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Tips for choosing an ISP for small business

A fast, stable internet connection with an affordable monthly cost is essential for a small business. Finding the right balance between features and price is the key to selecting the right plan for your business.

Residential ADSL2+ plans

If you run a business from a small office or home, you are probably looking for an Internet Service Provider (ISP) who can offer at least:

  • Free email addresses
  • No fees for exceeding monthly limit
  • Fax machine/Eftpos capability
  • Good reputation for customer/technical support

Internode, iiNet and iPrimus all offer residential ADSL2+ broadband plans that meet these criteria. Internode offers a static IP for an extra $10 a month on residential plans. If you don’t need a fax machine or use Eftpos but do want a static IP, you should also consider a plan from a budget provider like TPG or Exetel.

The advantage of using a residential broadband plan over a business plan is the cost. Residential ADSL2+ plans are relatively simple to set up, offer plenty of choice on data, and fees and monthly access costs are much lower than business plans.

A residential broadband plan is suited to a small business of ten employees or less. If you have more than two or three employees online at the same time, or a fax/eftpos machine, you may require at least two PSTN lines into your office. A good way of building in some redundancy is to sign up to plans from two different ISPs. If you’re not sure what kind of set-up you will need, it’s best to get advice from a professional IT consultant.

Many businesses use VoIP as a way to save money on phone calls. If this is the case for your business, consider a Naked DSL plan, which does not require you to pay for unnecessary phone line rental.

Business grade plans

Business grade broadband plans offer some extra features, for an additional cost. For example, a Service Level Guarantee that there will be minimal downtime on the internet connection and compensation if the ISP cannot fix a fault within an agreed time frame.

Business customers can also receive priority technical support, with a dedicated business team offering advice.

AnnexM is also offered by some ISPs on business plans, including iiNet and Internode. This is an ‘add on’ feature that can increase the upload speed on the connection from a maximum of 1Mbps to a maximum of 2.5Mbps. A router with AnnexM capabilities is also required.

These plans are often referred to as SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) broadband plans and are delivered through the copper telephone wires, in the same way as residential plans.

SHDSL

Residential plans and business grade plans are usually offered on an ADSL or ADSL2+ connection (asymmetric digital subscriber line). These connections are asymmetric, in that the download speed is much faster than the upload speed. On ADSL2+, for example, the maximum download speed is 24Mbps while the maximum upload speed is 1Mbps.

If you are more concerned with uploads than downloads, your business could benefit from a SHDSL (symmetrical digital subscriber line) plan instead. Upload and download speeds are the same, which is ideal for VoIP, web and email server hosting, and large file transfers.

Again, the disadvantage to this service is the higher costs. The cost of SHDSL makes it more suited to larger companies – smaller companies who want a faster upload speed should consider Annex M instead. Internode offers Annex M on some residential and business plans, while iiNet offers Annex M on business plans only.

Bonded DSL

Businesses looking for faster speeds than ADSL2+ or ADSL but do not have access to cable should consider bonded DSL.

Bonded DSL combines two copper PSTN phone lines to create one super-fast connection and is therefore available in more areas than cable. Speeds of up to 30Mbps are possible on a bonded DSL line.

Best business broadband plan

Ultimately, the best broadband plan and ISP for your business depends on your organisation’s size and needs. If you run a small business with no requirement for extra support or a service level guarantee, an ordinary residential ASDSL or ADSL2+ plan will be your cheapest option.

If you need faster upload speeds for VoIP or large file transfers, Internode‘s Annex M is a great free feature available on Easy Broadband and Easy Naked plans. Larger businesses who require a priority service and guaranteed reliability may be better with a business grade plan instead.

– Sarah Routledge is the Content Manager for Compare Broadband, the independent broadband plan comparison service.