Pretty frequently, we are involved in setting up new internet connections for our clients. Part of the process is always which service provider do I use? Well, the biggest factor in that decision is always going to be availability. Aside from the traditional enterprise-grade services such as T1’s, fiber Ethernet, and other leased line services, most small businesses can only select from the cable and telephone providers that serve their area. Hopefully, you’ll find the information below useful if you find yourself having to select a new provider at a new location or are looking for something better than your current solution.
DSL: By far, DSL is the most available internet service. Since it runs on existing phone lines, it’s almost everywhere already. DSL does have its limitations though. The most publicized one is that its available speed is lacking. In a time when speeds of 20 Mbps and higher are commonplace, most DSL providers cap out at 7. Additionally, this speed is generally only available if you’re close to the phone company’s facility. If your office is in an outlying area, you may only be able to get speeds of 1 Mbps. DSL is also susceptible to many of the same problems that phone lines in general have. For instance, if your phone line has static, your DSL is either going to be unreliable, or drop in speed. The bottom-line is that DSL is only a good option when no other wired solution is available.
Cable: Our experience with cable has almost always been with Comcast. They have impressed me with their responsiveness to customer needs and have been very flexible when it comes to installing the service at an office. Almost every time we have called them to inquire about a new install, they send someone to the site within a week to determine if they can do it, how much it’s going to cost them, and if they need a “contribution” (installation fee) from the client. So far, at about 90% of the sites we inquire about, they are able to install without any contribution. Cable speeds generally start at about 15Mbps and for a reasonable price can be as high as 100 Mbps or more. Since they also use existing lines, it’s very widely available as well. There are a couple of downsides to cable though. The actual speed you receive will vary almost constantly. The cable provider has a very high-capacity line to your area, and splits it to all of the service points from there, so if there’s a heavy user in your area, it might impact you. Your provider may also put a cap on how much you can use in a given month as well. Generally, these downsides don’t have a real impact on the users. In our experience, Cable has been better than DSL in every single measure.
FiOS: Verizon’s FiOS service is hard to complain about. It has very high speeds available, up to 300 Mbps, at prices that are astonishingly low per Mbps. It is very reliable and has almost every option you could want out of internet service. However, availability is its biggest downside. If the FiOS website says it is available at your location, you should get it. If not, forget it. We recently moved a client to a new site which was literally behind a house with FiOS service. After calling their call center, our rep., a personal contact who works at Verizon, and finally the head of the local engineering division, we got nowhere. We spent hours talking to them, offering to pay the installation cost, all of this for maybe 20 feet of cable. Needless to say, we gave up on them and had Comcast installed in a couple weeks. Again, FiOS is great if their site says you can get it.
Cellular/Wireless: With all of the ads for high-speed wireless and all the talk of 4G, it’s easy to get caught in the hype. Wireless internet has its place, but most likely, it’s not as your office’s primary internet connection. Like Cable, it’s a shared medium. If others in the area are using the service heavily, it affects you directly. Conditions such as weather, building construction, and even if there’s a big truck in front of your office all factor in the quality of your service. But in some cases, you don’t have much of a choice. Some locations are stuck between choosing an enterprise-class line that they can’t afford, or wireless, with nothing in-between. If you find yourself in this position, it would serve you best to consult with professionals, like us, to make sure the service is going to meet your needs. Many providers design these services with consumers in mind first, and when business needs come into play, they just don’t care. An example of this is Verizon’s LTE service; with this service, you don’t even get a public IP address. To a consumer this isn’t a big deal, but many businesses require a public IP address for simple things like remote desktop or internal website access. If you find yourself in a position of only having enterprise-class service or wireless available, you might consider moving your office before you settle for the problems that come along with wireless.
Whichever solution you choose, you’ll probably have to live with for a long time. Picking the right solution will save you time, energy, and the headache that comes along with picking the wrong one. If you find yourself having to make this decision and want a professional to help you make the right decision, please contact us.