The Internet has gone from being a mere luxury for the vast majority, to an essential part of each of our lives. In business, it’s not just essential to be online all day. That connection also needs to be blazing fast, reliable, affordable, and offer plenty bandwidth for large downloads and uploads to websites and social media.

Here are 5 things to consider before signing a broadband contract, including whether you should even bother to sign a contract at all.

Broadband services

1. Service Type: Should you consider DSL or Fiber instead?

This is a very important decision for business owners who care about both speed and budget, or for those who’re only concerned about speed and reliability.

To be blunt, DSL should have been outlawed for business use years ago! In fact, DSL is so limited in the speed and bandwidth it offers. When you consider that, and the fact this type of service rarely costs much less than broadband (cable) connections, it’s just not worth considering in most cases. However, sometimes DSL is still the only option in rural areas.

In other cases, the cable infrastructure in your area might be old, and the provider too cheap to refurbish their lines, leading to problems with broadband connections that make DSL the more desirable option. Still, broadband is the choice most business owners in developed countries will opt for. It’s affordable, blazing fast, and you’ll always be able to find a provider that can offer more bandwidth than even big corporations need, even if you offer in-house WiFi to customers.

Fiber might be a consideration, if it’s offered in your area of operations. It’s faster than broadband. Most broadband connections are limited to 60Mbps (max). Fiber purports to offer 1Gbps on average. However, this comparison varies, and you’ll pay (lots) for that added bandwidth. Not to mention, many early adopters say their fiber connection fails more often than DSL or broadband. Consider carefully, and weigh out the speed offered, and bandwidth limits of various providers before considering one over the other.

2. Select and read reviews of service providers

Before moving on and calling a specific broadband provider, you need to see what others are saying about them. Good providers will offer same-day service calls for business customers when there’s an issue with your connection. They’ll also need to offer 7-day online and telephone tech support during normal business hours and into the evening. Next, how reliable are they?

We can’t even consider pricing yet, until understanding the true level of service offered. Look for the following in service reviews of the company:

  • Fast and efficient customer service with low turnaround time.
  • Promised speeds and reliability being delivered consistently.
  • No more than a few customers per hundred complaining about over-billing issues (Eg., customers paying for unlimited bandwidth complaining about getting extra monthly charges).

Paying ten or twenty bucks a month more for a provider who ticks all these boxes will save you a lot of aggravation. The bigger the area you live, the more options you’ll have, but that’s not always a good thing. Remember, too, that most small broadband providers are nothing more than an intermediary reseller between you and the big companies.

In other words, they simply buy bandwidth at a wholesale price and sell it back to you for (sometimes) a better rate — usually with more limitations on speed and bandwidth.

Customer service officer on a virtual pbx system
photo credit : Alan Clark / Flickr

3. Price (including bundle deals)

As a business, it’s imperative that you should look for broadband deals that offer not only the best value for money, but also the complementary services your business needs.

Usually, the bundles include broadband plus calls, but there are bundles that accommodate your existing technology. For example, there are businesses still use an in-office (non mobile) phone service. Also, do you offer television to customers waiting in your lobby? Television isn’t as much of a consideration when you can stream through a smart TV or set-top box. However, a good bundle that includes a powerful WiFi router and hard-line telephone service can make a big difference in your monthly bills, and save hundreds per year in telephone expenses.

4. Do they require a contract and offer a trial to assess the service?

Some companies require you to sign a contract agreeing to stick with them for 6 months or a year in order to lock in better pricing, such as a bundle deal or introductory offer. This isn’t a bad thing, so long as they offer a one or two-month period where you can back out (even get your money back) if you’re not happy with the service offered.

Mobile office

5. Assess your mobile needs and usage

Also consider your mobile data usage? How much bandwidth do you really need at the office? If you don’t offer WiFi to customers, and your in-office online data needs pale in comparison to what you need on the road, how much speed and bandwidth do you need in a broadband provider?

It’s easy to tether a connection from your phone to your desktop or laptop. In most cases, this won’t be a consideration for most businesses, but if you’re a really small or mobile business, it might just be that a mobile connection is all you really need.