Comparing Internet Service Providers
Know Your Internet Options: DSL, Cable, Fiber and Satellite
There’s only one internet, but there are several ways you can connect to it. And that connection can make all the difference when it comes to the productivity and profit of your business.
For small or medium-sized businesses, the four most popular internet options are: DSL, Cable, Fiber and Satellite. Other choices are available – such as Dial-Up and Wireless – but they tend to be too costly or too slow for the needs of today’s businesses.
The Pros and Cons of Internet Connections
DSL or Digital Subscriber Line is offered by telephone companies and uses the telephone lines already installed in your business. Though more affordable than other options, DSL is slower than cable or fiber. Advertised speeds for DSL range between 6 Mbps to 40 Mbps but the actual speed can be less, depending on the distance between your business and the phone company facilities. Also upload speeds are much lower than download speeds with DSL.
How Does DSL Compare?
- Easy installation
- More affordable than other services
- Slower speeds than fiber and cable
- Upload speeds are much slower than download speeds
Cable internet comes from a cable company and uses the same circular coaxial cable used for cable television. Because these cables offer a higher bandwidth, they can achieve faster speeds than DSL and satellite. Speeds can vary by market, but top end cable speeds typically range from 100 Mbps to 500 Mbps. Although these speeds won't be affected by distance, the connection may be shared by other nearby business and residential subscribers – which may affect the speed.
How Does Cable Compare?
- Faster than DSL, satellite and wireless
- Widely accessible across the US
- Usually slower than fiber
- Can lag during peak usage times
Fiber or fiber-optic internet converts data into light then sends it through glass fibers about the thickness of a human hair. Offering speeds up to 10 Gbps, fiber is the fastest internet connection you can buy. Unlike DSL, fiber speeds can be maintained across very long distances between the service provider and your business. Fiber is also considered to be the most reliable and secure option. Though fiber has become widely available, especially in larger metro areas, many areas are still not served by fiber internet. Costs will vary depending if you opt for Dedicated Internet Access or a shared fiber connection, but in general fiber is a more expensive internet option.
How Does Fiber Compare?
- The fastest internet service on the market
- Symmetrical upload and download speeds
- More expensive than other services
- Not available in all areas
Satellite internet provides a connection via a satellite orbiting the Earth. Because the signal must travel a long distance from earth to the satellite and back again, speeds are generally slower than other options – usually no more than 18 Mbps. The key advantage to satellite internet is its availability almost everywhere in the United States. This makes it a good solution when there are no other service providers available. However, with satellite internet weather conditions can often interrupt or impair service.
How Does Satellite Compare?
- Relatively easy to install (requires a satellite dish)
- Available everywhere in the US
- Slow internet speeds
- At the mercy of weather conditions
Choosing the Right Business Internet
Depending on where your business is located, your choices for internet service could be limited to one or two of the above choices. But no matter how many choices you have, you’ll want to compare the various packages offered by different providers based on speed-per-dollar. This will enable you to find the best value. For example, a 50 Mbps cable package would typically cost far less than a 50 Mbps fiber option and as a result deliver a greater value.