What to check when choosing a broadband supplier

Despite government pledges to provide super-fast internet access to users throughout the UK, research has revealed that a quarter of businesses in this country don't have a reliable broadband connection

This makes finding the best broadband supplier a vital task for every organisation.

However, despite broadband being the lifeblood of most businesses, companies often put little thought into choosing their broadband service. The result? Poor customer service, rubbish support or uncompetitive pricing that leaves such companies struggling with an inappropriate broadband connection.

Here are five key areas to check when choosing your business broadband provider:

1. How's their customer service?

When something goes wrong, can you get hold of someone on the phone or via online chat who has the technical knowledge to actually help? Are they just pulling your details up on a computer or are you always going to speak to someone who knows you and your business?

Never underestimate the value of a good account manager and the difference they can make to the level of service you receive.

2. Can you connect several locations?

If your company has more than one office or branch, or you're considering expansion, check whether your broadband provider will be able to support you across multiple sites. Ideally, you'll probably want to create one network between all your locations (called a wide area network, or WAN) to share files and data, and allow everyone to access the same resources.

It takes technical expertise to set up a WAN (ask your IT supplier), but it helps if your internet service provider understands how they work.

3. Do they understand Voice over IP (VoIP)?

For a long time, VoIP promised to introduce cheap or free telephone calls to everyone. It's taken the technology some time to catch up, but using VoIP can still cut your telephone bills considerably.

However, VoIP relies on your internet connection, so it's a good idea to find a broadband supplier which understands how VoIP works and why you might want to use it. Do they offer you advice about how to use it in your business? Can they supply a VoIP service for you alongside broadband without either service being effected by the other's bandwidth usage?

4. What does the service level agreement (SLA) say?

Make sure your expectations of service match what your broadband supplier promises. An SLA is a document that forms part of the contract between your company and its broadband supplier. It sets out what level of service you can expect, how much downtime is permitted before you receive compensation, how long you will have to wait for problems to be addressed, and so on.

5. How secure is the connection?

The internet is the source of many threats to your company's IT security, and if you're sending or receiving sensitive data you need to know you can trust your broadband supplier to keep hackers at bay.

Even the cheapest connections should include virus, malware and denial of service (DDoS) basic protection. Look for a firewall (to block hackers and malicious internet traffic) ? many packages also include free security software.

Written with expert input from Tony Tugulu, ex CEO of Powernet (now part of Timico).

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