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Business internet providers (for SMEs) – Essential Guide

There are literally hundreds of UK business internet providers that offer broadband, mobile internet and e-commerce services to SMEs.

How do I find the right business internet provider?

There are many ways to find the right internet service provider (ISP) for you. These include getting word of mouth recommendations from other businesses. Remember to ask them about their broadband or network experience, customer service, and the consistency of the service over time.

There are also a number of comparison sites and review sites on the web, which will give details of the levels of bandwidth and the services that different business ISPs can offer.

Your IT systems provider, or an industry grouping that you are part of, may also have a view of which the good Internet service providers are.

What should I look for in a good business internet service provider?

You should look for a supplier that offers the service you want and has a good reputation. You can find discussion forums on the web, where business users share their good experiences as well as their horror stories about business ISPs.

You may want to consider getting your mobile phone, landline and internet services all from a telephony supplier, such as BT or TalkTalk.

How about mobile internet services?

Many telephony service providers now offer mobile phone-based Internet connections for both consumer and business use.

The benefit of mobile internet broadband is that it caters for people who want to access emails and the web whilst on the move, while they are commuting, or out and about between meetings.

There are a number of mobile services that offer fixed charges for different levels of mobile internet usage, including unlimited usage.

Vodafone, T Mobile, Orange, 3, Virgin Mobile and O2 offer smart phone-based mobile internet services, and several service providers will also support the popular BlackBerry range of smart phones.

How do ISPs charge?

Most ISPs will charge an initial setup fee. This varies and may cover any hardware and installation, for things such as ADSL equipment.

But saying this, because there is so much competition in the marketplace, you can generally find a special offer with a particular ISP where the setup cost is free.

Remember to check precisely what is included with the deal. Some ISPs offer unlimited email addresses, web site hosting, spam filtering, and anti-virus scanning.
 
It is often best to select the minimum contract period, typically 12 months, so that you are not tied to an ISP if they fail to satisfy your needs.

Also, check to see what the costs are for using the firm’s technical support. Some ISPs have good web-based help, whilst others offer premium-rate numbers only for accessing their help desks.

Also check the availability for support to see if they provide you with round-the-clock technical support.

Do all ISPs offer the same bandwidth?

No, some will offer you a 512kbit/sec service, which will be relatively slow if you plan to use the web a lot, particularly for online applications. 

The majority of service providers will offer 1, 2 or 8Mbit/sec speeds, with some promising speeds faster than what is on offer.

But remember that not all types of broadband may be available in your area, particularly if you are in a remote location.

This is because the maximum speed on offer may be restricted due to line lengths or the distance of your premises from an asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) enabled exchange.

What about fibre cabling?

Over the past few years, BT has been rolling out fibre optic cables across the country, investing billions into what it calls Broadband Britain.

BT is now announcing the locations where its fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) based broadband will be available, which will mean faster connections in more places.

The result will be that more businesses and home users will have access to fast internet services.

What is the plan with Broadband Britain?

By March 2010, a million homes and small businesses will be covered by this fast, big bandwidth technology.

By early summer 2010, BT expects to have a reach of 1.5 million homes, continuing to 40% of the UK (10 million homes) by 2012.


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This was first published in July 2009

 

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