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Not all internet connections are created equal. This article can help businesses to focus on the key questions they should ask and responses they should hear when shopping for internet service. Cost is of course a concern, but these days with several Internet Service Providers (ISP) flaunting big download numbers it seems that is more important than the rest. A business moving to the cloud or hosting multiple services, upload speeds are as important as download speeds.

To any business, latency is arguably more important than either upload or download. If the traffic takes a long time to make a short trip it does not matter how fast they can leave or enter your network.

Key Questions

What is the internet used for?

  • Voice and video have different requirements than email or other data.

Can my switches and firewall support the different types of traffic and prioritize accordingly?

  • It is not all about the bandwidth when you are mixing traffic.

Where will my data be hosted?

  • If transferring a lot of data to the cloud or between office locations then upload speeds are just as important as download speeds.

How costly is it to the business if we can’t access the data when the internet goes down?

  • This will help determine if a second internet connection is required.
    • If a lot of data is hosted at a central office, then you likely want a second internet connection to maintain access.
    • If users can work from home or Starbucks and access data in a remote data center (i.e., Office 365) then it may not be as important.
  • This also determines what kind of SLA is required for the internet connection(s).

What is the Internet used for?

Not all ISPs are created equal and big download numbers are but a fraction of the buying decision when it comes to purchasing internet for your business. While those big download numbers are sexy, latency and upload speeds are going to have more of an impact on your daily business activities especially in an environment that uses any cloud services. Upload is how you get those files into the cloud, download is how they come out. No point being able to download quickly if you can’t get them there in the first place.

If you have voice or other key functions on your internet that must remain online, latency is a critical factor. This is measured with that ping measurement visible in most online speed test. The higher the number, the longer it takes for traffic to get where it is going. Not a big problem for email and similar services. For voice or video, a smaller number is required, especially over longer distances. You don’t want your conversations crackling or video pixelating during that key negotiation, do you?

Traffic types and your Firewall and Switches

With NextGen firewalls like SonicWALL and switches that support at least layer 2 you can use advanced features like bandwidth management and quality of service to shape your network traffic and take advantage of the bandwidth you have. If your business does not have access to fast internet connections you will need this functionality in your network hardware to maximize what you can get.

Where is your data?

Finally, what happens when your internet goes down? In a lot of Canadian jurisdictions, the fastest internet connections are residential grade. These can take 2 – 4 days or more to repair in the event of an outage.

Business grade connections normally come with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that guarantees bandwidth speed, uptime and time to repair. There is usually compensation for the business when these guarantees are not met. In the world of residential connections, there are no guarantees.

If a SLA is not enough risk mitigation for your business, you can also configure more than one internet connection in today’s NextGen firewalls. This way, if your primary internet connection fails all services will fail-over to a backup internet connection to keep your business functional until the primary connection comes back online.

If you have questions on choosing the right ISP, we can help. Contact us today.

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