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Cable Internet Buying Guide

Your business is unique — and so are your internet needs

As a business owner, you know that one of your chief challenges is getting maximum value out of a relatively modest operating budget—and that means finding services that fit your unique needs without the enterprise-level price tag.

Finding the appropriate internet package is among these challenges. Whether it’s promoting your business on social media, leveraging e-commerce on your website, using point-of-sale (POS) systems in store or running Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone lines, for businesses, the internet has become as crucial for day-to-day functioning as electricity.

While your internet service doesn’t need to support a workforce of thousands, you still require a business-grade solution offering the power, security and reliability required to thrive in today’s fast-paced digital world.

To find the right internet solution for your business, you first need to understand what makes a business’s internet needs different from that of consumers and larger companies. This guide walks you through what factors to consider.

Speak to a Business Specialist
Two icons: one with an arrow pointing up for business internet upload speed; one with an arrow pointing down for download speed.

The need for power

From cloud-delivered apps that automate once time-consuming and complex accounting tasks, to POS and e-commerce solutions that streamline payments for your customers, to social media promotions that target potential customers in a more accurate way, the internet has transformed how businesses operate and where they spend their money. Additionally, as businesses use technology like guest WiFi to improve the in-store shopping experience, connections that can support a greater number of users and devices are required. That means fast, powerful internet has gone from being a nice-to-have to a must.

But exactly how much power and speed you need depends on the activities your business performs online.

When it comes to speed, there are two facets to consider – download speed and upload speed. Download speed refers to the rate at which information can move from the internet to your device when you’re surfing the web or streaming videos. Upload speed, on the other hand, is the rate at which information moves from your device to the internet during activities such as video conferencing and sharing large files.

This table illustrates optimal speeds to look for based on common online activities:

Activity Optimal Speed Requirements
Email Up to 30 Mbps (download)/Up to 5 Mbps (upload)
Web browsing Up to 30 Mbps (download)
POS Systems Up to 30 Mbps (download) for 10+ POS terminals
Light file sharing Up to 100 Mbps (download)/ Up to 10 Mbps (upload)
Data backups Up to 20 Mbps (upload)
High-definition video conferencing Up to 150 Mbps (download)/Up to 20 Mbps (upload)
4k video conferencing Up to 50 Mbps (upload)
Heavy file sharing Up to 1 Gbps (download)/Up to 50 Mbps (upload)

Two icons: one showing a slow business internet connection; one showing an outage.

Internet you can count on

As more and more vital business activities shift online, new risks emerge. Chief among these is the risk of network outages.

An internet outage can bring your business to a standstill, making it impossible for employees to do their jobs, knocking out payment systems and VoIP phone lines, and resulting in many more issues. As such, it should come as no surprise that the cost of an outage can be devastating.

An outage can also be caused by physical damage to your cable line due to severe weather, traffic accidents or construction mishaps. Find out what kind of contingencies your potential provider has available for such incidents. Is there a backup solution you can take advantage of, like wireless failover, until the main line is repaired? And how long will the repair take? Sometimes there's no guarantee when a cable line will be repaired; sometimes it's same-day, which could mean 12 hours or more—and sometimes that doesn't include weekends.

Complete outages aren’t the only problem, though. Slow internet can also have a dramatic impact on both employee productivity and customer satisfaction, reducing the speed of staff performance and bringing important tasks, such as processing sales transactions, to a crawl.

It’s also important to have a strong, up-front understanding of what you can expect from your provider when it comes to performance and issue response. This is where your service-level agreement (SLA) comes into play. An SLA is a legally binding agreement that enshrines speed, network availability and other performance obligations. It also details service-level obligations (SLOs), which define the response time you can expect from your provider should an outage or other problem occur. Note, however, that, unlike other elements in an SLA, SLOs are not legally binding as the provider often has little control over what the response time will be. Still, it’s best if your provider states SLOs of just a few hours at the most.

Finally, in addition to a backup option, an expedient repair time, and what's in their SLA and SLO, the level of day-to-day support your provider offers is reflective of how much they understand your business and how much of a priority you are as their customer. How are they reachable? What are their hours? Do they have reps who specialize in helping businesses like yours? Be sure to ask these questions so you can gauge how helpful they'll be no matter what your issue is.

A red shield icon with an exclamation point in the centre illustrates the importance of business internet security.

Network security: a business must

Owners of small businesses in particular are often under the impression that they are of little interest to cybercriminals, who seek to exploit customer data and maliciously disrupt online business activities. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

In factm Small businesses are the victims of 70% of data breaches, while Visa reports that 95% of credit card breaches occur in smaller companies. Meanwhile, about 74% of small businesses make no investment in cybersecurity training, and it’s that lack of investment in security that makes them such an easy and attractive target.

While anti-virus software is a popular security tactic, it’s really no more than a reactive measure because it only starts to work once a threat has reached your network. Cybercriminals work fast; once they penetrate your network, they can wreak havoc in just minutes, while out-of-date anti-virus software can take days or longer to even detect a problem.

To effectively prevent attacks and breaches, it’s vital to think proactively, protecting your network before it can even come into contact with a threat. This is achievable via Secure Domain Name System (DNS), which spots and blocks risky websites before you access them at all. Cybercriminals are sneaky, and their traps are often invisible to the average internet user. For example, one common tactic cybercriminals use is a spoof webpage; you may think you’re logging into a cloud application you use every day, but if that site has been spoofed or infected, you end up providing your sensitive login information to thieves. Secure DNS is equipped to spot such fakery before you fall victim to it, blocking the IP address altogether so that you can’t be compromised. Additionally, this protection works at the network level so no device connected to your network can expose the rest of your network to the threat.

Some internet solutions also allow you to set up access rules in advance, allowing you to restrict certain websites or limit activities on guest WiFi connections, further reducing risky behaviour online.

An icon shows files entering a box, illustrating the importance of finding the right business internet package.

Finding a package that fits your unique needs

There is no one-size-fits-all internet solution. So how do you find the solution that’s best for you? First, it should support the types of activities you perform online, as well as all the users and devices that will need to access your network. And because cost-effectiveness is always crucial, your internet provider should have a variety of packages, ensuring you can get what you need—and scale as you grow.

Before you start evaluating providers, consider how the following affects your internet usage:
›› How many employees and devices need to be online at a given time?
›› What sort of activities do you conduct online? (Email, web surfing, video conferencing, file sharing, etc.)
›› Do you anticipate any upcoming changes in online activities or the size of your workforce?

Having a solid understanding of what you need is crucial to finding the right solution for your business from the right provider.

Speak to a Business Specialist