Having a small remote or home office can be a great productivity enhancer. However, without some way to connect the office to your organization’s main network, your remote/home office can quickly become an island. The easiest way to connect your office to the organization’s network is obviously to use the Internet. But choosing the right ISP to make the connection isn't as simple as it may seem. Here’s what to look for when selecting an ISP to connect your home or remote office.
Free download to help
To supplement this article, we've put together a checklist for selecting an ISP for a SOHO or remote office. You can download it for free.
Determine your needs
Because the Internet is so prevalent nowadays, and there are so many ISPs to choose from, it may be tempting to simply open the Yellow Pages and randomly pick the cheapest ISP available. Doing so may save you some money in the short term, but it could wind up causing you a lot more headaches—and lost productivity—over the long term. These are the main points you need to consider when choosing your ISP:
- Price: Yes, price is important. You don’t want to bust the budget once you’ve picked your ISP. Just don’t let it be the single determining factor.
- Viability: When selecting your ISP, do some checking to see how long the company has been around and what its near-term future looks like. You might find a good ISP now, only to have it go out of business, forcing you to restart your search. If the ISP does go out of business, you may cause yourself a lot of work, having to modify configurations and transfer your Web site and/or domain name.
- Customer/technical support: If you’re lucky, you’ll never have a problem with your connection. But if you do, you’ll have to deal with the ISP’s customer and technical support. BroadbandReports.com is a good place to go to find out about an ISP’s reputation for this support, as well as performance.
- Local access numbers: In most major cities, you won’t have a problem finding local dial-up numbers for an ISP. However, if you travel or if your remote office is located in a rural location, you may face long-distance charges.
- Connection options: It wasn’t long ago that your only option for connection was dial-up modems. Now, you have several options, all of which depend on the speed you need. You can choose from such things as traditional dial-up, ISDN, cable modem, DSL, and satellite.
- Performance: Whether you’re paying for a high-speed connection or just using dial-up, you should check the ISP's track record for such things as uptime and overall throughput. For example, even when using 56-Kbps dial-up modems, you can often only connect at 28.8 Kbps or 33.3 Kbps because of the modems used at the ISP.
- Features: Just like other vendors, ISPs vary in the options their packages include. Decide what your priorities are and then choose the ISP whose features most closely match them. For example, some ISPs offer static IP addresses, while others use only DHCP-assigned ones. Likewise, one ISP may provide three e-mail addresses for a single account, while another may offer five.
Make a list of all of your requirements and prioritize them. Then, compare those requirements with several ISPs that can meet those needs. Keep the list simple—don’t overwhelm yourself with too many choices. You can use our free checklist to help make sure your ISP matches your needs.