Increasingly, every business owner or manager struggles with one question: “Which internet service provider will be best for my business?”
The need for reliable high-speed service has been especially important this past year. 2020 was marked by an exponential increase in the need for video-enabled meetings as workers fled to their home offices. Reliable internet had been a business priority for years now. The worldwide pandemic ushered in a new era. The demand is here to stay.
Businesses generally have three options for high-speed internet: fiber, DSL and cable. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of each to help you decide which is best in your setting.
Your High-Speed Internet Service Options
Used for decades, fiber quickly transfers large amounts of data. Fiber cables cover the length of the U.S. and even run along the bottom of the ocean. Until recently, fiber service wasn’t an option for most homes and businesses.
Fiber is constructed of micro-strands of glass banded together to create optic cables. These cables transmit light and carry data in binary form. The binary data is decoded once it reaches its destination to become usable information. The glass-and-light configuration makes fiber the quickest and most reliable option for high-speed internet.
Being a newer technology, fiber is not yet widely available. However, it’s quickly developing in urban areas throughout the world.
- Fiber cable can transmit data up to 10 Gbps, or 10 billion bits per second. Fiber’s transfer rate is 65,000 times faster than the copper wire used for cable and DSL.
- Unlike copper-based infrastructure, fiber signals don’t decrease over distance. So it doesn’t matter how far your business is from the service provider. Customers receive identical speed and quality of service whether they are close to the provider or far away.
- The reliability of optic cables leads to an increase in productivity. Fiber service has far less downtime, enabling internet-dependent employees to reduce the amount of time they lose to outages.
- Businesses can send and receive information much faster. More companies are moving to cloud-based solutions. As this increases, the need for more data will increase.
- Fiber optic cables make it possible to upload and download information at the same speed.
- Made of glass, fiber optic cables are less sensitive to high-voltage power sources. Your business might even find it retains its internet connectivity when local electric power goes down.
- Fiber customers have dedicated service lines. Which means that customers aren’t competing with other businesses for available bandwidth. Fiber service doesn’t slow down during peak use hours.
- Because fiber is a newer technology, availability may be an issue. Businesses located in larger cities will almost certainly have an easier time finding a fiber provider. Major carriers are typically the only ones that offer fiber services.
- Fiber services are typically not yet available in rural areas. Keep checking, though, since customer inquiries and pent-up demand factor into how companies decide which regions to prioritize for new fiber installation.
- Because fiber is an expanding technology, it’s typically more expensive than other options. Do your homework to see whether your provider offers introductory rates or other low-cost tiers of service.
Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) represent the oldest type of internet service still available today.
DSL uses copper cables to transmit data. This type of service utilizes telephone lines. Unlike older dial-up services, the voice phone line remains available for simultaneous use.
DSL service offers three different options. Asynchronous DSL (ADSL) services offer faster download speeds but slower uploads. Synchronous DSL (SDSL) offers equal down- and upload speeds. Very high-bit DSL (VDSL) provides faster speeds but slows down considerably over distance. DSL uses existing phone lines and is often bundled with phone service.
- DSL uses individual telephone lines to carry data, so every customer has a dedicated line. Available bandwidth doesn’t dip during peak use hours.
- Digital Subscriber Lines service is available in over 90% of the U.S., which makes it a viable option in rural areas and small towns.
- DSL is typically less expensive than newer internet technologies.
- DSL is known for its slow speeds, although its dedicated line can make it faster than cable during peak hours. At its fastest speed, DSL is often limited to 100 Mbps.
- DSL works for basic internet service but doesn’t handle heavy data uploads or streaming very well.
- DSL service tends to degrade over distance. Customers located further from a service provider hub will experience slower speeds.
- Sources of high-voltage energy can slow down or interfere with DSL cable speeds. Similarly, power outages normally take out DSL service as well.
This type of service provides internet connectivity over cable television lines. Like DSL, cable uses copper and electricity to send information across distances.
Similar to DSL/local phone service bundles, cable-based high-speed internet is often bundled with television programming packages. Major communication carriers are increasingly suggesting that their customers bundle all three.
- Cable high-speed internet is widely available across the U.S.
- Fiber availability is growing — and becoming more competitive — but cable-sourced internet is available in more markets than fiber.
- Since multiple customers share the same cable television lines, service will slow down during peak use and in densely populated areas.
- Customers often pay more for service they don’t want, like telephone or television packages
- Like DSL, cable service degrades over distance.
- With limited bandwidth during peak hours, cable may sometimes be slower than DSL.
As technology continues to permeate the workplace, businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on high-speed internet. Choosing the right provider for your business will depend on the two primary factors of location and cost.
Fiber can be harder to find and more expensive, but it is often worth the investment as it offers more reliable, faster service. Companies operating with a heavy dependence on high-speed internet may see their productivity gains offset the cost.
Cable and DSL are more widely available, but they are slower and prone to infrastructure weaknesses. While initial cost savings may look inviting, lost business from slower speeds and downtime may cost more than they save.