• December 22, 2017 - With the FCC’s recent repeal of net neutrality, the future of internet service and pricing is uncertain. The decision still has to go to a Senate vote, so the ramifications are still unclear, but we’ll be keeping an eye on the story as it develops and update our review accordingly.

The best business internet offers reliable connectivity, excellent customer service, and the right bandwidth for your work volume. Provider availability and plans will vary depending on your location, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the options, we’re here to make things clearer.

We examined the often-enigmatic ISP landscape with help from 10 IT consultants, research from the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and Broadband Now, an independent organization that supports transparency for internet customers. We also dug into the plans, contracts, and customer service ratings of the seven biggest players to outline their strengths and weaknesses.

The Best Business Internet

How to Choose the Best Business Internet for You

Start by seeing what’s available for your area.

There are more than 2,500 total ISPs in the United States, but most businesses will only have access to a handful.

What’s latency and packet loss?We’ve compiled our guide assuming that you’re familiar with IT lingo, but we’ve also created a glossary if you need a quick debrief.

The frustrating reality of the industry is that, even by conservative estimates, FCC reports suggest that half the country has no choice when it comes to high-speed ISP providers. For better or for worse, you’re stuck with what your street address has deemed your inevitable digital destiny.

Plans and pricing will also vary depending on your region. To find out what business internet is available for your location, enter your zipcode at the top of the page — we’ll guide you through the biggest considerations when purchasing.

Figure out how much bandwidth you need.

After availability, the best business ISP for you depends on a single factor: sufficient bandwidth. Todd Millecam, CEO of IT consulting firm SWYM Systems, Inc, told us, “With business ISPs, the main priority is that there is enough bandwidth to handle all onsite employees.”

Business internet plans aren’t one-size-fits-all: Productivity at a tech company would slow to a crawl while trying to access cloud storage and place video conference calls on 10 Mbps of speed. But for a small business that only uses the internet to send email and maintain a website, it may make more financial sense to sign up for just 10 Mbps rather than forking out for 100 Mbps.

To figure out what plans are right for you, note how many people will be using your internet simultaneously and what kind of work they’ll be doing.

Recommended Speed (in Mbps) Based on Usage

Number of Users
Light Usage (Email & Web Browsing)
Moderate Usage (Downloads, Cloud)
Multi-Media (Large Downloads, Conferencing)
Heavy Usage (Apps, Multiple Devices)
10 Users
2–7 Mbps
4–9 Mbps
7–12 Mbps
14–19 Mbps
15 Users
3–8 Mbps
6–11 Mbps
11–16 Mbps
21–26 Mbps
20 Users
4–9 Mbps
9–14 Mbps
14–19 Mbps
29–34 Mbps
30 Users
6–11 Mbps
13–18 Mbps
21–26 Mbps
43–48 Mbps
40 Users
9–14 Mbps
17–22 Mbps
29–34 Mbps
57–82 Mbps
50 Users
11–16 Mbps
21–26 Mbps
36–41 Mbps
71–96 Mbps

Source: Bandwidthpool

Keep in mind that these are ballpark measurements. High-volume tech like cloud storage and video-conferencing are on the rise, so we recommend choosing faster speeds if you expect your business will be using similar tech. Just make sure you consider upload speeds in addition to download speeds, which get more attention. Timothy Platt, VP of IT Business Services at Virtual Operations, told us, “Most any provider can provide sufficient download speed — it’s upload that is a significant differentiator.” If your business backs up a lot of data to cloud storage or makes video calls, you’ll want a more generous upload speed.

If you’re not exactly sure where you fall, err in favor of more generous speeds: Choose a speed that allows for business to continue smoothly even during peak hours, when the maximum amount of people are accessing the internet simultaneously. Trying to save money in the short-term on your monthly internet bill may cost you in the long run if employees are frustrated and hindered by lagging or unreliable speeds.

From there, decide what type of internet is right for you.

Not all internet is created equal: What’s best for your business will depend on the size and needs of your office. It’s up to you to decide what you want to prioritize for your business, but several important factors — including overall speed, cost, and reliability — will vary between the type of internet you’re considering. We’ve outlined the major types of internet service to help you distinguish among your options:

  • DSL: Short for Digital Subscriber Line, DSL works by sending signals through your building’s pre-existing copper telephone lines. It’s slower than cable and fiber, but the most widely available, at 90% nationwide coverage. Business users will want to choose “symmetical” (SDSL), “high-data-rate” (HDSL), or “very-high-data-rate” (VDSL) over “asymmetrical” ADSL, which is slower. One important note: Companies advertise speeds of up to 300 mbps with VDSL, but speeds will range widely depending on your plan and distance from the provider. In fact, FCC data shows that median DSL download speeds are less than 10 Mbps. We dive deep into the DSL landscape in our review of the Best DSL Internet.
  • Cable: With 89% nationwide coverage, cable is available to most Americans. It works by transmitting data through existing coaxial copper cables (that also deliver analog television signals), which means it’s more affordable than Fiber while still providing high-speed internet — some providers even offer up to 1000 Mbps, though most will have max speeds ranging between 200-300 Mbps. It’s generally faster than DSL, though susceptible to the same issues: Upload speeds tend to be much slower than download speeds, and your speed will vary depending on your distance from the provider.
  • Copper: Other technologies (besides Cable and DSL) use copper wiring, primarily T1, T3, and Ethernet over Copper (EOC). These have various pros and cons: They'll typically take longer than other types of internet to set up (potentially weeks or months), and are much more expensive than other types of internet — depending on your distance from the provider, costs can range up to the $1,000s. But If you already have copper wiring and are willing to pay more for higher speeds, these services may be a good alternative if you’re part of the 75% Americans that don’t have access to Fiber.
  • Fiber: Fiber internet works by transmitting data through light currents, not electricity, in glass or plastic cables. This makes the quality and consistency of your internet much better than with cable or DSL, which can be susceptible to electrical interference from inclement weather. But installing a fiber optic network is a pricey investment and it’s only available to 25% of Americans. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for the fastest and most consistent speeds, Fiber is probably your best bet — speeds range from 10-1000 Mbps, and if future improvements in Fiber tech raise that speed range, your existing Fiber cables will still work.

Weigh customer service offerings.

We’ll be frank here: As we discussed in our review of the Best Internet Service Providers, customer service throughout the entire ISP industry is rather lackluster. While this is just an exasperating reality for residential internet users, businesses can lose potential revenue during internet outages. Of course, no customer service rating can guarantee you’ll never have to sit on a frustrating call with customer service again. There are, however, a few things you can check on to make sure your ISP won’t leave you out to dry when things get tough.

The first thing to check is the Service Level Agreement (SLA) in your contract. In the SLAs, providers will state their expected uptime and compensation for downtimes. There’s not a lot of transparency about how actual uptimes compare to advertised uptimes, but it’s safe to say you won’t find any contracts guaranteeing 100%. Downtime is inevitable, and most major ISPs advertise uptimes over 99%, but ISPs may differ in what service or compensation they offer during downtime. The best should compensate you for downtime, work to restore connectivity, and explain the source of the problem if you inquire. For many companies, compensation comes in the form of pro-rating your next billing statement depending on how long your internet was down. But note that compensation won’t always offset revenue losses, and it usually isn’t automatic: You’ll need to contact customer service about arranging it. Trevor Textor, analyst at tech consulting company Textor Corp, told us, “These are nice to see in contracts, but collecting on them is an admin pain on both sides.”

Results will vary depending on your region, but we looked at third-party customer service ratings from J.D. Power and the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), who score ISPs for customer satisfaction. We’ve outlined these respective scores in the discussion of our top picks below. Keep in mind that a higher score won’t guarantee a perfect experience from your provider, but they should correlate to better service over the long term.

The IT consultants we spoke with agreed that the more choice, the better — particularly for tiered speed plans and support offerings. Millecam told us one of his priorities is: “a tiered approach to their support...The best providers will offer support ranging from nothing more than a static route and IP address to dedicated equipment with 4-hour incident response.” Companies with large tech teams may not need as much attention, but tiered options allow businesses to get the right level of support without overspending.

Make sure the contract is flexible enough for your business.

When you’ve found an ISP you want to get serious about, look at contract requirements. Some providers will require you to sign a contract that locks you into their service for two to three years. You’ll still have the right to end service — but you’ll likely pay a fee if you do. That means long contracts could be an issue if you’re expecting your business to grow dramatically or relocate.

An ISP’s speed tiers and bundling options are also important considerations, especially for small businesses. The more speed tiers you have to choose from, the more potential for customization. And because you’ll need more speed as your business grows, you’ll want an ISP that can accommodate that growth. As Millecam told us, “A good provider will have the option to upgrade bandwidth.”

Smaller companies might benefit from bundling options that package services like email, phone, and web hosting with your internet. Compiling what would be individual bills into one is easier to manage, and generally more cost-effective than paying each service’s bill separately. Timothy Platt, VP of IT Business Services at Virtual Operations, told us it’s especially helpful if a provider has high-quality digital voice phone and fax service, because it “provides for ‘one-stop’ shopping and eliminates the inevitable finger-pointing between vendors when a problem arises.”

Our Picks for the Best Business Internet Service Providers

Most Transparent Pricing

AT&T InternetThe largest company in the telco industry, AT&T stands out for its exceptional customer service and transparency around fees, though customer service assistance is fallible. A large range of speed plans means it’s appropriate for both smaller and larger businesses, though you’ll need to commit: the 2-year contract has a hefty early cancellation fee.

Type of Internet
Fiber, DSL
Actual speeds (averaged):
94.66% of advertised
Contract requirement
2 years
J.D. Power Customer Servie Rating
4.3/5
ACSI Rating
69/100
Bundling Options
Phone, TV, Tech Support

We had high hopes for this mega-conglomerate, the world’s largest telecom company — and it ended up giving a better show than most of the other big providers, especially in customer service and transparency. AT&T provides coverage across 21 states in the Midwest, South, and West Coast. (East Coasters will have better luck with Verizon.)

AT&T came in right behind Verizon for highest customer satisfaction ratings. While the seven providers altogether averaged 3.2/5 with JD Power and 62.4/100 with the ACSI, AT&T was comfortably above average with both. And though these scores do vary by region, AT&T stood out as one of the only providers to receive a perfect score from JD Power in any region, receiving solid 5/5s in the Midwest.

Our experiences were a little mixed. On the one hand, we found the representatives on AT&T’s live chat tool friendly and responsive; on the other hand, the information we got wasn’t always accurate. When we asked for specifics about tis bundling plans, the rep told us it wasn’t possible, and that we’d have to sign up for phone and TV separately and pay three bills per month.

However, a little digging showed us that was not the case — you can bundle phone, TV, or tech services with your business internet, depending on your needs. We’re glad AT&T’s customer service is friendly and responsive, but we don’t love the fact that we were given misinformation, even if in earnest.

Service Map for AT&T Internet

AT&T does outshine its competition when it comes to price and plan transparency, though. The company clearly lays out its fees for equipment, installation, and service, which is rare in an industry known for hedgey language and hidden fees. And while we literally spent hours looking for other providers’ SLAs, we came across AT&T’s in just a few minutes.

AT&T’s SLAs guarantee that in the event of downtime, service will be restored within 24 hours, and that customers are entitled to one day’s credit on their next bill if uptime isn’t restored within 24 hours. That isn’t exceptional compensation — especially when compared with CenturyLink, which grants one day’s credit per every half hour of downtime — but its 99.99% expected uptime and 24/7 repair line make us confident that we’ll get the support we need in the event there is an issue. Just keep in mind that if you go with AT&T, you’ll be expected to commit: The 2-year contract charges a hefty 75% of your remaining balance if you switch providers before time’s up.

AT&T offers business internet plans with DSL, Fiber, and IPBB (which is basically higher-speed DSL and Ethernet grouped together under one name). The number of plans and speeds available to you will vary based on location, but the download speeds for business plans range from 6 Mbps (DSL) to 1000 Mbps (fiber) — so whether it’s just you and a few other workers sending emails or 100 employees video conferencing daily, AT&T has a range of speeds that will likely fit your business’s needs.

Best Customer Service

VerizonTop customer service ratings, flexible contract terms, a wide range of plans, and superlatively reliable speeds make Verizon one of the best business internet service providers in the industry. Just note that availability for certain plans is limited based on region.

Type of Internet
Copper, DSL, Fiber
Actual Speeds (averaged)
109.47%
Contract Requirement
2 years or 1 month
J.D. Power Customer Service Rating
5/5
ACSI Rating
71/100
Bundling Options
Phone, TV

With Fios, Business, and High Speed Internet, Verizon offers a trifecta of impressively inclusive services (though we’ll admit that the the plans’ initial names are rather misleading). Verizon Fios (Fiber) is available in 10 Northeastern states, Verizon Business (Copper) in 47, and Verizon High Speed Internet (DSL) in 11 states on the East Coast. Unless your business is in the Northeast, you’ll likely be limited to copper. Copper internet installation may take longer and be more expensive than other types of internet, though it’s a more widely available way to get fiber-level speeds.

Verizon’s advertised speeds range from 75 to 940 Mbps overall, though the FCC’s 2016 report showed that Verizon’s actual speeds average as 109.47% of advertised. Along with Comcast and Spectrum, Verizon is likely maintain the fastest speeds for your business.

Verizon also knocked it out of the park with customer service ratings: It received the highest scores among all the biggest providers, with 5/5 from JD Power and 71/100 from the ACSI — Verizon Fios, in particular, stole the show with solid 5s across the board.

Verizon Business Internet Map

Whether you’re ready to commit or not, Verizon gives you options: You can choose between a two-year contract or a month-to-month plan. The month-to-month plan is more expensive, but if you cancel your two-year plan early, you’ll need to pay up to 35% of your remaining balance. That’s still significantly less than you would owe in cancellation fees with AT&T or Comcast (who’ll demand 75% of your remaining balance if you leave them before your term’s up). The only things we can hold against Verizon? We couldn’t find information on its SLAs. All the same, if Verizon is available in your area, we definitely recommend looking into its plans.

Best Downtime Compensation

CenturyLinkThough CenturyLink’s customer service ratings were average, we were impressed by its well-organized website and flexible contracts. Those variable contract lengths, and inclusive bundling options make CenturyLink a good choice for businesses seeking flexibility, and if your internet happens to go down, CenturyLink offers the best compensation of any provider we looked at.

Type of Internet
DSL, Fiber
Actual Speeds (averaged)
87.63% of advertised
Contract Requirement
2 years or 1 month
J.D. Power Customer Service Rating
3/5
ACSI Rating
59/100
Bundling Options
TV, Phone, Voice, Security

CenturyLink offers coverage in 39 states across the country. If you’re in the South or Midwest, there’s a fair chance service is available in your area: CenturyLink is widely available in both regions, with some coverage on parts of the East and West Coasts.

In customer service ratings from JD Power and ACSI, CenturyLink came out solidly average in comparison with major ISPs as a whole: 3/5 from J.D. Power and 59/100 from the ASCI, it beat out Frontier (56) and Windstream (57), but were far from Verizon’s top score of 71. We’d recommend that you don’t go in expecting exceptional service — it won’t be terrible, just pretty on par with most other big ISPs. However, we were impressed with its website, which is organized in services based on business size and needs. Whether you’ve got two or 2,000 employees, CenturyLink’s website makes it a bit easier than most providers to match yourself up with the right plans.

Despite its perfectly mediocre customer service ratings, CenturyLink stood out for transparent terms: While our hunt for SLA contract details ended in vain for most ISPs, we found them quickly for both CenturyLink and AT&T. CenturyLink’s contract emerged after a simple Google search and can be found in its legal landing page. It strives for an ambitious uptime between 99.95% and 100%, but don’t be too impressed — most companies claim the same. If your service happens to fail, however, Centurylink does offer a uniquely generous compensation that extends to latency and packet loss. For every 30 minutes of downtime, you’ll be credited for 1 day. That’s a significantly larger amount in comparison to AT&T, which offers an eye-for-an-eye 1 day’s credit for every 24 hours of downtime.

CenturyLink Coverage

Along with Verizon, CenturyLink offers some of the most flexible contract options: you can choose between a 2-year contract or month-to-month plan. Keep in mind that the month-to-month plan will be more expensive, and that the two-year plan offers discounted monthly prices. Early termination of either contract will result in a $200 fee, but that may be a smaller dent in your wallet than other providers’ closing statements if you end up cancelling your services earlier on in your contract.

With options for Fiber or DSL business internet, CenturyLink caters to businesses of any size. DSL speeds range from 3 Mbps to 100 Mbps while Fiber caters to companies that need speeds reaching 1,000 Mbps. Either of these services can be bundled with TV and phone services for consolidated billing, too. If your business reaches several thousands of employees, the options expand more generously: You can bundle cloud storage and network security — making CenturyLink the provider that hosts the most bundling options for big businesses.

Most Reliable Speeds

Comcast BusinessIf speed’s what you’re after, Comcast offers the most consistently reliable speeds as reported by the FCC. Just note that customer service is a bit below average, and the 2-year contract carries a hefty early cancellation fee.

Type of Internet
Cable, Fiber
Actual Speeds (averaged)
110.23%
Contract Requirement
2 years
J.D. Power Customer Service Rating
2.25/5
ACSI Rating
60/100
Bundling Options
N/A

Comcast is available across 39 states, but we were surprised to see that its advertised speeds range from 25 Mbps to 1000 on its fiber network. And the FCC reported Comcast’s actual speeds average 110.23% of its advertised speeds, so if you’re looking for speedy internet, this is one of the best bets out there.

What Comcast wins in speed, it loses somewhat in customer service and transparency. We weren’t able to find any information on SLAs, but we did find details on contracts and cancellation fees. Customers are locked into 2-year contracts, and the early cancellation fee will demand 75% of your remaining bill. That’s on par with AT&T, but Comcast performed more poorly in customer service scoring: At 2.5/5 with JD Power, and 60/100 from the ACSI, you can expect customer service that’s a little below average in comparison with the other major business internet service providers.

XFINITY from Comcast Availability

Know that Comcast doesn’t offer any bundling options, either. If you’d prefer to pay your telecom services all in one bill, it’s best to look at other providers. But if high-speed cable is all you need, Comcast may work well for you.

Best Online Resources

Frontier CommunicationsEasily-navigable website that helps guide you towards the plans that fit your business, but lower-than-advertised speeds and poor customer service ratings give reason to pause.

Type of Internet
DSL, Fiber
Actual speeds (averaged)
93.37% of advertised
Contract Requirement
None listed
J.D. Power Customer Service Rating
2/5
ACSI Rating
56/100
Bundling Options
Phone

The similarities between Windstream and Frontier are stronger than we would like from two major ISPs, since they’re mostly negative. Frontier’s services are fairly widely available — coverage across 38 states makes is about as large as CenturyLink, Spectrum, and Comcast — but its below-average customer service ratings minimize the appeal.

JD Power only rated it 2/5, which tied Windstream for worst out of the major national ISPs. An ACSI rating of 56 dropped it to the very bottom of the big ISPs. Even in an industry that seems to pride itself on complicated and frustrating customer service, these numbers stood out as being especially low.

Frontier offers both DSL and fiber internet with the ability to bundle these services with phone coverage, but the speed and number of available plans vary based on location. For DSL service, the maximum download speed ranges from 7-40 Mbps, while the fiber internet option provides faster speeds of 50 to 150 Mbps. These figures are still noticeably lower than what other ISPs offer, especially with fiber — Verizon’s speed starts at 75 Mbps and maxes out at 940 Mbps — and the average actual speeds for Frontier came out to 93.37% of what’s advertised, which means even its fastest offer may not be able to meet your business’s needs.

Frontier Communications Coverage Area

Frontier’s silver lining lies in its website: While we weren’t able to find SLAs listed anywhere, Frontier did an otherwise decent job providing helpful information for potential customers. There’s a side-by-side comparison of different plan offerings, projected price levels for bundled packages, and specific recommendations based on the size and online work volume of your business. Of course, this doesn’t change the lower speeds or poor customer service reviews, but we nevertheless appreciate the transparency with which Frontier lays out its services.

Frontier’s plans require a minimum one-year agreement, but we can’t confidently assess the details of such an agreement since SLAs weren’t available online. Still, a one-year contract is shorter than those offered by AT&T and Comcast. Combined with lower overall speeds, Frontier is best-suited for small businesses with lower service requirements who may anticipate the volume of their work increasing after one year. But since the best business internet package will allow for upgrade options to cover such increased needs, there is ultimately a hard limit to Frontier’s service capabilities.

Most Flexible Contracts

Charter SpectrumMonth-to-month contracts with no cancellation fees make it easy to start or stop service as you will. Lower speed caps and optional phone bundling make it a good choice for smaller businesses expecting to grow.

Type of Internet
Cable, Fiber
Actual Speeds (averaged)
109.1%
Contract Requirement
1 month
J.D. Power Customer Service Rating
3.75/5
ACSI Rating
65/100
Bundling Options
Phone

Formerly known as Time Warner Cable, Charter Spectrum offers high-speed fiber and cable for businesses across 43 states. To be frank, in comparison with other big internet service providers, Spectrum is neither exceptionally bad nor particularly impressive: Its customer service scores eked out slightly above average, at 3.75/5 for JD Power and 65/100 for the ACSI. And with speeds capped at 300 Mbps, its internet offerings aren’t nearly as fast as those from other fiber and cable providers. But if 300 Mbps is perfect for your business’s needs, note that historically, those speeds have been pretty consistent: the FCC reported that last year, Spectrum’s actual speeds were 109.1% of advertised — of all the major ISPs, only Comcast had a better record, though Spectrum’s customer service scores are better across JD Power and the ACSI.

Charter Spectrum Internet Area

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find any information on Spectrum’s SLAs, but with decent customer service ratings and high averaged actual speeds, it’s likely that downtime is rare and compensated for. We did find that Spectrum has some of the most flexible contract policies. In fact, there’s only monthly options. With its month-to-month plans and no cancellation fees, Spectrum is an attractive option for smaller businesses that aren’t quite ready to commit to a multi-year contract: If you’re not happy, you can walk away. Spectrum also offers phone bundling for any businesses that want to make their billing experience a bit easier.

Best Coverage

WindstreamWindstream offers the most comprehensive nationwide coverage, with service available in every U.S. state except Alaska. However, we didn’t love that lack of transparency on its website, nor the low customer service ratings.

Type of Internet
DSL, Cable
Actual Speeds (averaged)
94.59% of advertised
Contract Requirement
None listed
J.D. Power Customer Service Rating
2/5
ACSI Rating
57/100
Bundling Options
Voice, Security

In terms of availability, Windstream is close to perfect: coverage can be found in every state except Alaska, more than any other big-name ISP we examined. Unfortunately, that’s the only area it excels in.

Customer service isn’t Windstream’s priority: It’s one of the lowest-rated ISPs out of the readily-available major providers we examined. Beyond its below-average scores, we were struck by how difficult Windstream makes it to find actual plan information on its site, leaning heavily on marketing lingo and blog posts. Even after extensively perusing its pages we were unable to find Windstream’s SLA, contract requirements, or speed tiers, all crucial information when choosing a provider — we can only imagine how difficult it would be trying to resolve such ambiguity as an actual customer.

Windstream Coverage Area

Windstream only offers DSL and cable options, which may be sufficient for some customers but won’t provide the faster speeds of copper or fiber internet that many businesses depend on. If your business requires fast upload speeds for activities like video conferencing, Windstream won’t be able to offer the same level of service as ISPs like AT&T and Verizon. Windstream’s reported actual speeds of 94.59% are far lower than those offered by Spectrum, Comcast, and Verizon, but are generally on par with the rest of our providers. While 94.59% sounds pretty good, anything below 100% means the service you receive won’t match up with the speeds you’re paying for.

Windstream boasts an expected uptime of 99.995%, which means its service, though somewhat vague in terms of specific offerings, should nevertheless be reliable — though we weren’t able to find SLAs outlining compensation for when downtime does occur.

Windstream does offer bundling packages with phone and security, but DSL and cable offerings mean it will be better for small businesses than large organizations with complex needs.

It’s quite possible that Windstream will be one of the only major service providers near you (unless you live in Alaska); if so, you’ll be able to have most of your business needs fulfilled — just don’t expect the process to be easy.

Did You Know?

Glossary of common terms

  • Speed: How quickly you can expect your internet to process information. Often measured as “download x upload” speeds (for example, 5 x 1 indicates a 5 Mbps download speed, and 1 Mbps upload speed).
  • Upload: When you send data from your computer to the internet, like an email.
  • Download: When you receive data to your computer from the internet. Example: Watching a YouTube video.
  • Uptime: When your internet is working properly.
  • Downtime: When your internet has crashed and isn’t working.
  • Bandwidth: How much information your internet can handle at once.
  • Mbps: Abbreviation for megabits per second. The units used to measure internet speed and bandwidth. One megabit is equivalent to 1/8th of a megabyte (MB), and 1000 Kilobytes (K). 1000 Mbps equals 1 Gigabyte (G).
  • ISP: Abbreviation for Internet Service Provider.
  • Internet Protocol (IP): How data is sent, in packets, from computer to computer over the internet.
  • IP Address: A unique number that essentially acts as your computer’s name tag, giving it an identity when it “talks” to other computers. Static IP addresses stay the same over time, while dynamic IP addresses change every time the computer connects to the internet. A static IP address makes it easier for businesses to host servers and websites, connect to other servers, and use other companies’ servers and software.
  • IPv6: Internet Protocol version 6. It’s the most recent version of IP that’s slowly replacing IPv4. IPv6 improves upon various aspects of IPv4; before IPv6, there was concern that we would run out of IP addresses, but IPv6 addresses are longer and allow for many more configurations.
  • Packet: Units of data sent across the internet.
  • Packet Loss: Happens when at least one packet of data doesn’t reach its destination, usually because of a network congestion. Packet loss can increase latency. The lower this number, the better.
  • Latency: The length of time that passes between when a packet is sent and when it’s received. The shorter, the better.
  • SLA: Short for “Service-level agreement,” an official agreement on service between a provider and user.

Stay on top of your plan.

Get the most out of your internet by holding your provider accountable and preparing for any technical issues that may arise:

Check your speed regularly. Through testing, the FCC found that most major broadband providers have actual download speeds that meet or exceed advertised speeds. But some providers — a few major DSL providers and Viasat’s satellite internet — fell short in testing. To make sure you’re getting what you pay for, find your provider’s specific test site, or use a free testing site like TestMy.net to check your actual speeds. If you’re unhappy with your service, an inadequate speed test provides hard evidence for any complaints you bring up with your ISP.

Make sure your own equipment is working well. Your internet quality is a two-way street: You’ll also need to maintain your equipment well to make sure connectivity quality stays solid. Textor explained, “The provider's responsibility ends at the demarcation. Usually this is a modem at the customer's site. The customer's own equipment, cabling, Wi-Fi, etc. after the modem is most often one of the largest problems with internet service delivery.” Routinely check your equipment to make sure everything is in good shape: regularly run speed tests, conduct malware scans, and replace outdated equipment to ensure you’re getting the most out of your internet service.

Consider hiring an engineer. Millecam told us that larger companies in urban areas should plan on hiring someone to take care of internet issues in-house. Why? “It’ll save you money in the long run and it’ll give you the flexibility you need to grow your company.” Good ISPs will provide tech support to help troubleshoot problems, but an in-house point person can accumulate more thorough knowledge of your business’s needs and instantly respond to any internet issues.

Have a back-up plan. You’ve heard it before for data, but experts recommend to always have a backup ISP for your company’s internet, too. But that doesn’t mean you need your Plan B to provide the same bandwidth as your Plan A. Eric Thompson from Strive Technology Consulting told us that it pays off to have an “inexpensive and low speed” plan running in the background, so that you can continue business as usual when there’s an outage — especially because many companies keep data in the cloud. Jarrod DellaChiesa, President of consulting company DellaChiesa Hospitality, LLC, suggests using a router with a USB connection and a cellular backup device that allows the router to “failover” to a 4G connection.

Can I just use residential internet for my business?

Unless you expect your small business to stay at the same size for over a year, it may save you some time and frustration to sign up for a business internet plan initially. Erick Harlow, Principal with Forensic IT, told us, “If you are a business, stop using personal internet connections. Purchase the best business internet you can afford...The right provider will provide an excellent investment return in the long run.”

The benefits are immense: Static IP addresses for easier server and domain name hosting, SLAs to guarantee reliability and responsiveness, the ability to use your own high-quality equipment, and a dedicated connection between your business and the internet through cable, fiber, or phone lines. And while residential internet offers both indirect and direct access, a business plan will be entirely direct, keeping your connection stable at all times.

The Best Business Internet Service Providers, Summed Up

Business Internet
The Best
AT&T
Transparent Pricing
CenturyLink
Downtime Compensation
Windstream
Best Coverage
Frontier
Best Online Resources
Spectrum
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