Getting internet for your business may not seem like the most urgent step when starting out, but it is one of the most important.
From marketing to sales and internal communications, a good internet connection is an essential element of any successful business — regardless of its size or industry.
In this guide, we take a look at how you should go about setting up your internet for business use, what features you should look out for, and the necessary speed that you will need.
The Different Types of Internet Connection on the Market
In order to choose the best internet connection for your business, you need to understand the key differences between them. Even though there are many options, a few do stand out from a quality and speed standpoint.
Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) is a form of internet communication that transmits both voice and data through a digital line.
The benefits of choosing an ISDN connection include:
- Multiple connections: Up to eight different devices can be connected on any signal ISDN network. This can make it great for small businesses.
- Conferencing capabilities: ISDN enables users to “link” several different calls into one conference. This can be useful for sales departments, team meetings, etc.
- High quality: Since data is transmitted entirely digitally, ISDN connections are less vulnerable to lag and other speed-related network issues.
Having said that, there are a few cons that you should consider:
- Increased risk: If your internet fails with an ISDN connection, so will your business phone.
- Low applicability: ISDN networks require specialized digital services, meaning they may not be available to everyone.
- High cost: ISDN can be very costly in comparison to other types of internet connections. Business owners on relatively tight budgets will need to consider this when deciding the type of business internet they will use.
Fiber-optic internet is a data connection that is transmitted through a cable that is filled with plastic fibers or glass. This allows data to travel extremely fast in comparison to traditional cable internet because there are no metal wires that heat up and weaken internet signals.
There are many benefits of choosing fiber-optic internet for businesses. These include:
- High speed
- High reliability
- Similar download and upload speed
- Multiple device capabilities
- High safety — fast, reliable internet can go a long way in protecting your business from potential threats online.
The disadvantages of fiber-optic internet include:
- Very low applicability: Around one-fourth of US residents have access to fiber-optic internet providers. For remote business owners, this may not be an option.
- High price: Even though fiber optic is still relatively affordable, it should be noted that it is slightly more expensive than other traditional internet connection types (e.g., DSL, cable, etc.).
- Uncertain future: Since the introduction of 5G technology — which is expected to provide wireless internet speeds that are significantly faster than fiber optics — many providers have abandoned their plans for introducing fiber-optic technology entirely.
Cable internet is one of the most popular and “conventional” types of internet connections. A coaxial cable is used to transmit data — instead of a phone line — meaning that cable can obtain much faster internet speeds than DSL or dial-up.
The benefits of cable internet include:
- Fast internet connection: This can allow you to transfer large business files (e.g., videos, etc.) very fast and with no lag.
- Low vulnerability: Less susceptible to drop-out or transmission failures
- Constant connection: Cable internet is always “connected” to the internet. This means that your business will have no “downtime”, which can be a massive benefit if you are operating in non-conventional business hours.
- No location limitations
The biggest con of cable is that speeds are dependent on the usage of other members in your area. This can mean that you may need to pay for high-priced packages to ensure that you have a large enough bandwidth to withstand busy business hours.
Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) provides internet access by transmitting data through a telephone line. This allows users to use both the internet and the telephone simultaneously.
Even though DSL is by no means the most up-to-date internet for business option on this list, it does retain a few advantages that you should consider:
- Better-than-average speed
- Simultaneous use of phones and internet
- High applicability: No special infrastructure or specific wiring is needed
- Cheaper than traditional cable connections
The biggest disadvantages of DSL internet connections include:
- Location limitations: DSL internet connections are slower for users who are further away from their providers' headquarters.
- Impracticality: Slow uploads can be very problematic if you need to upload a high volume of large files for your business.
What’s the best internet for my business? All in all, you need to examine your budget, business needs, and personal preferences when deciding what type of internet would be best for your business.
Do I Need High-Speed Internet for my Business?
Whether you need a high-speed internet connection for your business will depend on how you will use the internet on a day-to-day basis. Specifically, this may include:
- The types of tasks that you will be doing
- The type of business you have
- The number of employees that you will be working with
Both internet for business and residential internet is measured using megabits per second (Mbps). Generally, the larger the number of Mbps, the faster a business’s internet speed will be. Having said that, this can depend on several other factors, including:
- The number of people using your network
- The size and shape of your office
- The types of activities that you will be conducting (e.g., file size, upload speed, etc.)
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides guidelines on the minimum downloading speed that businesses will need depending on the type of tasks that they will be doing. Further details on this can be found on the FCC website.
Note: Bandwidth is calculated with the presumption that only one device will be uploading files at any given time. This means that a business with three workers will have a bandwidth of 250 Mbps effectively divided into three.
What to Look for When Choosing an Internet Service
Since businesses generally stay with internet service providers for a minimum period of 12 months, it is important that you know what factors to consider — besides price — before locking yourself into a contract.
Internet contracts will usually be anywhere between 12 and 24 months, with an option to extend at a specified price after that period.
Make sure that you consider whether this timeline works for you, as you will likely be liable for extra fees if you wish to switch to a more premium package or cancel your contract prematurely.
If you are a small business owner that is unsure about the longevity of your company, you may want to opt for a no-contract provider. These are usually a bit more expensive than their conventional counterparts but allow business owners to stay very flexible. No-contract providers are also a great option for seasonal businesses.
Businesses are increasingly relying on the internet. Nowadays, even a few hours of downtime can halt production entirely and have detrimental consequences on a business’s revenues.
Asking about any prospective provider's average downtime is arguably one of the most important parts of setting up an internet connection. You need to ensure that you do everything possible to obtain an internet connection that is reliable and consistent.
This can allow you to avoid:
- Frustrated employees
- Missed business opportunities
- Decreased revenues
Make sure that the internet provider of your choice — and the type of connection that you wish to obtain — is available in your area.
This is particularly important for the types of internet connections whose quality is dependent on distance, as well as for fiber-optic internet (which is unlikely to be available in most non-metropolitan areas in the US).
If you plan to expand in the near future, you may want to pick an internet provider that you can stick to in the long term.
For example, you may want to check whether they offer high-tier internet speeds, which you may need if you end up hiring a larger number of employees or managing more than one office.
For starting or small businesses, extra bundles can be a great supplementary addition.
Even though this should not be a “key factor” when deciding what internet for business connection to choose, it can help distinguish between two closely-matched providers.
For example, your internet provider may offer telecommunication services. These may include:
- Video conferencing
- VoIP services
- Mobile integration
- Unlimited calls and texts plans
Tip: When it comes to your business’s internet connection, you should generally aim to secure a package that is a little “more” than what you need.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is business internet faster than residential?
This can depend on your specific plan — as well as the type of internet connection that you have — but generally, yes. Business internet is also considered to be more reliable since its providers are aware that it's for business and not personal use.
Is having a strong internet connection important?
Yes, a strong internet connection is critical. This is because it can help improve your business’s:
- Communication levels
What are the benefits of a business internet connection?
There are a few advantages that you business owners can generally reap as a result of working with a business internet connection. These include:
- Better customer service
- Increased reliability
- Service-level agreements (SLAs)
- Higher internet speed
Do I need a business phone number?
While you might not technically need a business phone number, getting one is highly recommended.
You can get a business phone number in multiple ways:
- Adding a business phone line to your cell phone through an app
- Adding a separate business line for you and your employees through a business phone service (e.g., RingCentral, Talkroute, Nextiva, etc.)
- Purchasing a separate cell phone and using a private line as a business phone number
See our How to Get a Business Phone Number guide for further instructions.