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Top Things to Look For in an ISP

Internet service providers (ISPs) have become critical IT infrastructure partners. When selecting an ISP, don't base your choice only on price or familiarity.

Uptime commitments

Of all the promises ISPs make, none is worth anything if the ISP doesn't fulfill its uptime commitments. The circuits simply have to work. If they don't, organizations become dependent upon redundant or backup service. Look for service level agreements that provide real and measurable targets for uptime.

Downstream speed

Many, including most customers, tend to rate an ISP solely on advertised downstream speeds. Marketing claims are occasionally excessive; excuses are plentiful. Test all new circuits' downstream speeds the day they're installed, a month later, and quarterly after that.

Better yet, before ordering, inquire what other clients, using the same service, are experiencing nearby. That'll give you a better barometer as to how potent an ISP's downstream speeds actually are.

Accessible technical support

When things go wrong, and they will go wrong, how accessible is technical support? Be sure the ISP you select provides technical support that meets your organization's requirements. If you close up shop everyday at 5pm, this won't be an issue. But if you run critical third shifts 24x7x365, better support is a necessity.

Responsive field service

If a failure occurs how quickly does the ISP commit to resolving the outage? In many cases, ISPs think nothing of mailing a replacement modem or rolling a truck a full business day later. Be sure you know the ISP's field response policies, and be sure they match your organization's requirements, before signing a contract.

Equipment quality and flexibility

IT professionals know which modems fail and how often. The less time an IT pro must spend on site administering, reconfiguring, or restarting network equipment, the better.

Some ISPs enable customers to supply their own modems. It not only allows you to select the quality you want but potentially lowers costs, too.

Pricing

Price is the last factor that should be considered when selecting an ISP. Uptime, capacity, service accessibility, and field response are much more critical, especially considering the importance of Internet circuits to businesses today. But price matters, too.

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