Reading The Fine Print On Your Business Internet Plans
As a business operating online, it is extremely critical that you are available to your customers every minute of the day. Each time your service goes down, it translates to a loss in customers and revenues. In recent times, a number of internet service providers have been offering extremely attractive deals to their business customers. Sample this:
- “100 percent uptime guarantee“
- “Unlimited bandwidth“
- “Fast 20 Mbps internet speed“
Many times, these deals are offered at a premium to business internet users compared to home connections. This is marketed as an additional cost to ensure these services are always available to businesses. But are these guarantees always met? Reading the fine print on your ISP SLA (Service Level Agreement) should tell.
100 Percent Uptime Guarantee
Let’s first take a look at the uptime guarantee. This an extremely critical factor to businesses for whom downtime inevitably means a commensurate loss of revenue. At the outset a 100 percent uptime guarantee implies your servers cannot, and will never, go down. Your site or service will be available to customers all the time.
But promising this is equivalent to saying your building can never be destroyed by earthquake or fire. Technology is yet to evolve to a level where such a guarantee can be adhered to all the time.
So what happens when your service indeed gets interrupted? In such scenarios, the ISP should provide you with additional credits. This is a fair deal that a lot of business internet providers offer. What you should be aware of is that this additional credits may not be applicable in a variety of scenarios:
- When there is a scheduled server maintenance
- When there is a hardware failure of the servers
- DNS or other configuration issus preventing access to your site or service
- Act of God (fire, flood, earthquake, etc.)
This technically limits the liability of the provider to only those scenarios where there was a genuine network level fault that did not impact the hardware. Does this mean you sign up for a possibly cheaper 99.99 percent uptime guarantee service? Not necessarily. There is a massive change in the service levels offered in a 99.99 percent guarantee service vis-a-vis a 99.99 percent uptime service.
To give you a perspective, a 99.99 percent uptime guarantee service implies the provider can go down for as much as 87 hours in a year and not be liable for any compensatory credits. In contrast, a service that offers 99.99 percent uptime guarantee is liable for compensation for a downtime lasting any thing more than 9 hours. If you are running a company where every lost minute implies loss, it makes sense to go with a service that guarantees 100 percent up time.
Almost every other internet service provider offers unlimited bandwidth for their business customers. But just like it is with the household connections, these connections are restricted under what is sometimes called the ‘Fair Usage Policy.’ That is, customers technically have unlimited bandwidth to expend. However, if the usage breaches a pre-determined level, then the bandwidth speed is restricted to abysmally low levels ( as low as 256 kbps in some cases). When signing up with an ISP for unlimited bandwidth, make a note of the FUP in the SLA to see if this falls reasonably outside your average consumption levels.
Fast Internet Speed
The internet speed on offer is a major point of concern for business internet users. This is because, ISPs normally offer download speeds “up to” a maximum level. This is a red flag for business customers because such networks are usually reserved for home broadband customers where an oversubscribed network often leads to fall in speeds much lower than the promised figure.
As a business internet user, check if the SLA reads internet speeds “up to” the promised speed or if it is “guaranteed speed”. It is recommended that you go with the latter option since such networks are liable to provide the business user with a minimum internet speed and hence helps in better productivity compared to the former.