Network Optimization News
Top eleven things to look for when choosing your Internet Service Provider

By Eli Riles

Eli Riles is a retired Insurance Agent from New York. He is a self taught expert in network infrastructure. He spends half
the year traveling and visiting remote corners of the earth. The other half of the year you'll find him in his computer labs
testing and tinkering with the latest network technology. For questions or comments please contact him at
eliriles@yahoo.com.

1) Support: There is no such thing as a perfect ISP, so it is important to know how you will be treated if your network
should go down or become agonizingly slow. Even though many network issues ultimately are not the fault of your
provider, it is always nice to have an expert available to help you isolate where a problem may be. It is unrealistic to
assume your provider can provide top notch support without charging you for it. For this reason do not judge your
provider strictly on price. Research how well they have supported other customers in their time of need. In the long run
timely support will save you more money than getting a cut rate wholesale link to the Internet.

2)
Overselling: What is your true bandwidth ratio? All ISPs oversell their actual bandwidth available. For example an
ISP might advertise 3 megabits up and 1.5 megabits down to thousands of customers, and yet their total available
bandwidth may be a simple 100 megabit trunk from their upstream provider. Ultimately your performance will depend
more on the ratio of customers sharing the upstream trunk at your provider. The bandwidth you get during off peak
hours under ideal conditions is likely be what your provider advertises. An interesting note here is that the Irish
government has regulated that all Internet providers divulge their actual ratios. If your sales representative does not
know this ratio, then look for a an ISP that does.

3)
Redundancy: Does your provider have more than one switching point to the Internet? The top providers have
multiple sources where they connect to the Internet. Make sure your provider has multiple sources.

4)
Contact hours: Make sure your provider has 24/7 after hours service, and yes expect to pay a bit more. Make sure
they have real support people on call, and not just an answering service.

5)
Price: Price is important, but too often customers base a decision solely on price. Adequate Internet connectivity with
quality is far more important than price if you consider the lost time and money from just a minor outage.

6)
Size: Big is not necessarily better when it comes to choosing a provider. The larger ISPs certainly have the
marketing muscle to get your attention, however there may be smaller very responsive providers in your area . Do a
Google search on all Internet service providers in your area before you make a final decision. Don't default your service
to the big guys without doing some background research.

7)
Longevity: Length of time in Business There is a magic number at the 2 year point where a provider either moves
on, gets acquired or goes under. If your provider has been around for more than 2 years you can be pretty much
assured they are doing something right, and will be around for a while longer.

8)
Freebies: Don't buy on the teaser. It is a hassle to change providers should they not work out. Teaser sign ups for
free service are just that, ignore them.

9)
Value Add: Some providers bundle Voice and special quality of service options with their offers. There are many
options for VOIP services once you have a solid provider so it is not necessary to buy them from a single source. Make
sure your basic service is solid. Then look into where to purchase your VOIP services from.

10)
Provisioning: Length of time between purchase and service. The shorter the period of time to get your service
started the more likely follow on support will be timely. Special situations to consider: Wireless connectivity requires
line of sight from the Wireless ISPs (WISP) antenna to your location. There also may be special equipment required.
Be sure to understand this in your initial analysis. The best way to check into quality of service for WISPs is to talk to
some neighbors that are using that Wireless provider.

11)
ISP policies: Some ISPs (like universities) will attempt to block copyrighted material - or they may be required by
law to provide information about what the consumer is accessing. ISPs are also adding bandwidth management and
traffic shaping policies to limit Peer to Peer traffic. Consumers should be asking if there is any kind of equalizing
provided by their ISP to make sure they have on-demand bandwidth and if P2P traffic is limited in anyway.

Eli Riles

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