What to check when choosing a broadband supplier

What to check when choosing a broadband supplierBusiness broadband is a key tool for many companies. Indeed, a piece of 2010 research showed that around a third of businesses felt that fast broadband was more important to their business than the national rail and road networks

But despite broadband being the lifeblood of many businesses, companies often put little thought into choosing their broadband service. And this can mean they don’t get the best service they can. The result? Poor customer service, rubbish support or uncompetitive pricing that leaves companies struggling with an inappropriate service.

Here are five key areas to check when choosing your business broadband provider:

1. How’s their customer service?

When something goes wrong, can you get hold of someone on the phone who has the technical knowledge to actually help? Are they just pulling your details up on a computer or are you always going to speak to someone who knows you and your business?

Never underestimate the value of a good account manager and the difference they can make to the level of service you receive.

2. Can you connect several locations?

If your company has more than one office or branch, or you’re considering expansion, check whether your broadband provider will be able to support you across multiple sites. Ideally, you’ll probably want to create one network between all your locations (called a wide area network, or WAN) to share files and data, and allow everyone to access the same resources.

It takes technical expertise to set up a WAN (ask your IT supplier), but it helps if your internet service provider understands how they work.

3. Do they understand Voice over IP (VoIP)?

For a long time, VoIP (find out what VoIP is) promised to introduce cheap or free telephone calls to everyone. It’s taken the technology some time to catch up, but using VoIP can still cut your telephone bills considerably.

However, VoIP relies on your internet connection, so it’s a good idea to find a broadband supplier which understands how VoIP works and why you might want to use it. Do they offer you advice about how to use it in your business? Can they supply a VoIP service for you along with your broadband?

4. What does the service level agreement (SLA) say?

Make sure your expectations of service match what your broadband supplier promises. An SLA is a document that forms part of the contract between your company and its broadband supplier. It sets out what level of service you can expect: how much downtime is permitted before you receive compensation, how long you will have to wait for problems to be addressed, and so on.

5. How secure is the connection?

The internet is the source of many threats to your company’s IT security, and if you’re sending or receiving sensitive data you need to know you can trust your broadband supplier.

Even the cheapest connections should include basic protection. Look for a firewall (to block hackers and malicious internet traffic) – many packages also include free security software.

Written with expert input from Tony Tugulu of Powernet.

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