A Common Scenario
BBG Plumbing (name changed) was a reputable plumbing company that had been serving its community for over a decade. With an excellent track record of providing quality service, they had gained a loyal customer base. However, their operations were severely hindered by their unreliable internet service provider (ISP).
The existing ISP had frequent outages and slow speeds, causing significant disruptions to BBG Plumbing’s daily operations. Online communication, appointment scheduling, and inventory management were all affected. As a result, customer satisfaction dipped, while employee morale and productivity suffered. The inefficiencies and delays caused by the unreliable ISP were costing the company time and money.
Realizing the urgency to address the issue, the plumbing company embarked on a search for a new ISP that could offer reliable, high-speed internet. They sought a provider known for its robust infrastructure, excellent customer support, and competitive pricing. After careful evaluation and comparison, BBG Plumbing finally decided to switch to a new ISP that met all their requirements.
The transition to the new ISP proved to be a game-changer for the company. With a stable and fast internet connection, they regained their efficiency, improved customer service, and increased productivity. The decision to change the ISP not only resolved their internet-related challenges but also bolstered their reputation as a reliable and responsive plumbing company in their community.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, there are a few things to know before signing a new contract with an internet service provider.
Consider the Contract Length
What does the provider quote, and what will they settle for? Many internet service providers (ISPs) will automatically quote your internet connection with a 3 to 5 year term. They will often honor the same price on a 1 or 2 year term! Do not assume that the longer term is required. Additionally, you may end up needing to switch vendors in the future. While the ISP you are signing up with now may be the best deal available, it is entirely possible that a new vendor will be available in your geographic area in a year or two and have better service or a better price.
Pay Attention to Termination Charges
Are you REALLY locking yourself in? Just because the term required is a 3-year term in order to get the pricing or the free install or whatever the incentive may be, you will find that the cancellation terms vary from vendor to vendor. Some vendors will require you to pay the entire term of the contract upon cancellation. For instance, signing a 60-month term for $1,000 a month and then cancelling 2 days into the contract will result in a $60,000 cancelation fee. (Yes, we are talking about you Spectrum!) But other vendors may only charge 100% for the first year of the contract and 20% for any remaining years. So that same 60-month term for $1,000 a month would only cost $21,600 to cancel in that scenario. Ask! And then use the knowledge to your advantage. If the 5-year term cuts the price of the 3-year term in half it may well be worth risking the longer term. Especially if you are only risking 20% of the monthly amount for the last 24 months of the term.
Understand Internet Speed Terminology
Download and upload speeds, how do these impact backup providers and VOIP (i.e., Sat Phone problems)? Many vendors will quote their speeds in terms of “mbps” which is “megabits per second” this is NOT the same as “megaBYTES per second” if the person selling you the connection uses the term “megabytes per second” they do not know what they are selling. Talk to someone else. Also, you need to know what BOTH speeds are. Internet connections are a 2-way street. You will be downloading data and also uploading it. Many vendors have 2 different speeds, one for download and the other for upload. This will greatly impact your ability to use a circuit to backup your data to the cloud for instance. Additionally, having a slow upload connection can lead to choppy voice on VOIP systems.
Fiber/Coax/DSL/Etc. Each of the common carrier technologies exists for a reason. And they are different. You typically will want Fiber. But it may not be available in your area, or it may be too expensive. Coax works fine in most cases as well, but it is more prone to downtime. When you are signing an agreement for a new fiber circuit it may still need to be “handed off” as Cat5/6 with an RJ45 connection. Details like this matter. If your router requires a RJ45 connection and you purchase an internet connection that is handed off with fiber, it may delay the install or the activation of the account and result in having to pay the old provider and the new provider for a month or two concurrently. If you have a delicate timeline for activating the new account, this is not something you want to discover at the last minute. And all of this becomes exponentially more complicated when multiple business locations are involved in the process.
Packet loss matters. So does uptime. So does response time. Sometimes it is not immediately clear why one provider or circuit is so much more expensive than another one. But generally, there is a reason. And reliability is a big part of that. Many providers that you can get for $300 a month are “best effort” so they will generally work. But if they don’t work, or do not work well, you can expect a clear lack of concern from the provider. If the prospect of downtime is disruptive or expensive to you, you need to make sure to buy a circuit that will not fail often, or perhaps have 2 different internet circuits that automatically failover in the event of an outage and minimize downtime that way. Also, it is possible to have a circuit that is performing as designed that simply isn’t good enough to do what you need it to do. For instance, if you get satellite internet it may work fine, but even when it’s working perfectly on a cloudless day, it will not work well for VOIP applications due to the signal delay going back and forth to the satellite.
Availability and Install Time
Not all locations are serviced by all vendors. Just because your neighbors have the newest and best internet does not mean you can necessarily get it. Depending on the type of technology there are actually distance limitations. Also, the physical wires may run on the other side of the street and getting them to your side of the road is not always a trivial thing. Often these issues can be solved handily with money and time! But both of those resources can be limited. ALWAYS check on the availability and install time before making plans. I have had businesses plan grand openings for new locations and then call around to ISP’s and discover that it will take 4-6 months to get the internet installed to their site. This is always a bad day, and we may not be able to work around that problem very well, especially if we are called in at the last minute.
Add in the Cost of Installation
What additional hardware or labor will be needed to make the switchover Just because the ISP will “install” your circuit for free does not mean that it will work when they are done. Usually, they will simply install it in the network closet, verify that it works at the “demarc” or hand-off location and then they will leave. They will not normally change your router settings to use the new connection or update any services that depend on the specific IP addresses your network uses. You will almost certainly need to have a qualified technician update things on your network to make the new circuit work. And that will be on your dime.
Remove the Element of Surprise
Any time there is a change in the environment you can encounter turbulence. And an ISP change can be very disruptive. Often a dislodged vendor will remove their equipment and you may discover that your Wi-Fi network relied on their hardware. Or you may lose connection to security camera systems either because the network itself changes, or because the external IP address is different. Another very common problem is issues with websites, such as banks and payroll companies, that may partially depend on your network IP address to verify your login. All of these issues are easy to solve but can be problematic if they come as a surprise. Planning ahead can eliminate a lot of headaches during these transitions.
Identify Everything That Connects to Your Internet
If you bundle your phone and internet service currently, do not make changes to your internet circuit before thoroughly reviewing the setup of the phone system. It is possible to lose phone numbers or experience significant phone outages during a changeover. Remember that security alarms, elevators and fire alarms running on phone lines can also be effected. If any of the above information is not perfectly clear, or if you have any questions, please contact us before changing your service provider or signing for a new internet connection. The salesperson always makes it sound like the entire affair is a walk in the park. But there can be real pain involved!
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