Small Business Internet Service Options
Here are some great Internet access choices for entrepreneurs and small stores or offices.
By: John Shepler
Unlike consumer Internet access, business Internet service has the reputation of being prohibitively expensive and sometimes hard to get, especially in rural areas. Much of that reputation goes back to a time when the incumbent telephone companies were the only provider available. Your choices were, indeed, limited and pricing could make your eyes bug out. Today’s deregulated environment has matured to the point where any business that needs and wants an Internet connection can get one… and at prices that won’t bust the budget.
Best Options for SOHO, Small Office, Home Office
The smallest businesses are the sole proprietors. Often, these are one person consultancies, remote workers, "gig" workers or web designers who work from home offices. When at the client, they’re carrying a laptop or tablet, plus a smartphone. Budgets are tight, so they want to minimize the cost of Internet access… just as long as it gets the job done.
The lowest cost option for bootstrap operations is residential cable broadband at the home office and 4G LTE cellular on the road. You can pair your tablet and laptop with your smartphone where WiFi is not available. It doesn’t get cheaper than this. Note: Contact your local Cable company for residential broadband.
If you have special requirements such as static IP addresses, any type of server or symmetrical bandwidth, you'll be needing to look at Internet services designed for commercial operations.
When your business needs a commercial office, you’re probably supporting more than one person. Insurance sales agents, physicians, and any business that wants walk-in clients fits this category. You won’t be able to get residential broadband at a commercial address, but you can get basically the same service branded as “business broadband.” Cable is still an excellent option, with bandwidths up to 100 Mbps common and more than adequate to support a small team. You may even set up a guest WiFi network for clients or bundle television service for waiting rooms.
Higher Tech Offices
Businesses that are tech oriented support such niceties as in-house servers, call centers, and mission critical cloud applications. If you do as much or more uploading as downloading or run a server, cable broadband with its shared bandwidth may be too limiting. Better choices include dedicated Internet access provisioned on Ethernet over Copper at 10 to 50 Mbps or Ethernet over Fiber at 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps. Fiber gives you more options, but isn’t always available, even with construction costs added. Costs are at least several times higher than cable, but performance is more robust for sensitive applications like VoIP telephony and cloud access.
Most restaurants and bars find the business cable bundles of Internet, television and telephone compelling. It’s a package that is more than adequate and well priced. Special circumstances involve pop-up retail stores that show up just in time for holidays or are located at special events. Wireless 4G is a good fit here. This service works like a smartphone but is built into a special access point that includes a high performance antenna to ensure a strong signal. You can plug in a wired network or WiFi router depending on your needs.
Out In The Boonies
Rural businesses, including retail, agribusiness, machine shops, farms and ranches, gas stations, and so on have needs like their city counterparts, but no wires or fiber nearby. Wireless 4G may work if you can live with the usage limits, which are similar to phone services. If not, high speed satellite can be a better option. Bandwidths up to 100 Mbps are readily available with 1 Gbps coming. Location is unimportant as long as you can point the dish at the bird in the Southern sky with a clear view. The newer satellites have a lot more capacity, meaning that you can get much higher usage limits that fit the needs of many businesses. Pricing is similar to cable and lower speed fiber.
Is Anyone Still Using T1?
Because it was designed to work using the same cable as analog telephone service, you can still get T1 just about anywhere you can get a landline phone. The bandwidth is only 1.5 Mbps, but it is rock solid and reliable. T1 works for applications like credit card verification, email, and light web browsing. Performance is similar to 3G cellular. Prices on T1 lines have fallen so much in recent years that this legacy service is still a good choice in some circumstances.
More Options Than You Think
Are you a small business owner or or an IT consultant serving small clients? You may be surprised at the variety of Business Internet Service Options available now at the locations you need.
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