Knowing what to look for when choosing an ISP can seem like a daunting prospect and attempting to decode the various options and claims made by providers only add to the confusion. This guide is designed to cut through all of the marketing and technical jargon bandied about by ISPs so that you can determine what really matters to your business and how to assess the various options available.
Business internet plan versus residential
As a business owner with a valid ABN/ACN, you’re eligible for a business internet plan which most ISPs offer. While business plans provide a number of benefits over residential plans, they can often differ from one service provider to the next.
Here are some things to look for when shopping around for business-grade internet plans:
Static IP address
Business plans usually offer a free static IP address – either as a standard inclusion or an optional add-on – which can be useful as some services rely on a single fixed IP address being available. You can, for instance, run your own server or set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) so your employees can access your server remotely. This might be important if you want to keep your network secure and documents safe while collaborating with remote workers.
A business needs more generous call allowances than what is typically offered with residential plans. That’s why some business internet plans typically bundle in business VoIP which provides greater value. VoIP is Voice over Internet Protocol, which allows you to make all of your business calls over your broadband connection.
Most business internet plans offer unlimited uploads. This means that your business can use cloud services like Box or OneDrive, video conference and share large files with clients and customers without worrying about eating into your monthly data allowance.
One of the biggest differences you’ll notice with business-grade internet plans is the increased level of customer support. Most residential plans will offer some kind of 24 hour service, but for business customers, depending on the provider, this may extend to dedicated customer hotlines and support guarantees, alongside features such as live chat or specialist support for business purposes.
Speed shaping is where your connection is slowed down after reaching your monthly data limit. However, the shaped speeds are often considerably slower on residential plans than on business plans. For example, business plans may be shaped to a still effective 8/1 megabits per second (Mbps), while residential plans are typically throttled all the way down to an unusable 256kbps/256kbps.
Business plans can sometimes include extra features and bonuses, such as a monthly credit to purchase business applications. Telstra, for instance, offer monthly credit on their small business internet plan that you can use to purchase applications such as Microsoft Office 365 Business.
Other things to consider when choosing an ISP
Backup internet connection
A fast and reliable internet connection is the lifeblood of any business so you’ll want to consider whether the service provider offers a backup internet connection for when things go wrong. Some ISPs like Telstra offer the ability to switch your connection over to their mobile network in the event of an outage of your fixed line service so your business can continue operating undisturbed.
Bundling your internet plan with your mobile may get you a discount. Some bundle deals offer free voice calls between mobile devices and landlines on the same account which, for a business, could offer significant value. It would also be worth speaking to your current provider to see what they can offer if you were to re-contract with them as you may be eligible for a special offer or discount.
Understanding the different speed tiers
When comparing the various plans on offer from service providers, it’s important to consider the different speed levels. Choosing the cheapest or entry-level speed tier on an nbn™ network plan, for instance, could result in slower speeds than what you may already get with ADSL or cable. So it’s worth checking and comparing those download/upload numbers while remembering that the maximum speed is rarely what you will receive as there are many other factors that will affect your connection, whichever ISP you choose. On the flip side, higher speed plans come at a premium and you don’t want to be paying more per month for additional speeds that you’re not using.
In the case of the nbn™ network, the default speeds offered by service providers start from 25Mbps download and 5Mbps upload which mightn’t be sufficient for your business. So be sure to explore higher speed tier plans. If you are a small business with several employees using the internet connection simultaneously for tasks such as video streaming or transferring large files, a plan rated for 100Mbps download and 40Mbps upload might be more suitable.
Consider a service provider that gives you the freedom to jump up or down different speed tiers until you find the one that best matches your needs.
Advertised speeds vs real-world speeds
ISPs advertise the theoretical maximum speeds which are likely to look a lot different to the real-world speeds you’ll achieve. This is because there are a variety of factors that impact internet speeds from the underlying technology that connects your premises to the broadband network to how a service provider handles network congestion. This can be especially important in the evenings when many people in your area may be accessing the internet at the same time. You might be trying to complete some important work, but if everyone else is watching Netflix, your internet connection may struggle to deliver the optimal speeds you need.
Some service providers simply do a better job of delivering consistent speeds to your premises than others. With that in mind, consider service providers who are open and transparent about the average speeds you are likely to experience during peak usage hours.
Remember, that price alone is rarely the best reason to choose a particular ISP or plan. Consider what else it offers outside of the included data every month that you, as a business owner, are likely to find value in. It might be the bundled VOIP offering, flexible contract terms or the security of having a backup internet connection for when things go wrong. Identify what really matters to your business and match up those needs with an internet service provider that ticks all those boxes.
Your nbn™ service can never go faster than the maximum line speed available at your premises. Speeds can vary due to the access type, maximum speed of your broadband plan tier and your service provider’s network capacity.