In some ways, selecting an internet service provider (ISP) is like entering a marriage. It’s the beginning of a long-term commitment. At least, that’s the way it should play out in an ideal world.
But just as couples are advised to go into a marriage with their eyes wide open, a person selecting an internet provider should find out everything they can expect to get -– and rely upon –- in the months and years to come from this new relationship.
Thus, the best way to choose an ISP is to ask some fundamental and important questions upfront before closing the deal. Transparency and clarity are the goals.
Here are five key questions to ask an internet service provider.
1. Is Speed Guaranteed?
Two of the sneakiest words in many forms of sales promotion literature are “up to.” For example, we’ve all seen this or that deal that offers a way for people to make “Up to $5,000 extra per month,” or “Lose up to 55 pounds with X weight loss pill in four weeks.”
“Up to” is how many sellers cover their behinds because “up to” does not necessarily mean the specific number or amount advertised.
So, when an ISP advertised “Up to 1,00 Mbps” you must ask if that means “Is 1,00 Mbps guaranteed?” –- as opposed to merely 75 Mbps on average with some occasional peaks of 100 Mbps.
2. Ask About the Service Level Agreement
ISP services use a lot of “word salad” acronyms. (For example, the above-mentioned Mbps means megabytes per second). Another common acronym is SLA – Service Level Agreement.
The specifics of the SLA are important because it spells out what level of service and problem-solving a user can expect when performance is off or malfunctioning. Common problems are downtime, jitter, and latency.
If a business or revenue depends on a stable, constant connection at a good speed, it’s vital to understand how soon problems can get fixed and what costs are associated with service if it’s not built into the subscription agreement.
3. Where Are Tech Support Workers Based?
It is not uncommon for a disconnect problem to be caused by a faulty piece of equipment installed somewhere in your office or home. That necessitates a real physical person to come to the location and replace a module, such as a router, or check a fiber optic connection where it enters the building.
If a user is subscribing to an ISP that is remote from the user’s location, long delays in getting problems fixed can be a significant problem. The most fortunate ISP customers will be near their provider’s base of operation so that a technician can be onsite to fix problems quickly. Ask about that issue.
4. Does the ISP Have a Contract?
Everyone naturally wants the cheapest internet provider they can find without sacrificing all the power and benefits of a top-quality service. One of the ways to get clarity on what you are paying for versus what you get is a formal contract.
Every user has a specific level of requirements in terms of internet service. A robust business model, for example, may demand nothing less than 1,000 Mbps symmetrical provided by a fiber optic dedicated connection. At-home users who want reliable internet for daily routine connection may be satisfied with a stable and reliable 100 Mbps service.
A contract can spell this out –- costs, speeds, SLA, MTTR (Mean Time to Repair), and more. A contract provides transparency and ensures you get exactly what you need and pay for without any haggling or problems down the road.
A contract can also avoid problems with hidden fees, such as gateway costs, overage fees, cross-connect fees, installation fees, data caps, and all kinds of other costs. If it’s in the contract, the user has clarity on what he or she has agreed to pay for and nothing else.
5. Are Managed Options Available?
This includes issues like managing the connection proactively and resolving issues remotely. An example of a managed option is when the user agrees to allow the ISP to remotely manage the router, connectivity, failover, and more. If the ISP offers a full suite of managed options, that’s almost always a good thing.
We live in an era in which having access to reliable, affordable internet access seems as fundamental as running water and electricity in a home. For a business, reliable internet can be the largest factor determining business success or failure.
Asking all the right questions going into a relationship with an ISP is a critical element for obtaining the service that minimizes problems and fulfills needs.