Internet Service Providers: Are They All the Same? / Technology / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

There are many things that differentiate one small business from another: industry, target customer, goods and services offered,...

There are many things that differentiate one small business from another: industry, target customer, goods and services offered, location, and goals, just to name a few. But one thing that unites us all is the need for solid internet connection. Between establishing and maintaining your website, emailing customers, vendors, and partners, and marketing your small business online, it's essential that your internet service provider is reliable and affordable.

For most small businesses, you have a number of options: dial-up, DSL such as services provided by household names like Verizon or ATT, broadband wireless, cable modem, and integrated services digital network (ISDN).

Which internet service provider is right for your small business? Check out your options:


Dial-up internet service is likely one of the first connection types you experienced when access to the internet became widely available. This connection runs through a standard telephone line, connecting the computer modem to a specific telephone number. This connection -- though quite inexpensive and only requiring a phone line, cable, and a modern computer -- may not be suitable for your small business if you plan to use the web to play videos or music, download large files, or access other high-bandwidth applications. The dial-up speed is simply much slower than what other options can provide you.


One of the most common, faster internet options is DSL. DSL uses a regular telephone line just like dial-up, but transmits the data on a digital frequency, not a standard analog frequency. Because the data does not depend on the analog telephone line used for talking on the phone, you're able to use the phone and internet at the same time, and doing so won't disrupt the internet connection. As such, DSL is a 24-hour internet connection, allowing you to leave your computer connected to the web all the time. This service is more expensive and much faster than dial-up, but the convenience and of having an always-connected, high-speed internet connection is worth the extra expense.

Mobile Wireless Broadband:

As a small business owner, you might find yourself needing to access the internet anywhere, and while most smart phones could help you perform certain smaller tasks, the use of a laptop would aid in getting more things done more quickly. Say your family is vacationing at an unequipped lakehouse, or you spend the day traveling from one state to the next by train. Mobile wireless broadband can connect you to the internet without needing to be directly connected to a telephone line or modem. By purchasing a PC card, laptop card, or USB equipment to connect your computer to your cell phone, you're then connected to the internet via cell phone towers no matter where you are. While generally more expensive than the options above, these connections offer a portable convenience that others can't.

Cable Modem:

Cable modem services are provided by the same companies that offer cable television service in your town. For instance, Comcast is a household name you may recognize, but there are also many smaller, local companies that offer cable modem services to connect your company to the internet. Cable modems are generally available over a wider area than DSL, but if there are a large number of cable modem subscribers in your area on the same network, your internet speed may slow down, which can negatively affect downloads, data or multimedia streaming, or access to high-bandwidth applications.

Satellite Internet

If your small business is in a rural area, far from the cables and telephone lines of other internet service, you might consider looking into satellite internet access. Satellite can be used in remote areas in the same way you might subscribe to satellite TV. For best speed and service, you need a completely clear view to the sky from your office or building. Also, be aware that "fair access policies" often limit connection speeds or certain bandwidth-hogging activities so that performance is "balanced" for all in the area. When this happens, you'll experience a significant delay in speed when uploading content or information to the web. Also, if you rely on VPN to connect to your company servers, you'll find it challenging to get anything done quickly. That said, satellite internet is the kind of service used by cruise ships, so if you find yourself wanting to sail the world while still providing goods and services to your customers, satellite technology makes this possible.

What kind of internet service provider do you work with? 

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