woman: choose an internet plan

Internet Plan and Provision

by Angus Jones

Just like at home you need to choose an internet provider for your business.  The exception to this is if you run your business from home and can use your existing Internet account. This guide will help you understand the lingo and suggest what to look for in an internet broadband plan.

An Internet or Broadband Plan is a service agreement you have with an internet retailer to provide you with access to the internet. The plan is normally paid by the month.

WHAT are my choices in connecting to the internet?

How can you physically connect to the internet?  Either by a fixed connection (a wire) via the NBN – National Broadband Network – sold to you via a retailer like Telstra, TPG, etc. or via a wireless solution, most likely over mobile phone networks like Optus.  For example, Optus offers mobile data (internet) to a mobile phone or by a wireless broadband modem.

Generally speaking wireless solutions are more expensive but give you more flexibility in access from anywhere there is coverage.

HOW do I choose which internet plan from retailers?

Internet retailers will offer you various connection plans and these will include the following terminology:

How to choose an Internet provider?

  1. Data usage

    This is how much data you may use in a month and is usually expressed in a measure of GB or GigaBytes.  1 GB of download would be equivalent to watching 1 movie on Netflix or about 13,000 emails. How much you need will depend on how many are using your connection and what they are sending and receiving.  The good news is most providers offer an unlimited plan.

  2. Speed

    This may be represented as NBN50 or NBN100.  This refers to how quickly you can send and receive data.  The bigger the number the faster.  Remember in your small business you may be sharing this connection with others so what might be fine at home may not be enough at work.  There is also a difference between download and upload speeds. For example, if the plan is represented as 50/20 it means you will get 50 download speed but only 20 upload speed.  The implication here is if your business sends many large files to clients that 20Mbps (million bits per second) may not be enough.  For those technically minded there are 8 bits in a byte. So to send a 1GB file on a 20Mbps link would take a minimum of almost 7 minutes. Most small offices should be considering a 100/40 plan and even a 250/100 plan if you will use a lot of cloud-based services and video conferencing.

  3. Dynamic vs static IP address

    Think of this like always putting your keys in the same spot (static) versus variable locations (dynamic). You always find your keys but if you always put them in the same spot they are easier to find. It is more cost-effective for internet providers to offer a dynamic address.  However, as a business, if you have an onsite email, web server, or are transferring files out to others a static address is better.

  4. Phone service

    Most providers will either package a phone service or have various options.  In this world of mobiles, you need to consider if that is important to you and at what sort of functionality you require like group hunting (ability to try different numbers till someone answers)

  5. 4G/5G Backup

    This is a service offered by some providers where in the unlikely event the fixed internet goes down you will still have access via the mobile phone network most likely at a slower speed.

  6. Contracts

    Some will offer no lock-in contracts others will offer contracts.  Generally if you lock into a contract you may get a better upfront deal however you cannot change easily if a better deal comes along.  Some providers will also allow you to change plans as your circumstances change.

  7. Customer service

    All is good until something goes wrong.  What hours can you get support?  Is the service prompt (some offer businesses a priority). What country will the call be answered in?

WHEN should you consider a wireless solution? 

If you run a small business out of a truck or small van this would be the obvious choice.  You could do this by either using a hotspot from your phone or have a dedicated mobile broadband device with a separate sim card.  If you run an office that has difficult access for a fixed connection or you move regularly you can also consider a wireless broadband solution. This is a modem that uses either the 4G or 5G mobile phone network but is designed to support more users and has a more cost-effective plan than wireless broadband.

HINT

How do you work out what deals are available?  The good news is there are some great websites like Finder and Whistleout that will allow you to set parameters around what you need and they will present back to you the best deals available from various internet providers. 
https://www.finder.com.au/broadband-plans/business-broadband-plans
https://www.whistleout.com.au/Broadband

There is a lot to consider, but our advice is to evaluate the impact of a slow speed connection, unreliable connection, or time to resolution and what cost/impact that will have on your small business when choosing your provider.  Ask others or check internet forums if they have had bad or good experiences with internet providers especially in the area your business is located. Experience can change by location.

If you already have an internet provider don’t hesitate to shop around for a better intern plan as many businesses are on old uncompetitive plans.

SUMMARY – Reliable Internet plan deal

Reliable internet at a speed and capacity that suits your small business is your goal.  A few minutes comparing deals may save you hundreds of dollars.

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