Business ISP and Communications - 10 points to help

I've worked for and dealt with Australian ISP's and communications for well over 10 years now, and it never ceases to amaze me the price/quality variations that exist out there for small to medium business.. 

As an IT consultant I often go in to bat for my clients when negotiating and procuring data connections, and in most cases look at their voice costs too as part of the solution.

I've been involved in some fantastic outcomes with the proper investigation and I've also seen some near disasters happen with businesses going for the wrong services or relocating their business to an area with poor coverage. Pretty sure my hair is thinning further as I type this..

... this is some general advice to business owners out there looking to cut costs and get a better service from your providers, and its pretty simple. (Disclaimer, this advice is general ONLY, do you own research and investigation)

  1. Shop around & Negotiate. If you are going for something better than ADSL, like Fibre, Midband, SHDSL fixed wireless and so forth, please shop around, better yet speak to an independent communications consultant or experienced IT consultant... As you will probably know, different services are available in different areas. And prices for each service will cost differ too. Welcome to Australia. With a lot of these services when the price gets up, there is room to move. Remember there are only a handful of "Tier 1/back-haul" providers in Australia, most ISP's resell wholesale products.
  2. Be careful of "Bundles".. once again, do research..just because your mobile service is with a particular carrier, don't feel obliged to have them as your data provider, often the discounts aren't worth it. Especially if you are with one of the biggest mobile providers... just saying.. The only bundles i know that can save on cost is if you are using Cloud services like Amazon Web Services, ZettaGrid, some of these if you bundle the connection, you can get "included" or discount traffic from your connection to the Cloud... 
  3. TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP ,,, can't stress this enough! especially if going for an MPLS network, or changing to a SIP service for your phone calls blah blah blah ... most providers wont give you the total price and probably wont ask what type of phone system and hand sets you have. You might need to buy new Routers, PBX, Handsets and so forth, might end up costing over budget, or flat out not work.
  4. Ask lots of questions. (watch for excessive sweat from the BDM's head)
    1. How much is this going to cost after we sign up with what we are paying now?
    2. Are there any other costs associated with going ahead with new plan/connection?
    3. Will it work with the equipment I have now?
    4. How long will it take to implement once signed?
    5. What is the contract term?
    6. What are the exit fees?
    7. How will this improve value for money and performance (if they can't answer this... run)
    8. What is the contention rate on the Internet link? (get to what that means shortly)
    9. Will there be a discount across all my services if  bundle all my services with you (you=ISP)? But then begs the question, what if my mobile and fixed line provider can't provide a decent internet connection?... go with one that can...
    10. Can I get an NBN connection? bwhahaha .. sorry.. cheap joke.. no really can I? probably no. you can check here http://www.nbnco.com.au/ ... someone asked me the other day "what's your opinion of the state of the NBN roll-out"? .. this sums it up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBknAcTaMiI ... 
    11. What internet services are available in my area? Copper, fibre etc etc ..Don't assume good internet is available everywhere!
  5. You will often get what you pay for... and with most copper services, you get what the distance you are from your attached exchange (to see how far you are from your exchange http://www.adsl2exchanges.com.au)...If you want ADSL, then try see if you are near one of the new TopHat's if one is in your area (https://www.telstra.com.au/misc/tophat/index.cfm)
  6. Contended vs Non-Contended
    1. Contended link is one shared by multiple customers where you get the internet connection from.. 
    2. Non-contended or UN-contended or 1:1 contention ratio, basically means you have the connection to the internet back-haul to your self... (probably not best explanation, but you get the idea).
    3. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contention_ratio for more detail
    4. Please also don't confuse speed vs bandwidth http://www.dslreports.com/faq/694 for more detail
  7. Check the SLA agreement (if any) and uptime guarentee... should be above 99% .. 
  8. Work out downtime you can afford... don't get an ADSL connection for $80/month and complain when it goes down.
  9. Ask you neighbor what connection they have, and if its any good. Often your neighbor will be able to get the same connections you can. Take an empty cup and ask for some sugar while you are there.
  10. Research. Try http://whirlpool.net.au/  although its nickname is "whinge-pool" for a reason... that said, DON'T believe everything you read on there!! Ask Google see what it can Bing up... that's a nerd dad joke right there.

I haven't really gone into a lot of detail, so if you think I have missed anything or you want to correct my speeeling or grammar feel free to comment below...    

I didn't mention pricing, but I urge you to get price quotes from at least a couple ISP's, eg: iiNet, AAPT, Telstra, Optus, Macquarie Telecom, Amcom, ZettaNet .. um ... Dodo .... 

I guess to summarise, do your research, ask your IT professional, check total costs! good luck, one day Australia will have affordable, fast internet and non of this will really be an issue :D.. jokes...    

Any questions, please contact us or comment below..


Matt Steedman | Amped IT