An inadequate internet connection can be death to your business. Get it right, for survival’s sake. PAUL WALLBANK
By Paul Wallbank
A caller to last weekend’s ABC radio computer spot asked me why his office voice-over-internet connection was so poor. While it’s always difficult to diagnose these things on air, I was able to make a pretty good guess as to why.
One of the most common business problems is inadequate internet connections. Too many businesses struggle with a broadband plan that simply isn’t up to their needs.
Larger businesses usually start out with the best intentions, but the massive growth of internet traffic has overtaken their systems. Smaller businesses often try to make do with domestic connections, which were never intended for business use.
These systems usually struggle on for some time until the business decides to introduce something like a managed service, VoIP, or connect all their branch offices together. Then the system falls over.
Sizing an internet connection depends on the size and the needs of the business. As every business is unique, it’s difficult to say exactly what will work for your business.
This is one area that can vary dramatically between businesses. I like to allow 1Gb per month per employee. But this can blow out dramatically if there are specific needs, voice-over-internet, or you allow streaming music.
Keep in mind too that the capped plans for consumers, where the connection is slowed if you exceed the data allowance, aren’t suitable for businesses.
You have to bite the bullet and accept you will be charged for excess use. So it’s important to keep an eye on your internet bills.
Get at least a 1500kb/s connection. This will usually work fine for a business for up to 10 people. Beyond that, you’ll start to get complaints. The faster, the better though.
The A in ADSL stands for asynchronous. It means the download speed is faster than the upload speed. This doesn’t matter to the average web surfer as there’s usually around eight times more incoming than outgoing data.
In a business where offices are communicating with each other, staff are remotely logging in and VoIP is critical then the upload speed may be as critical as the download speed. An SDSL service, often marketed as 1500/1500, may be a more useful connection than an 8000/512 ADSL connection.
Of course some businesses have requirements too great for any DSL type connection. Higher capacity services such as Frame Relay and Ethernet are available. If your business has these sorts of needs, then you should already have specialist advice.
Fixed IP addresses
Most consumer internet plans use what’s called dynamic addressing, which means your numerical address on the net can change at any time. This is a serious pain if you are connecting remotely.
All business plans should give you one fixed internet address, which will give you a permanent location on the net. Some of the better ISPs will give you a number of fixed IP addresses, which makes managing remote access easier.
A business plan will give you better support than a consumer plan. Not only does your call get answered quicker, but the technician on the phone tends to be better trained and more informed on your problems.
Many business-grade ISPs will offer a service level agreement, or SLA, which guarantees a certain level of uptime. Treat these with some scepticism as the definitions are not always what you’d expect.
Many business-grade ISPs will also offer bells and whistles like online storage, security services and online monitoring. All of these can be useful but shouldn’t distract from your main business needs of a fast, reliable service.
There are always three main factors with any technology product – they be can fast, reliable or cheap. Usually you can choose two of them.
Because reliability and speed are the most important factors for a business, it means the idea of cheap goes out the window. A business-grade connection is going to cost more than your grandmother’s internet plan.
Typically, I expect plans to start at $60 per month for a home office and go up into the tens of thousands for larger offices.
These are just a few of the items you need to consider when choosing a business internet connection. It’s a complex area where your business may have specific needs.
Sit down with your IT advisers and review your internet spending on a regular basis and always review it before making changes that depend upon your net connection.
Internet plans are constantly changing, prices drop, speeds increase and services improve, so you should review your services on an annual basis.
Increasing the internet is essential for our businesses. A slow connection, or no connection at all, is simply not an option. Getting the right business internet plan means a more productive office.
Paul Wallbank is Australia’s most heard computer commentator. For the last 10 years he has been the resident computer expert on ABC Local Radio and has written five computer books. Paul founded and built up a national IT support company, PC Rescue and has a free help website at IT Queries. Today he spends most of his time consulting and advising community and business groups on getting the most from their technology.
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