines due to congestion.

Business and residential Internet also differ in how they are used. Business services deliver symmetrical bandwidth, such as 20 Mbps x 20 Mbps. Because consumers typically use more bandwidth for streaming, these services will offer much higher download speeds than upload speeds. A common tier is 15 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload.

Choosing your ISP:

Before choosing an Internet service provider for your company, make sure you understand your business needs and how the ISP will fulfill those needs and help you succeed.

For businesses, applications like VoIP (Voice over Internet), CRM, and cloud computing, important for the functions of everyday operations, need a reliable Internet service. Real time services such as VoIP and video conferencing will not only require high uptime, but also high packet delivery, low latency and low jitter, and traffic prioritization via Quality of Service (QoS).

If a business only needs to surf the Internet and check email, a residential type may be a good value. But if more robust business applications are utilized, then a commercial-grade service will be needed.

Here are a couple of criteria you should consider before signing on with an ISP:

  • Committed Information Rate. With 100% Committed Information Rate, the user has full dedicated throughput.
  • Look for a service with 99.99% uptime or greater. Uptime defines the percentage of time your service is available and working (the opposite of downtime)
  • Packet delivery. A high quality business service will guarantee 99.5% packet delivery. Packet delivery is defined as the percentage of data packets that successfully transfer.

It all boils down to: How important is Internet service to your business?

In this modern world, it is highly likely your business will rely on business applications for productivity, in addition to interacting with your customers online. And when it comes to your customers, the best customer experience reflects positively on your brand and your employees.

If residential is all you need, that’s fine. When you do decide your business needs a higher caliber service, you‘ll be ready to evaluate them,

jenny-bourbielAuthor: Jenny Bourbiel is Vice President of Marketing for Skyriver. She oversees marketing and customer relationship programs for Skyriver, the leading fixed wireless broadband provider. As a lifetime marketer and technology enthusiast, she bonds smart customer insights and creative thinking to connect people with Skyriver services in profound and lasting ways. You can contact her directly at jbourbiel@skyriver.net.

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