Connecting your business to the internet shouldn’t require you to learn a thousand acronyms or feel inundated with technical terms, says Brian Timperley, co-founder and MD of Turrito Networks.
Any savvy business owner, according to Timperley, knows that without connectivity they aren’t going to make much of a market impact. So they head out into the sea of internet service providers and connectivity solutions to find someone who can support their growing business while ensuring they can do things like, say, download their emails or use their cloud-based software solutions and backup their data. What they find is an ocean of acronyms, technical terminology and complex contracts.
Nobody should have to learn an entirely new industry in order to build their business, so here are nine things – according to Timperley – that you need to know, so you can ask the right questions and understand the answers:
- Know the numbers – establish how many users in your business are accessing the internet, helps you select the right option. The rule of thumb is: 160k per user, or 250k per user if you are highly Cloud-based. The internet version of an apple a day for a healthier internet. For example: If you have 20 users and are very Cloud-based, 20x250k = 5MB. So a 5MB link would be a sufficient minimum in this example.
- Know what you use the internet for – are you browsing or banking? Are you emailing or using applications? Have a clear understanding of your internet habits so your specifications are correct and you have the right bandwidth to cater for it. To effectively use the minimum bandwidth amounts, make sure internet usage is kept to business-critical usage only.
- VoIP and Hosted PABX? Voice over IP (VoIP) basically means your phone calls go over a data network, rather than a traditional telephone network. This means cheaper call rates, and if you use the right service providers, excellent call quality. Be careful, lots of companies try and sell VoIP over basic ADSL or broadband internet links… this is not recommended if calls are important to your business, as call quality will be severely impacted.
- Are you in the right lane? Service Providers can sell you a an internet link that is likened to a multi-lane high speed highway, or an internet link that resembles a dust road covered in rocks and potholes. The same as in life… if it sounds too cheap to be true, it probably is. Be careful of the promises made to your business, if a service provider offers you guarantees, hold them to task. Bandwidth can be sold as cheap or as expensive as a provider wants to… the difference will always be in the experience.
- Tell me about your support? Find out exactly how quickly someone can assist you if things go wrong… and trust us, they will go wrong at one point or another. Is their claim of 24/7 really all day, every day? Or do they knock off at five for a beer while you watch your business circle the drain? Make sure customer service is central to their business, and they have a great track record as such.
- What is a contention ratio? Ask the questions; what are your maximum and minimum contention ratios? This effectively means what are the lowest speeds you can guarantee me across your internet link? Some providers will sell one highway lane to 4 car owners, and another will sell the same one highway lane to 100,000 car owners. Your experience on these 2 highways will be dramatically different. That is a contention ratio… the amount of congestion allowed on a highway at any given time. Some providers limit their highways to low traffic, others let the traffic come to a grinding halt.
- What kind of redundancy can you offer? Ask your service provider if they offer “redundancy”? This means an alternative internet highway for you to use, if your primary internet highway is closed or unavailable. You can use this alternative highway to get to your same destination, while your primary highway is being repaired. If uptime and availability are important to your business, invest in an alternative internet link / redundancy. This change from one to the other should be automatic.
- Acceptable Usage Policy (AUP). You may have been told you are on an uncapped, unshaped link which you can use as much as you like, but suddenly your speeds seem much slower than usual. Welcome to the AUP (Acceptable Usage Policy). Many broadband providers throttle their users after a certain amount of data has been used. This is typically to prevent abusive usage of broadband services, where some users download content 24/7 and use up unreasonable amounts of data. Ask what their AUP policy is, and when it kicks in? It’s important to know if you have enough data for your business to function effectively before you are subject to an AUP. Consumer services will reach their AUP far earlier than a business-class internet service.
- Which brings us to contracts – the price you’ve been offered for your 200Mbps Fibre line may be amazing today, but you’re locked into it for three years. Just remember that the cost of internet is coming down every year, so in two years you’ll probably be paying more than everyone else, for less than everyone else. Try and get a 12 month contract or less, and ask for flexibility to increase your bandwidth for the same spend should pricing come down.
This article originally appeared in TechItOut