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Internet for business: Telco, Cableco or independent ISP ?
October 5th, 2014
In todays' day and age, reliable Internet access for your business is as critical as reliable electricity: Most businesses must have it or they face serious consequences, without.
This is the reason many businesses choose to go with their incumbent cable or telephone company: "Internet access is too important to fail: I'll just go with the biggest company around" - And they do this no matter the cost, inconvenience or lack of specialization.
One of the most common (pleasant) surprises I see expressed by business owners is the lower costs of business Internet access with an independent ISP. Of course, this is often a reason many businesses choose not to go with said ISPs: It doesn't cost as much as the telephone company, therefore it can't be good. Whether you believe it or not, the reason the incumbents charge so much is simply this: Because they can. They know they often have their business clients over a barrel and therefore, they happily take your money, ensuring their share prices stay comfortably high.
But here's the thing with Internet access for business: You run your business and specialize in what you do: Whether that is selling flowers, fixing cars, managing a retirement home, shipping and receiving: Whatever your case may be: You do not have the time or, often, the expertise to deal with not only Internet connectivity issues, but with Internet productivity options. It is often the hard way that many business owners learn that neither do the close-to-minimum wage call centre staff members that the telco and cable cos' often employ to answer your frustrated calls, either.
An independent ISP specializes in Internet connectivity. These are the people that, when you call with either an issue you are having with your Internet access, or looking for feedback on an idea about increasing your productivity, will actually listen to your issues and work with you, rather than running through a checklist on a script they are reading, whether you are a home user trying to get your kids' Call of Duty game to run smoother or a multi-national shipping company trying to improve response times on just-in-time inventory servers in China.
The other major issue many business owners do not take into account - and the telcos and cablecos certainly do not point out: Everyone has to go through a "last mile" provider: That is the company that owns the physical wires coming into your business from the street. In 99% of the cases, this is the cable or telephone company: When a business says "I can't have the Internet fail on me, so I'll go with the biggest" - Guess what ? If the Internet has "failed" for the smaller independent ISP - it's also failed for the cable or telco: It's usually because some moron in a backhoe has cut through a line in the street: Telco, cableco, independent ISP: It doesn't matter; They're ALL down until the physical line is repaired.
"Well, I don't need to use a middle man, so I'll just go to the source" - Well, yes, the "source" of the wires is the telephone company: That's what they've been doing for the last hundred years: Maintaining the physical lines for telephone and data signals. It does not mean they're specializing, or even very good at, managing the signals and data that goes through those lines. I'm not trying to say telcos and cablecos are incompetent at their jobs - they most definitely are not. BUT: They do not specialize in Internet access: That is what an Internet service provider does. Do you want your ISP worrying about - and paying for - the physical lines, the poles, the weather issues, the physical right-of-way permits, along with dealing with their telephone customers (the ones calling to complain they can't get through to grandma on the phone) as well as taking care of your business Internet needs ? Or, would you rather that, when you call your provider about your mission-critical Internet service, you know that their entire company, their entire staff and their entire reason for being in business is just about Internet service ?
On the rare occasion that I call my ISP about an issue with connectivity or my dedicated server, they already know that I have been in IT for over 20 years, that I know to check for the things like "is your router plugged in" or "has your domain been renewed" - They also know my name, my business and how important the issue I am calling about is, as soon as they know who I am. In other words, I am actually a valued customer. I do not deal with an 18 year old tech, working part time to make extra spending money, thinking about their next hot date, or someone in India that I can barely understand, having to go through a checklist that only a grade school child should have to go through.
And really: If you're that concerned about your connectivity going down: Get both DSL and cable at the same time: A $200 router can load-balance both connections, spreading your connectivity, giving you additional bandwidth and stable speeds and - short of an asteroid strike in your neighbourhood, you're not going to lose BOTH DSL and cable. Your independent ISP can happily set you up with that. Try asking your telco to set up a DSL AND cable connection.
Call around your independent ISPs and ask about your options for business Internet. It is almost a guarantee that you will be very pleasantly surprised at the options you have.