Choosing your ISP

Choosing the best Internet Service Provider (ISP) for your needs can be a difficult and timely process.

This article will give you a check list to help you choose your ISP.

There are many types of connection that can be used to access the internet. These include dial-up modems, satellite, ISDN, cable and ADSL. The satellite, cable and ADSL services are often called broadband services.

Each option involves you subscribing to an ISP service and paying an ongoing service fee for using that service.

However, as many frustrated people have discovered, not all options are available in all metropolitan and regional areas.

Dial-up modem

Dial-up is a method of internet connection that uses a standard telephone line together with a traditional modem to send and receive information between your computer and the internet.

This service is generally not fast enough for business use.

Provided that you have a telephone line and a modem, you can use this option.

Satellite

Satellite internet connections require the use of a satellite dish which is attached to your roof and is connected to a satellite modem that connects to your PC. Satellite connections have a speed of approximately 64k up to 512k. They are available in one-way and two-way configurations.

A one-way satellite connection will allow you to download information from the internet using the fast satellite connection. Information is then sent to the internet from your computer using a traditional dial-up modem.

The two-way satellite connections allow you to send and receive information at the fast speed. Two-way satellite connections do not require the use of a traditional dial-up modem.

Two-way satellite connection is significantly more expensive than one-way connection.

The primary advantage of a satellite internet connection is that it is available across Australia.

Cable

Cable internet connection uses the same technology and infrastructure as cable television. It can be up to 50 times faster than 56k dial-up modem connections with 128k and above speeds.

Cable also affords a permanent connection to the internet so you don’t have to dial-up each time you wish to use the internet or retrieve e-mails.

Cable internet is only available where a physical cable runs outside your house or office. If you do not have cable in your street, you will not be able to use this option.

ADSL

ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line) uses your existing telephone line to deliver a broadband internet connection. This allows you to use the same telephone line for telephone voice conversations as well as sending and receiving data at the same time.

ADSL can be up to 20 times faster than 56k dial-up modem connection.

The availability of ADSL depends on the area in which you live, the quality of your existing phone line and the distance from your telephone exchange.

ISDN

ISDN uses your existing telephone line – however, it must be switched to an ISDN connection (see http://telstra.com.au/isdn/). ISDN is available in speeds from 64k and up.

ADSL should generally be selected in preference to ISDN because ADSL is more cost effective and faster then ISDN. However, ISDN has the advantage that you can be up to 13km from your telephone exchange, as opposed to ADSL where you have to be within 3km of your telephone exchange.

Home users should look at connecting to Telstra’s ISDN Home package (to get an ISDN phone line installed) then find an ISP that supports DoV (Data over Voice).

See http://www.traverse.com.au/general/dov.asp for further information on ISDN DoV and to find an ISP that supports it.

This table indicates the equipment required and the types of costs involved for each option.

Dial-up
Satellite – one way
Satellite – two way
ISDN
ADSL
Cable
Permanently connected to the internet?
Optional
Optional
Optional
Equipment
Modem equipment


traditional


traditional and satellite

satellite

ISDN

ADSL

Cable
Satellite Dish
 
 
 
 
Telephone line
 

ISDN
 
 
Costs
Monthly service fee
Installation fee
 
Call cost for each time you connect to the internet
 
 
 
Satellite Dish cost
 
 
 
 
Modem cost
Extra usage –time and/or downloads

Now that you know the available options, lets look at the checklist for choosing your ISP.

First, you need to determine which of the connection options is available in your area. You can do this by contacting ISPs and asking which services are available to you.

Your decision will be influenced by:
• Is your primary purpose for business or home use?
• Does your business rely on being connected to the internet at all times?

Within each of the five options you will see that ISPs offer different pricing plans. The plans are generally structured based on maximum allowances for time and/or download usage.

To determine which plan is best for you, you should consider your hourly requirements and download requirements.

Consider:
• How often will you use the internet?
• How many times will you access the internet in a day or week?
• How many hours you think you will use the internet for?
• Do you need the internet for daily business use?
• Do you need 24 hour support or business hours support from your ISP?
• Your download requirements - How often you will use the internet to :
o send and receive e-mails
o view web sites
o enable core business activities
o download games, music, movies
o play computer games online

If you are not sure about your download requirements, you will find a ‘usage calculator’ at http://bigpond.com/broadband/support/tools/ .

Given your answers to these questions, consider the hourly limits and download limits of the available ISP plans and choose whether you need (and can afford) an unlimited plan or a plan capped to maximum hours and download per month.

It is best to shop around before making a decision, and remember the cheapest is not necessarily the best option.

If your business is dependant on using the internet, you are generally best to use a fast permanent connection rather than a dial-up modem.

Having used all of the 5 types of connection, I would always choose cable connection for business use if available, as I have found it a fast and reliable service. If cable is not available, then I would look at ADSL, ISDN, satellite then finally dial-up in that order.

For the latest information on Broadband news see http://www.whirlpool.net.au

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Sharon Wild writes ecommerce articles for Qld Business Review, she is also Strategy & Marketing Director of e-JAZ.com.au

Sharon Wild
Strategy & Marketing Director of e-JAZ, Sharon has been involved in the e-commerce community for several years. She successfully manages Australia's largest online jewellery store, Gillett's Jewellers.

Sharon can be contacted via email on sharon@e-jaz.com.au