Do you need to be online all the time? Will downtime have a critical effect on your business? Choosing an ISP can be confusing for SMEs, so here are my top 10 questions to ask potential suppliers before making your decision.
1. Is there coverage for my postcode?
Outside of major towns and cities, the service that providers are able to offer can vary significantly. If there is no existing coverage, for example, there may be costs involved in creating a connection to your office.
Check the coverage area by using online resources like SpeedTest.
2. What will installation cost?
Securing a contract with you is the principle goal of the broadband provider. Question them about costs involved in installation. Look at the difference in monthly costs and the setup fees and negotiate to get the best price for your business.
3. Is a router provided?
Do you already have a router that works? Broadband providers often offer routers to businesses as a value-added product.
Check with your technical person or IT consultant to see if you need a new router. If not, try asking about a discount for not accepting the device.
4. How long to get up and running?
Installation times can vary from a day to a month. Each provider and each service will have its own timings.
Ask what the typical setup times are and plan so that your business is not affected by a potential delay in connectivity.
5. Is that an introductory price? What about after the offer?
Shop around! Look for deals which give large discounts and introductory rates that can save you some money in the short term. But be wary of the hike in price after the offer.
6. How do prices vary with different contract lengths?
Can you tell me where your business will be in three years? If not, tying yourself into long contracts isn’t a good idea.
But if you can predict the future, you can enjoy the lower reoccurring costs in a longer term contract.
7. What is your uptime guarantee?
Uptime is key to any connection. Downtime can cost a business thousands of pounds, and you need to be sure that the ISP can give you guarantees about uptime, and will stipulate what compensation they will offer if there is downtime.
8. How fast are your download and upload speeds – are these guaranteed?
Fast connections are expensive; the faster it is, the more money you can expect to pay.
What do you need the connectivity speed for? Is it running an ecommerce website, or using software applications via the cloud?
Compare the upload and download speeds of the different packages to make sure you can meet your demands while still getting the best price.
9. Do you have download limits?
If you have a download limit on your connection what happens if you hit this barrier in a peak month?
Will it result in no download (and no use of your connection), or charges per gigabyte of over-use?
Ask if there are any uncapped plans, but check the cost of having such a premium service. Weigh up the options in choosing the most cost effective and versatile option for your business.
10. What about technical support?
Does your broadband provider offer round-the-clock support? If your business is 24/7, it may be critical to your needs to make sure that, when there is an issue, you can phone the helpline at 2am on Christmas morning.
Look at key areas such as the opening hours for phone versus email support, average call waiting times, average time to fix an issue, etc.
There are hundreds of business broadband options in the market and you often get what you pay for – so make sure that you achieve your business connectivity aims and get the best value for money.
If you have any queries about broadband and what to ask an independent ISP, then tweet me via @JackBP_4D using the hashtag #broadband, or send a message via this site.