If your business depends on any cloud-based technology services, your internet connection is critical to your day-to-day operations and hitting your revenue targets. Broadband internet service packages tailored exclusively for businesses can provide the added features, increased security and dedicated support companies need to operate efficiently and reach their goals.
Depending on the location of your workplace, you can find a business broadband package with a range of prices and speeds from many of the best internet service providers in the country. To assist you in your search for the most suitable high-speed internet service plan for your company, we’ll break down everything you need to know before you sign a contract.
Business broadband is a high-speed internet connection for use in offices and other workplaces. Think of it as a commercial-grade internet solution with added features and dedicated customer support that’s often backed by a strong service-level agreement (SLA).
Reliability is usually guaranteed, with uptimes of more than 99 percent. While the term “broadband internet” most often refers to cable internet plans thanks to its wide availability, other business-grade broadband connections like fiber, dedicated internet and enterprise-grade 5G fall under the same umbrella.
As you shop for broadband internet, it’s worth noting that the Federal Communications Commission defined the term “broadband” in 2015 as an internet connection with a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps and upload speed of 3 Mbps.
By today’s standards, these download and upload speeds are generally considered too slow for small business use and most likely unusable in an enterprise setting. If you’re using a digital subscriber line (DSL) through a phone line to get online, you’re going to struggle with today’s bandwidth requirements.
The definition of broadband varies from country to country. For example, in Britain, it’s 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up while in Canada, it’s 50 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up.
The biggest difference between home and business internet, with an example like a fiber service plan, is not necessarily the advertised speed but the added features, level of customer support, easy customization and higher price.
Business plans can give priority to different types of traffic or the key applications you depend on the most. For example, you can prioritize your network traffic for high-definition (HD) video conferencing and webinars over other applications that you deem less important, such as system backups. Your service provider may also be able to prioritize your business traffic over any competing residential traffic at peak times to guarantee you get the bandwidth you need.
So, while speeds between residential and business plans may seem comparable at first glance, they often differ greatly once you consider the added features available for business clients and the throttling that happens to residential users.
Other features ― including a static internet protocol (IP) address and extra layers of security, such as firewalls and cloud-based distributed denial-of-service protection, to protect your customer data ― are also widely available from the major business broadband service providers.
Most business customers will be able to customize their plans much more than residential customers can. Still, the SLAs and customer support set the two options apart. These stringent SLAs are contractual obligations for performance that result in business clients receiving priority for customer service over the phone or onsite when they need it. Many SLAs guarantee internet uptimes of over 99 percent, with clearly defined means of compensation if the expected service level is not met.
If you want to host your website on your own servers, get a broadband connection with a static IP address.
Unfortunately, the types of internet service for business are often limited by location. If you operate in a rural part of the country, true business broadband may not be an option. If that’s the case, you could be stuck using DSL or deciding between a mobile hotspot and satellite internet. But if your business is located in a more populated area, cable or DSL internet, dedicated internet and fiber are all viable solutions.
Cable should be considered the minimum technology requirement for businesses where it’s accessible. Outside of rural areas, cable internet is widely available with high speeds and reliability.
For small businesses with no significant reliance on cloud-based services, a cable internet package with speeds over 100 Mbps could be enough. Larger businesses or companies that rely heavily on cloud-based systems should look to higher internet speeds for smooth HD video conferencing and uninterrupted communication with their cloud-based software.
Dedicated internet is a fixed-bandwidth connection that your business doesn’t share with any other users. Since you’re not sharing bandwidth with neighbors or even businesses on separate floors of the same building, downtime and inconsistencies in speed are far rarer.
It’s an ideal broadband connection for companies that prioritize security and privacy and it’s also attractive to midsize and enterprise-level organizations that use demanding network applications in their day-to-day operations.
If it’s available in your area, you should consider fiber for the best download and matching upload speeds. Fiber gigabyte download and upload speeds are often far faster than the best cable internet.
While fiber cable infrastructure is still rolling out across the United States, you’ll find that most major cities and large business centers are equipped for lightning-fast internet access. But with an average cost of $60,000 to $80,000 per mile to lay fiber cable, its rollout to less densely populated areas could be very slow.
For businesses that need broadband connections outside the office, mobile devices running on 5G networks can be a viable solution in the right circumstances.
While strict data caps and lower speeds mean that smartphones and dedicated hotspots can’t compete with other broadband solutions, they can offer HD video conferencing and plenty of capability for web browsing, email and chat when in range of a network tower.
The other main type of connection, DSL, is slowly being phased out nationwide. This type of internet connection piggybacks on standard copper wire phone lines. If you have a choice between DSL and cable internet, choose cable if your business depends on getting online.
To choose the right internet provider for your business, follow these five steps.
To determine the best connection speed for your business, consider how you and your employees currently use the internet.
Are multiple people simultaneously participating in HD video conferences? Are you uploading large files to the cloud regularly? Look at how many people will use the connection and what they’ll be doing online.
If you rely on the internet to accept payments, run marketing campaigns, respond to customer queries, host your website and more, internet downtime will be very disruptive to your business. [Related article: 10 Tips for Choosing the Right Web Hosting Company]
When shortlisting potential providers, prioritize ISPs with high uptime guarantees and robust service level agreements.
If you live in a city or town, you’ll likely have a decent choice of national and regional business ISPs. Companies in rural locations will have a much more restricted selection.
You can find providers with a quick Google search. To make certain a company will serve you, check out if their site has an address search function to see if you’re in their coverage area.
Business broadband providers often bundle extras with their services, such as domain names, website creation tools and static IP addresses. While some of the features will be included in the price, many will be chargeable add-ons. Decide what’s most useful to you.
If you have any custom requirements, let potential providers know so they can give you an accurate quote. Do you handle security in-house or would you like help from your service provider? Do you need to prioritize traffic for customers during business hours? Study the SLA to see what you can amend to suit your company’s needs better.
ISP websites tell you how fast their connections are, but what you see on their websites may be an optimistic estimation. There are different test sites you can check out to see if users in your area are getting the speeds advertised.
Another way to check the quality of service a potential ISP offers is to check out their online reviews. Many providers serve both residential and business customers, so try to seek out the experiences of business customers before committing.
In the way some big cell phone brands use others’ networks, the same is true for broadband providers. You may end up shortlisting two or more providers that have white-label capacity on the same ISP backbone. Finding out who owns and runs the infrastructure might give you a more reliable insight into actual speed and reliability.
Verizon, AT&T, Google, Comcast and Spectrum are some of the service providers offering broadband plans tailored to business customers. Depending on the location of your company, cable or even faster options like fiber and dedicated internet may be available. To judge these service plans against each other fairly, we’ll focus on the top plans from each provider in terms of available speeds.
When you contact a potential service provider to discuss pricing, you can typically negotiate better terms with bundled packages or longer service agreements ― so take their listed prices as a starting point with some wiggle room for your specific needs. Not all plans or speeds are available in every market, so you will have to reach out to service providers individually to determine what’s accessible for your exact business address.
Jeff Hale contributed to this article.