You formed your business so you could earn money doing something you are passionate about. Overhead costs to run your business are inevitable, but you want to get the best deals because you don’t want to spend all your profits just trying to keep afloat! That includes finding the best Internet deals for your business. In today’s world, commerce is almost entirely online.
At minimum, businesses who don’t accept credit cards suffer without online point of sale machines. Many businesses rely on online services and portals to reach customers. Forms and documents are also becoming almost exclusively online. For these reasons and more, small businesses need Internet.
What you don’t need is to overpay. Finding the best high speed Internet option for your small business is easy when you know what to look for.
Figuring Out How Much Bandwidth You Need
One of the most important terms you’ll run across is “broadband.” Many people mistake this term to mean the same thing as speed but it’s not quite as simple as that. Broadband enables Internet speed by giving data space to transmit. Data transmits in groups called packets, and wider bands allow more data to travel.
There are lots of ways data is used around a small business. There are a lot of devices offices use that require WiFi, such as:
- Point of sale credit card machines
- Printers and scanners
- Webcams and microphones
- Cell phones
- Security cameras and alarms
Your small business may have some or all of these devices operating on your Internet connection, and they all use some of the bandwidth from your broadband. Some devices use more than others, and you want to make sure you have enough bandwidth for all of them to transmit data back and forth. This data may be as simple as a command to print a document or as complex as a video conference call.
Every interaction begins with an upload, the request to go to a specific website or view your email in an app. Then your device downloads the response, showing you the graphics that form the site. This exchange of downloads and uploads repeats constantly. The difference is in how data-intensive the requests and responses are.
Sending an email or browsing a website isn’t very data-intensive. Neither is accepting orders online and converting them into shipments. Devices like printer/scanners, cell phones, tablets, and point of sale machines might at most be file sharing. Collectively, they might use a chunk of bandwidth, so it’s important to include them in your estimates, but individually they don’t use much.
However, if your business relies on conferencing with colleagues or students, the use of video calling means more uploading and downloading. Video is one of the most intensive uses of bandwidth in business applications, so if your business relies on it, be prepared to invest in a fast, reliable Internet plan.
VOIP in the Office
Many business Internet plans bundle with voice-over-IP, also known as VOIP, to provide digital phone lines. The only real caveat about VOIP for small businesses can be the data use. If all your telephone lines are online, that means the data that would usually be transmitted over your phone might be going through the Internet instead. If your small business will include VOIP, this is something you may need to plan for.
The benefits of VOIP are numerous and worth any extra data planning. VOIP calls are always encrypted, which means your calls with clients are always secure and private. Systems can usually be managed easily by a single administrator or manager, but have a lot of flexibility. You can add as few or as many lines as you need whenever you want instead of having to call the phone company to come every time you need a line.
This makes VOIP one of the most cost-effective business Internet options for growing businesses, seasonal businesses, and businesses that rely on security and privacy. Since many small business Internet providers pair VOIP with Internet service, it’s also very easy to reduce your business Internet costs even more by getting discount rates on both services in a bundle.
Shopping Around for Deals
After you’ve considered your needs and use, it’s time to look around at small business Internet providers in your area. Since you are running a business, this is more like looking for a supplier than when you’re shopping for home Internet. You are entering into a partnership with another business that keeps yours running, so you want to look for more than what most people look for in a home connection – although this same advice could also be applied at home!
To find the best small business phone and Internet service provider in your area, you first need to know who services your area. Service providers often vary by location, with only satellite Internet being available everywhere in the US with a southern view. Products, services, and speeds may vary as well, as urban areas have more infrastructure, including fiber optic. Taxes and fees might also vary from state to state.
A small business Internet connection relies on upload speeds being around the same as download speeds. The technical term for this is parity. The best small business Internet providers should offer the best parity in their plans, so your uploads are as fast as your downloads.
This is more significant for a small business that uses Internet than it is for a residence, because small businesses generally upload more data with more frequency. There are various online speed tests that measure parity in addition to download speeds. Whether you have many VOIP lines, take a lot of credit cards over your connection, or have frequent conference calls, it’s important to make sure your upload speeds are on par with your download speeds.
Your Business Internet Partner
When you are looking for business Internet, you want to know that it’s going to service your business. That means having reliable Internet that doesn’t go down. Unfortunately, life happens, and occasionally you might still need help, even with the most reliable Internet. In this way, your service provider is like a business partner, and you want to make sure you work well together.
Business Internet service providers often require contracts for their services, but they are special business contracts called Service-Level Agreements. In addition to the rate and length of the contract, SLAs also outline customer service expectations. Having a good rapport with your Internet company is important, so having good customer service is a must.
If your Internet experiences disruptions or outages, technicians and service representatives are typically in reserve for business Internet accounts, which means issues, questions, and even help understanding your connection are all addressed quickly. Some SLAs even provide coverage should your business lose money due to an outage.
Since SLAs are contracts, and the service is a business expense, you want to research each company individually to get a feel for what is in its SLA. The best way to narrow this down is to check out customer service reviews and see how other customers, both business and residential, rate their experiences with tech support. This simple step can give you a snapshot of how a company might treat you, and thus how reliable a partner it could make.
You Want the Best
Your small business is your life, your livelihood, and your passion. You don’t simply want the fastest Internet provider for your business. You want to be confident that your Internet will always be on, and that any issues will be resolved quickly. You want to know that your tech support will be friendly, courteous and informed. You want your Internet to be your most reliable employee.
Now that you know some of the things to look for, shop around your area, even if you already have Internet service at your small business. It’s always a good idea to keep up with what’s available in your area, especially as providers expand their services to new places. Technology improves every day, leading to faster speeds, closer parity, and more capability. Nothing is too good for your small business, except paying too much for your small business Internet connection.