The internet your company (and workforce) needs for success

Your workers need connectivity that’s both fast and redundant if they’re going to get their work done. For a lot of remote employees, that means relying on the local cable company or ISP. Is that really a good idea for business?

You need fast internet. I need fast internet. We all need fast internet. But we need more than just speed. We need reliability, too. (And it must be affordable.)

Back in school and on my first job, I connected with the early internet on a VT-102 terminal at an amazing fast 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) over Ethernet. On the road, I got my ‘net fix at 300 bits per second (BPS) using either a TI Silent 700 paper terminal with its acoustic coupler or from a CP/M computer using a Hayes Smartmodem 300. That worked fine when all the applications I ran were text-based.

Today, I have a 1-Gigabit cable connection to my home/office which allows me to videoconference all day, pour gigabytes of data across the net, and watch 4K TV shows and movies at night.

That alone wouldn’t max out my connection, but my partner’s doing the same things at the same time—and she relies a lot on Software-as-a-Service apps, such as QuickBooks, in her accounting business. On a normal day, just two people working crack 400Mbps, and there are times we use up our bandwidth entirely. And if you have a dozen or so people all online for work, you, too, can face slowdowns—even with Gigabit connections.

Don’t forget that hiding in plain sight is a lot of devices using up bandwidth. There are now more than 10 internet-connected devices in the average US home. Besides the ones we think of first—computers, streaming devices, and gaming consoles—there are also smartwatches, Internet of Things devices, and even pet-tracking gadgets. If you’re using these devices all the time, you need enough bandwidth to keep them fed. It adds up quickly.

In addition, while we always talk about broadband in terms of downstream speed, the truth is in 2021, upstream speed is also important. Except for fiber internet connections, most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer far lower upstream speeds than down. For example, my Gigabit plan routinely gives me no more than 800Mbps down, but only 40Mbps up. Sure, that still sounds fast, but if you’re doing a lot of online classes or videoconferencing, then you’ll run headlong into those limits. Your partners, clients, and customers on the other end will not be amused.

Did you notice something else? I just said my “Gigabit” plan doesn’t actually give me Gigabit throughput. That’s common. According to AllConnect, a company that helps users find the best telecommunication deals, “15% of internet users, or 45 million people, are getting less than their advertised speeds.” Of those, “Fiber and cable internet have the biggest gap—with most people getting, on average, about 55% of the speeds they pay for.”

It’s important to check and see what speeds you’re really getting. Ookla is best for getting a quick look at testing your internet connection. SpeedOf.Me lets you keep a history of your previous tests so you can spot when your internet starts to slow down. (That, by the way, can happen if your ISP oversubscribed your local service.)

If small companies and remote workers had a real choice of ISPs, that might not be so bad. But most of us don’t have that luxury. We have to take what we’re given by our single, local high-speed ISP.

With workers more distributed than ever, that’s a problem. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has taken the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) broadband data for 2020 and found, for example, “Comcast and Charter maintain an absolute monopoly over at least 47 million people, and another 33 million people only have slower and less reliable DSL as a ‘competitive’ choice.”

There are other options, though, and it’s time to consider adopting them. Newer ISP services such as (near-earth orbit (NEO) Starlink and 5G are becoming real business Internet alternatives. They, especially T-Mobile Home Internet, are well on their way to becoming broadly available. In the next few years, ISPs may finally have real competition. That day can’t come soon enough.

Besides offering you a real alternative to your local ISP monopoly, they’re also handy for providing inexpensive secondary Internet connections. Far too many of us rely on a single ISP for connectivity. That’s fine right up until the minute a backhoe takes out your cable.

If your business can survive without the internet for a few hours, that’s no problem. But can it really? These days being without a network connection is like a snow day from hell. People don’t want to hear that you can’t dial into a sales meeting, respond to emails, or deliver digital goods.

To keep your business in business, you need an alternative ISP connection that’s up and ready to run when the main circuit fails. For me, that’s currently Verizon LTE Business Internet. Yes, it’s extra money. But it’s money well spent to avoid business disruption. And that internet backup doesn’t have to be as fast as your main connection; it may well be a lot slower. I even have friends who use Frontier ADSL and Viasat geo sync satellite Internet as alternatives.

That’s enough for them to keep their customers happy. And, at the end of that day, isn’t that what this is all about?

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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