NCET helps you explore business and technology.
By Andy Jorgensen
Is the Internet the lifeblood of your business? Increasingly, the answer to that question is “uh, yeah.” Let’s lay out a broadband selection process and take a look at our options.
- Identify needs
Bandwidth – The first thing to do is to figure out just how much capacity you need. It’s probably more than you would think because when you run out, it’s not pretty. It’s important to consider that your data pipe is a two-way street, to mix metaphors. The number that people usually refer to is download speed. That is actually the capacity to receive data from the Internet. It can be just as important to consider the outbound capacity of the line in many business use cases. The upload speed is the capacity to send data to the Internet. If your company uses Internet-based file storage services or communications services, the upload speed can be critical. One thing about Internet Protocol networks is that when one direction of your connection gets full, the other direction slows way down even if it has capacity to spare.
Fault tolerance – How long can your business afford to be without Internet? Your average Internet connection comes with few guarantees and if you need better service than that, be prepared to pay for it.
Service level – This is where the major distinctions can be made between service offerings. You should ask if a business Internet service comes with an SLA, or Service Level Agreement. Ask for a copy. Read it with great scrutiny. It should have a clear, quantifiable description of their commitment to keeping you connected. For example, 99.99% percent uptime calculated monthly, or guaranteed maximum 4-hours resolution. Lower cost options will not have such an agreement and will simply state that they will make their “best-effort” at delivering something close to the billed speed and if you don’t see it, or if your connection goes down, that’s just how it goes sometimes.
- Identify your options
Find out who provides what service to your address. Connect Nevada (connectnv.org) has been a great resource for that. I would also recommend contacting the phone and cable company, because you’ll want quotes from them, and talk to neighboring businesses.
If the Internet is central to your business, be prepared to pay. The lowest cost options don’t include any service guarantees. If you don’t need much bandwidth, but it has to be reliable, a phone company might have some good options. A common case would be point-of-sale systems. Older technologies like T1 lines are reliable, if slow by modern standards.
Andy Jorgensen does IT and Quality Control at Rehearsal, a Reno developer of software that allows teams to practice, coach, and collaborate, and is co-VP of Creative Services for NCET. NCET is a member-supported non-profit that produces educational and networking events to help people explore business and technology.