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When it comes to small business, there’s often nothing more critical than fast, reliable internet — and the options can feel as varied as the companies themselves. Before you spring for that premium business internet package, it’s best to understand your company’s specific needs. This handy guide will help you decide which high-speed package is best tailored to your unique situation (and if business internet is worth the extra cash).
Why Choose Business Internet?
The fact is, owning a business doesn’t mean you need to spring for a business internet package. Residential products that may provide even faster internet speeds tend to be much more affordable.
Business Internet Service Level Agreements, or SLAs, usually come with some valuable perks. They outline your internet service expectations and hold your provider accountable for meeting them. For small businesses, this means you often skip the residential customer service line, with 24/7 access to tech support. If companies don’t meet the terms of the SLA, they are required to either compensate you for your lost time or allow you to get out of the contract early. Either way, business internet customers have the luxury of holding their service provider to a higher standard.
Business internet isn’t necessarily the fastest. In fact, many residential packages are often quicker, but it does include a couple of features that can keep things running efficiently. While most internet customers have to share bandwidth with others in their proximity, small businesses can receive a dedicated connection. This is a private connection linked to your business so that you alone have control of how crowded your network becomes. A dedicated connection can also allow for the two-way travel of data, which means you can upload just as quickly as you can download. This is especially useful for those businesses that juggle a lot of bulky files.
Despite this heightened command over your internet experience, more control and service doesn’t always mean a better value. Many businesses can thrive without immediate network maintenance, and their user load doesn’t require massive amounts of dedicated bandwidth.
Residential networks also offer comparable speed for much less than the cost of business internet. In fact, business internet consumers can spend as much as five or six times more for the same network speed. If you’re still intrigued by all that business internet has to offer, however, here are our picks for the best options based on specific performance categories. Just remember that price and availability vary widely based on your location, and you’ll have to contact each company to find out what will be available to you.
For Businesses With 7 or Fewer Employees: Frontier
Frontier doesn’t score high on customer service metrics, but it makes up for it with the most affordable high-speed fiber in the market. Their broadband internet — meaning it features at least 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads — costs as little as $29.99/mo. For start-ups with just a couple employees, this should meet your network needs for browsing the internet, streaming music, downloading/uploading files and video conferencing. If employees are attempting more sophisticated activities like streaming videos, uploading large files or running complex sales software, we suggest springing for the 100 Mbps plan, starting at $49.99/mo. For a business up to seven employees, this should keep everyone happy for a reasonable price.
Frontier offers round-the-clock tech support and a variety of budget-friendly options.
Honorable Mention: Google Fiber
Google Fiber's 100 Mbps plan costs $70/mo., but the company is known for clear, straightforward contracts that won’t inflate your overall fees. Their always-available customer service also keeps things running smoothly. Small businesses with conventional internet needs can rarely do better than this user-friendly, no-frills fiber experience.
|Tip: For the best value, you may want to explore bundling options. Paying one fee for phone, business, and web services, along with business internet might be an attractive option if you’re willing to do a little extra digging.|
For Best Reliability: Verizon Fios Business
Verizon offers nearly the most stable, well-maintained internet service on the market — perfect for companies whose productivity depends on cloud-based software or online management systems. If your business caters to lots of customers who need WiFi access, like a coffee shop or gym, you’ll also want to safeguard your customers’ online experience. For these companies, losing the internet means losing business, so a premium price might be worth the maintenance and connectivity perks. Plans start at about $69-$85/mo. for 100 Mbps, and top out at almost $250/mo. for speed that falls just short of a gigabit connection. At a download speed of 940 Mbps, though, we doubt anyone will notice.
Fios by Verizon offers up to $1,500 credit to cover early termination fees from a current carrier when you bundle with a two-year term.
Honorable Mention: Comcast
With an uptime expectation of 99.998%, Comcast’s connection is virtually perfect. The reason it doesn’t take this category is that this consistency isn’t exactly a bargain. You can expect a 75 Mbps package to cost $150. For their premier gigabit product, be prepared to pay around $500/mo. This isn’t necessarily a market outlier (AT&T charges similarly for a gigabit connection), and Comcast does offer some handy WiFi management tools, but the pure bandwidth can be had for much less.
For Best Accessibility: CenturyLink
CenturyLink slots in at this spot for its optimized DSL coverage. DSL connects you to the internet through telephone lines, so it’s available to almost anyone who has a landline. The trade-off for this availability is often much slower internet speed than cable or fiber. Fortunately, companies like CenturyLink are boosting DSL by linking their fiber networks to the dated phone lines to bring you speeds as high as 940 mbps. This is lightning, but don’t expect it to be available in most places. The majority of DSL-served locations will top out around 100 Mbps which, although decent, isn’t enough to satisfy many small businesses. However, at least it’s available and relatively reasonable, with products running from $54.99 to $224.99. CenturyLink may not offer all the bells and whistles at this price, and their customer service reputation is not stellar, but for those without many options, it’s often the best choice.
CenturyLink offers internet, phone and business app bundles.
Honorable Mention: Viasat
We were tempted to slot HughesNet into this spot due to their more consistent coverage and easy-to-follow service plan. However, Viasat wins the satellite internet grudge match thanks to their higher speed potential and unlimited data option. Satellite internet is the only service for those who live a truly remote life and therefore must have their internet beamed from above. It’s not cheap — Viasat’s 12 Mbps plan is still $50/mo. — and the highest speed is only 100 Mbps, but it’s the best option for parts of rural America.
The Final Verdict
As we’ve stated, offers and availability vary widely based on your location. So reading this summary is only the first step to deciding if business internet is in your future, and, if so, which option is best. Just keep in mind that being in business doesn’t mean you need business internet.
Residential internet is absolutely the best value for speed and bandwidth and easily supports the most sophisticated activities, like HDR streaming and gaming. Check to see if any of the residential plans available in your area could be a good substitute for a business plan.
Your decision really comes down to whether the extra cost is worth the elevated service and control. Answering that question requires that you make an in-depth evaluation of your company’s network needs.