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Are you getting the most from your ISP?

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Over the past ten years, the connectivity and IP market has drastically changed with the arrival of faster, more reliable broadband that can support a wide variety of value-added services.

This month I’m going to discuss what you should be looking for in an Internet Service Provider (ISP) who supplies your business connectivity.

Service

The answer is quite simple: quality service. This can be found in the form of creating a bespoke network for your business, guaranteed up-times, top-notch support or 24/7 help where you can always get hold of engineers in a UK-based support team.

With the move to cloud services and converged networks, businesses are now far more dependent on their connectivity. Having peace of mind that everything works as it should is important. It’s worth paying a premium on your connectivity for a more stringent SLA, with options such as rebates for prolonged downtime and guaranteed timescales for fixing problems. Your business connectivity should be as invisible and reliable as your electricity or water supply.

Lots of connectivity

Connectivity is the key ingredient in the creation of successful cloud-based services and a good ISP will recognise this. Ideally, your supplier will have access to multiple UK networks such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk. This range of national carriers means your ISP can offer you options on connectivity to suit your budget, speed and resilience requirements.

The days of “one size fits all” broadband are over and requirements will vary from business to business. A small company with a few people might get by on an ADSL2 connection with backup dialup or 3G to provide all the services they need. This consists of web browsing, email, VoIP, CRM and potentially other high bandwidth services such as video or storage.

A larger office, however, will require a lot more than this. Looking at fibre-based connectivity, such as a leased line, is the way forward here. For example, you want to know that your staff can make VoIP calls while uploading their latest presentation to the cloud and transferring data to your satellite offices without any noticeable reduction in quality or speed. A good ISP will be able to provide pre-sales advice on how to meet these goals for your connectivity. As network configurations become more complicated, with technologies such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) now commonplace, a good ISP should run these services for you if you don’t have the skills or knowledge in-house.

Support

All ISPs should provide excellent support but, unfortunately, this isn’t the case. So you need to be aware of how an ISP operates its support teams. Depending on which services you’re taking, you may want to look a little closer. 

In brief, the following are the basics any business provider should be offering:

  • 24/7 technical support – Ideally by phone and email from UK-based engineers;

  • Pro-active monitoring of your connections – You want your ISP to know about problems before, or at the same time as you are;

  • Available qualified network engineers – Especially if you take the higher end business connections such as Ethernet or a multi-site MPLS network; and

  • Access to carrier diagnostic tools and the ability to manage the traffic themselves – This will help to identify providers who are just reselling other connections compared to those who operate their own networks.

Extra services

Lastly, take a look at the other servers that are available. Providers will often offer their own value-added services such as Hosted Exchange or managed VoIP, which can be provided on top of your connectivity. By using the same provider for these, you should see some speed benefits and, particularly with VoIP, it can speed up fixing faults.

In essence, your provider needs to deliver a good quality and reliable connection that works smoothly in the background. You don’t want to have to be worrying about whether the internet will be accessible or if your phone calls are going to drop out on a daily basis!

David Barker is founder and technical director of 4D Data Centres, which he founded at age 14, and a finalist for the Young Entrepreneur Award at the Growing Business Awards 2012.

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