Choosing an internet service provider - checklist

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Your internet service provider (ISP) will provide an essential business service. It is vital you choose one that can provide the broadband service you need.

  • Establish what you need. Will you be connecting a single computer or your entire network? You will need a faster broadband connection if it is to be shared.
  • Evaluate how much data you need to upload. Cloud computing and remote access services often require good upload speeds, but cheaper connections are designed mainly for downloads.
  • Determine what type of connection you require: standard broadband or a faster fibre optic connection (if available near you). If fibre is available, it's a much quicker, more reliable option.
  • Steer clear of rock-bottom packages. These are rarely a good deal for business purposes, as they offer slower upload and download speeds.
  • Decide whether to get a business package. These usually provide faster connections and a higher level of service than consumer packages and are the better option for all but the smallest companies.
  • Check broadband providers and connection options in your area. You can use a website like Think Broadband to see what's available to you.
  • Consider how your internet needs may change in future. For instance, if your company grows, you may need to upgrade to a faster connection.
  • Investigate ISPs' reputations for speed and reliability. Read reviews online from sites like Broadband Choices. Many providers deliver a slower speed than that advertised.
  • Compare the cost of different broadband packages. Many providers offer introductory deals, so check what their prices will rise to. Watch for extra charges for things like line rental, too.
  • Check the contract carefully. A year's contract is common, but some providers will sign you up for 18 months. Make sure you can upgrade during this period if you think your requirements will change.
  • Decide whether you need a service level agreement (SLA). This guarantees you a certain level of broadband reliability. Packages with an SLA usually cost more, but provide greater reliability.
  • Check what support you will get. Most providers offer telephone support and online chat, but the quality can vary.
  • Check what security measures they provide to protect your company from viruses, malware and hacking. Some packages come with free security software.
  • Get recommendations from your IT supplier, advisers and contacts. Broadband performance sometimes varies by area, so it can be a good idea to check with businesses nearby.

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