Small Business Internet Guide
Internet service is a must have resource for both small and large businesses. Even if your business does not sell products or services online, there are still many benefits to having an internet connection. You can use the internet to email clients or investors, perform research and manage data. Many businesses also run their customer support over the internet. Internet access is so important for businesses that providers have special plans, known as business class internet.
There are many differences between residential and business class internet. Business class internet operates at much faster speeds than residential lines, for both uploading and downloading. This allows businesses to support multiple computers on a single network. Internet providers also provide superior customer support to businesses. There are many internet service providers (ISP) to choose from, each with different prices and benefits.
Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)
One of the first decisions you must make regarding your internet is the type of connection. There are four primary internet options to choose from. DSL once offered the fastest connection speeds, which resulted in high prices. In 2021, DSL is much more common, to the point where it is considered the average type of connection. DSL relies on traditional telephone lines. The further you are from the ISP, the slower your connection speeds. DSL is recommended only for small businesses with fewer than five employees actively using the network. It typically costs between $30 to $60 a month.
Cable internet is transmitted across coaxial cable lines. While these lines are quite common, cable internet providers are typically limited to larger towns or cities. Cable internet has a fast connection, but the quality of the connection can drop if there are many other businesses or homes also using cable internet. With business lines, this issue is partly mitigated, since your business line is private and receives higher priority than residential lines. Many small businesses with between five to 15 employees use cable internet. Cable internet for businesses is between $50 to $200.
Satellite internet is only used sparingly. In terms of speed, satellite internet is similar to DSL. Because it does not rely on grounded cables, it can be harder to troubleshoot. Compared to other internet options, satellite connections are fairly expensive. The biggest advantage satellite connections have over other internet types is availability. Satellite connections are commonly the only reliable, high speed internet options in rural areas, where there are limited ISPs. Satellite plans have the greatest price variance among ISPs, costing roughly between $200 and $500 a month.
As of writing, fiber-optic internet is the fastest connection. Originally, the internet was built on fiber connections, which use microscopic glass and plastic strands to transmit data. Because of the fast speeds, fiber internet is often the most expensive option. Fiber is commonly used by larger businesses. If your small business is primarily run on the internet, it is typically worth paying the extra costs to ensure a fast, stable connection. Fiber connections are not available in all areas, but it is becoming increasingly more common.
Because fiber is commonly used by businesses, there are often more deals for business lines over residential. Fiber connections normally go for between $100 to $200 a month, with faster speeds costing closer to $300.
Internet speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). 15-25 Mbps is on the lower end for a business class line, supporting at most three employees at a time. It is recommended if you only use business internet for basic web browsing and email. The next bracket is 25-50 Mbps, which is common with DSL connections. These speeds support around five employees. It is also a good speed for basic video conferencing and communication
Cable internet typically operates between 75-100 Mbps. This is a good speed for heavier internet use, including streaming video. It is also a good speed if your business offers Wi-Fi to customers. If you run your business primarily online, 100-150 Mbps is a good speed. This allows you to maintain web hosting and e-commerce services. 150-500 Mbps is considered the fastest speed bracket, typically only available from a fiber connection.
Verizon offers multiple types of business class internet. For smaller businesses, Verizon provides high quality DSL lines. These lines are faster than many residential DSL plans, typically between 15-25 Mbps. If you need a faster connection, Verizon offers Fios Gigabit Connection, which is a fiber connection reaching nearly 1,000 Mbps. Verizon also boasts some of the best customer service for smaller businesses. When you sign up for business class internet, Verizon asks how many employees you have and the type of business you run to offer the best plan based on your needs.
In terms of affordability, Frontier is one of the best providers for business class internet. Not only are the base prices lower for Frontier, but they also provide a 3-year price guarantee on all their plans. Frontier mostly specializes in cable and fiber plans, with limited DSL options. The fiber connections are slower than other ISPs, but still go up to 500 Mbps, which is more than enough for most small businesses.
AT&T used to be one of the larger providers for business class internet, but in recent years, the company shifted to providing fiber internet. AT&T offers some of the fastest connections, with even their slowest lines falling in the 100 Mbps bracket. Because AT&T largely provides fiber connections, it is mostly marketed towards larger businesses. Smaller businesses that primarily operate online also benefit from AT&T fiber connections.
Comcast is available in most areas, making it a popular choice among small businesses. Comcast also provides a special pricing plan for smaller businesses, with the majority of their plans offering a fixed two-year rate. Comcast mostly provides DSL and cable connections, with fiber lines available in limited areas. They offer some of the fastest cable and DSL connection speeds, with even their lower priced plans reaching 100 Mbps.