The CIO and IT Leaders Complete Guide to Selecting a Business Internet Service Provider

CIO and IT Leaders Guide to Selecting a Business Internet Service Provider

Few organizations can afford to skimp on the basics with technology poised to influence every business-critical decision. Consequently, having high-speed internet access is non-negotiable. Like other technology decisions, it’s vital to think about the role of your internet service and provider.

After all, today’s business internet providers don’t just provide a service; they become your partner. Your ISP works with you to future-proof your organization and ensure your infrastructure can scale to meet what lies ahead. Use this guide to assess your options, ask the right questions, and pick a provider that’s a good fit for your business.

Discover how business-class Internet and WiFi can transform your organization by contacting Cox Business today. Visit us online at CoxBusiness.com. Learn More

Choosing an ISP Is One of the Biggest Decisions You’ll Make

CIOs and IT leaders have a lot on their plates. You’re expected to critically review and question all decisions, including your ISP. Yet, many companies don’t evaluate their internet service yearly. Others lack clear insights into their current quality of service, an essential factor as more businesses rely on remote connections.

Selecting the right ISP reduces your risks from technical downtime and outages. Moreover, your technology partnerships add value to your business. They help you navigate technology shifts and keep you informed of emerging technologies. In a sense, your technology partners serve as the third arm of your business by supporting your customer experience goals and aligning with your brand mission.

The right partnership connects you to an ecosystem of software and services designed to improve workflows. They provide end-user support as you work to migrate to the cloud or reduce your IT footprint. Therefore, technology partnerships can decrease your risks while helping you discover new opportunities.

Plan to Get the Most From Your Internet Connection

Any technology decision should open the door to future opportunities, and your internet services aren’t any different. Your technology partners should work with you to develop a plan that supports your business goals while improving employee and customer experiences.

Here are a few ways to get the most out of your internet connection:

  • Infrastructure upgrades: Outdated technology and unpatched devices create security vulnerabilities. Talk with your ISP about your needs today and in the future. Determine how to approach hardware or equipment upgrades.
  • Good employee WiFi: Your in-house wireless services should support your staff regardless of where they work. Connected workplaces let supervisors provide feedback on the shop floor based on real-time data or accept customer payments curbside.
  • Wireless connections for customers: Along with high-speed WiFi, your internet connection can deliver customer usage data. You can use this to optimize your offerings and improve in-store experiences.
  • Security services: Cybersecurity is one of the most popular managed IT services, and with good reason. 24/7 threat monitoring is resource-intensive. A reputable technology partner helps manage a diverse work environment.

Determine Your Business Internet Bandwidth Needs

Traditionally, voice calls, email, and web searches didn’t clog your network. But speed declines when you have dozens or hundreds of employees accessing cloud services, uploading large files, and video calling simultaneously. While you can determine your business internet bandwidth usage on your own, the best internet service providers partner with you to figure it out.

Together, you can monitor usage and view reports showing peak and average traffic. Your provider may also temporarily increase bandwidth and see what impact it has. ISPs help you prioritize certain services, like VoIP, to maintain call quality during peak usage times.

Consider ISPs Offering Managed Services and Cloud

A managed service provider (MSP) or ISP supports your long-term, big-picture planning. They help your business scale without complicating your tech stack. Integrated tools and services make troubleshooting errors easier through administrative and technical portals. Likewise, MSPs partner with software providers, including Microsoft Teams or Salesforce.

Without a technology partner, you’d need to contact each software company separately to figure out errors. And it can be unclear which provider to call first. However, when you purchase software through an authorized third party, they step in if, for example, you’re having trouble integrating your phone system with your customer relationship management (CRM).

MSPs provide services, such as:

  • Addressing software and application issues
  • Handling computer hardware or connection problems
  • Managing daily network maintenance
  • Providing cloud backup services
  • Repairing hardware
  • Offering helpdesk support
  • Monitoring and responding to cyber threats
  • Assisting with disaster recovery and emergency support

Regardless of what stage of digital transformation you’re in, the right MSP or ISP has the capabilities to support you every step of the way. Partnering with a provider increases your network visibility. Dashboards enable IT leaders to control cloud backup frequency or restore data without submitting a help ticket.

Cox Business Cloud Solutions provides reliable, innovative and secure services to move your business to the next level of IT productivity and profitability. Visit us online at CoxBusiness.com. Learn More

Review Options for Bundled Internet and Phone Services

Bundling business internet and phone is a smart move. For starters, the services are complementary. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems rely on high-speed internet connections. The combination supports on-site and distributed teams, allowing employees to interact naturally using chat, voice, or video.

If your video quality is poor or there’s a lag on your line, your ISP can quickly get to the root of the problem. In comparison, if you use separate vendors, your VoIP provider may say it’s an error with your internet service while your ISP points the finger back at your phone service. You can waste time trying to troubleshoot issues.

Bundled services also support your company as it grows. As you add employees or migrate more services to the cloud, you can expand your phone and internet services without significant hardware investments.

A few key benefits of bundled services include:

  • Convenience: A phone and internet bundle also lets you manage your service from one account.
  • Cost savings: Phone and internet tools are combined for less than the price of the two individual services.
  • Flexibility: As your business evolves, you can modify your phone and internet package to scale up or down.
Our powerful business VoIP phone service helps organizations of any size become more flexible and responsive. Visit us online at CoxBusiness.com. Learn More

Ask About Internet Redundancy Services

In most businesses, their internet is mission-critical. A power outage can halt work. Your team can’t access data, and your customers can’t use their credit cards in your store. Talk to your internet provider about backup service in case of an outage.

Internet redundancy can keep your essential services running, reducing poor customer experiences and employee downtime risks. However, it’s important to ask if your ISP ensures path and network diversity. Your backup service shouldn’t be delivered through the same network as your primary connection.

Top Considerations for Selecting a Business ISP

Pick a technology partner that checks off all the boxes. Don’t settle for something less that could jeopardize your customer relationships or business profitability. A reputable provider established in your community can deliver personalized services in-person and remotely.

Think about your internet service provider’s:

  • Speed and scalability: Several factors affect scalability, but if you choose the right ISP, you won’t have to worry about switching services during a growth spurt. Instead, your ISP works with you to evaluate upcoming needs and plan appropriately.
  • Quality and reliability: Uptime, latency, and packet loss are key specs when picking an internet service provider. Talk with potential vendors about service guarantees and remedies if the services don’t perform as expected.
  • Trust and reputation: A credible and established ISP delivers consistent services and stands behind them. Speak with local business owners and read professional service reviews to get an idea of satisfaction ratings.
  • WiFi for visitors and employees: Keeping your network secure while meeting consumer demands for fast wireless connections is vital to your business. Work with providers who can meet both needs.
  • Cybersecurity: Check with your ISP to see what type of security suite they provide. Some can protect all connected devices, automatically download updates and patches, and develop custom security solutions.

Customer Support: Read the Fine Print

Direct access, 24/7/365, to technical and account support is the gold standard for business internet services. Knowledgeable support teams deliver assistance quickly, understand your business apps and connected services, and work round-the-clock to reduce disruption. Time is money, and each of these factors affects your ISP’s customer support.

However, it’s vital to look at the whole experience of customer service. What are average hold times for support? Will you need to repeat your issue and verify your identity multiple times? Can your ISP view and understand your custom setup and tailor support instructions accordingly?

Look at their response time to technical issues or repairs requiring on-site visits. Also, consider support channels. Does the ISP offer live chat assistance, phone, video, and email support services? If so, how do the response times differ? If you need equipment repaired, are there multiple drop-off locations?

Lastly, upgrading your services or adding-on extensions shouldn’t take hours. Your ISP’s self-service tools should put everything at your fingertips, from usage reports to step-by-step guides and tutorials.

SLAs: What Should Be Included

An SLA protects your company against disruption with guaranteed service metrics. Even if your internet usage doesn’t warrant an SLA-backed service now, ISPs that offer service level agreements for higher plan tiers demonstrate a commitment to quality.

Research your internet service provider’s SLA and look for service metrics, such as:

  • Response and repair time
  • Jitter
  • Network QoS
  • Packet loss target
  • Network availability
  • Round trip latency

Ask the Right Questions

Make a list of questions to ask when selecting an internet service provider. Your ISP should readily respond to your inquiries and provide evidence to back up their claims. Pay attention to their responses, as clear communication is essential in a technology partnership, whether you’re talking to the sales or IT team.

Your questions should focus on:

  • Customer service hours and the average hold time for customers
  • Availability of local service technicians
  • Data caps for your internet services
  • The number of subscribers that share a connection
  • Contract lengths and available discounts
  • Additional fees for plan changes or hardware

Avoid These Common Mistakes

Unexpected fees or downtime can cut your return on investment (ROI). Moreover, choosing the wrong ISP impacts employee and customer experiences. One issue can snowball into a problem affecting your entire organization. Your internet service truly is the foundation for business processes.

Here are a few common mistakes businesses make:

  • Failing to follow up: It’s essential to regularly examine your usage and QoS data. Doing so ensures that your ISP meets your service agreement standards and that your bandwidth estimations are accurate.
  • Choosing the cheapest option: The lowest price service may support budget goals but cost more in terms of business disruption. Slow response, repair times, and inconsistent speeds during peak hours impact your company.
  • Not asking about onboarding support: Implementing new services can burden your IT team, budget, and resources. Avoid providers that sell you on new software but send you to a third party for support.
  • Working with a less advanced ISP: Technology advancements happen faster than ever. How can an ISP continually meet changing business demands if it isn’t investing in its own tech stack? Look for organizations rolling out 5G, fiber, and extra bandwidth support while increasing their technology offerings.
  • Picking a provider without 24/7 service: Responsive customer support is a must-have feature even if you have a well-equipped on-site team. We’ve heard too many horror stories about companies in a complete standstill from an outage or failed integration. Submitting a help ticket or sending an email shouldn’t be your only option for business-critical services.
  • Not discussing early termination and other fees: Many companies enter into an agreement, and sudden growth ends up costing money. It shouldn’t. Your ISP should help you plan before you commit and make the process for extending network services affordable and straightforward.

Next Steps:

Choosing a business internet service provider can be challenging. However, any vendor vying for your business should readily provide specs and case studies. Assess your current services and needs, then speak with a sales rep about the internet and managed services to help your organization be resilient and grow.

A great technology partner will understand your organization’s specific needs and challenges and have deep experience in helping similar businesses overcome those challenges and grow. Discover how we can help your business. Visit us online at CoxBusiness.com.   Learn More