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Ask an IT Guy: Which Internet Service Is Best for My Business?

Businesses rely on the Internet today more than ever. Especially for companies that use the Cloud. Having a reliable, fast connection can mean the difference between processing 10 orders today, or 100.

How do you pick the right Internet service for your needs?

Not all Internet connections are created equal. And we aren’t just talking price either. There are so many providers and service options out there for most businesses in the Greater Los Angeles area. If your business is in a rural area, there may not be many options at all. Besides location, fulfilling your business’s needs depends on more than your favorite brand. Let’s get to the bottom of how to pick your next internet service contract.

We spoke to John Leete, one of VC3, Inc.’s CIOs (Chief Information Officers), about internet service options.

How Much Bandwidth Does My Business Need?

"More bandwidth is always better. If you ask me, ‘How much bandwidth should I get?’ I’ll always say, ‘As much as you can!’ It just depends on what’s offered in your area and how much your budget allows.”

While the rule of thumb isn’t a one-size-fits-all, John has some ballpark numbers to follow:

“The recommendation we start with is half a megabyte (MB) per person. If you have 10 people in your company and you have 5MBs from your service provider, you should be fine. But if you had 30 people and only 5MBs of bandwidth, you'd run very slow.  

Think of bandwidth like a road. Slow Internet is like the freeway at rush hour – too many cars trying to use too few lanes of traffic all at once.”

You can do a little math to figure out how much bandwidth your company will need. In general, you can base it on the number of people that’ll be using it and number of in-office devices. Other things to keep in mind include: Number of mobile devices, data intensity (web based applications, video streaming, uploading, and video conferencing), and lastly, file sharing, collaborating, and downloading.

“Half a megabyte per person is the general rule, but there are other things to consider. Do you have web-based applications, or is it all internal? Office 365 is a perfect example. With cloud-based email, like Office 365, your email server is being hosted by Microsoft outside of your organization. That means that every time you click on your email, it has to go get the email, then come back to show you the email. If you have enough bandwidth, that’s no problem. But if you don’t, you have to wait, click on an email, and wait for it to load.”

Have your IT professional look at your internet activity throughout the day for a week or so. Understanding how your business uses the Internet is important. The results will guide you to understanding how much bandwidth you need.

Again, we suggest no less than half a megabyte (or 500KBs) per person.

Do Some Industries Need More Bandwidth Than Others?

There isn’t an industry that needs more bandwidth than the next. What matters most is how the individual company uses the Internet. Today, everyone uses the internet for something. Very few companies are self-contained completely. But depending on their systems, some might be more Internet-intensive.

“One of my clients is a manufacturing company. They have a main application that manages their inventory. It’s the brain for their whole company. They used to have a server in house, but then the application provider offered a hosted or cloud version, and they switched to it. Now the application company takes care of the hardware and the updates, and the client pays a monthly fee. They access everything through the cloud. When everyone is pulling reports, and accessing the system at the same time, their traffic becomes more congested and they may need more bandwidth.”

Since everything is going through the Internet and not staying within their in-house system, it’s not an industry thing. It’s about the way that their system works.”

When you’re figuring out how much bandwidth you’ll need, think about how your system is used. Do you use, or are you planning to use, cloud applications?

What Are My Options for a Secondary, or Failover, Internet Source?

In a nutshell, a failover system is a backup, or secondary, internet connection. If you don’t have a failover plan, it’s time to ask yourself why.  If your main internet goes down, wouldn’t it be great to know that your employees can keep working? In IT-speak, it’s “Internet Connection Redundancy.” Basically, it means that you won’t have all your eggs in one basket. Having a failover Internet connection is always recommended.

Additional Wired Internet Carrier

“Depending on how important the Internet is to your business, some companies choose to have two separate Internet carriers in case one goes down. This doubles the monthly cost of Internet though. And with many carriers, the back bone is the same. Just because they are two different companies doesn’t mean they are on to different lines. If someone digs a ditch a mile from your office and they take out a line, both carriers would go down."

Wireless Internet Sources

"We recommend having a wireless Internet source as a failover option. It’s not nearly as powerful, but if the main Internet goes down, at least you’ll be limping along on the wireless until the main connection is back up. It can keep a few people working in the event of an outage.

Also, what affects wired connections won’t affect wireless and vice versa. Some wireless providers put a satellite on your roof. That satellite communicates with another satellite for Internet.  It's a good backup because it's cheaper than most wired options. There’s also cellular connections, which work like your phone’s hotspot, but businesses can buy much more robust connections."

As a backup, it’s important that it’s a different type of connection than your primary. If you have fixed wired Internet service, your backup could be satellite or cellular. Sometimes if you’re lucky, you can have two wired carriers that don’t run on the same line.

When sorting through your Internet options, consider your current needs and future needs. Are you moving to the cloud, will you need better upload and download speeds? What’s your plan if the main Internet goes down? Talk to your IT team about how your future business plans. How might they impact your Internet choices? Remember, this will likely be a 3-year Internet service contract. Take your time making your decision. The Internet isn't going anywhere, anytime soon.

Related: How to Review Your Phone and Internet Service Contract

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