A stable, high-speed internet connection is a necessity for any business as it directly controls how you communicate with your customers. And as remote work is becoming the norm, making sure you have a reliable internet connection is more important than ever. But as the cost and speeds of residential internet become increasingly competitive, the differences between the two become blurred.
Although residential internet plans offer relatively fast speeds and lower pricing, they limit the features you’d find in a business connection. That said, a lot of those features probably wouldn’t be noticed by an average user. For example, residential internet often offers fast download speeds to stream video, play games online or just browse the web. However, upload speeds are fairly slow, so if you’re uploading a few GBs of content or backing up files, that’s where you’d feel the pain.
With a business internet service, you’d get more stable performance with similar upload and download speeds. But more than that, you get service better catered to business. Depending on the plan you get, business internet usually comes with extra features like domain name registration so you can create a website, multiple email addresses with the domain name for your growing staff, security services and more.
What to look for in a business internet plan
A business internet connection is usually worth the added expense because it covers all those extra gotchas you may not think about up-front. If you run into a problem with your website, email, or even the connection itself, your business internet service provider (ISP) probably already has a solution. Let’s take a look at some of the features and considerations when selecting the right plan for you.
How fast you can perform a given task online sometimes makes a huge difference, so making sure your business has the right speed is an essential step. Residential lines tend to offer plans with 20Mbps download speeds, but their upload speeds are throttled at only 2Mbps. This kind of asymmetrical performance ratio is fairly consistent across most residential internet plans, so you’re making some sacrifices in service along the line.
A business internet plan doesn’t tend to face these kinds of restrictions. In fact, business internet speeds can be up to 10 times faster than a residential line. Residential internet connections can be anywhere from 1 Mbps to 1 Gbps, while a business line offers speeds up to 10 Gbps. Several business internet plans offer more symmetrical transfer speeds like 940 Mbps downloads and 880 Mbps uploads, but not all of them do, so you’ll have to pay attention to bandwidth needs when choosing your plan.
Types of internet
Understanding the various types of internet is important to making the right choice for your business.
- Digital subscriber line (DSL): A DSL internet connection can provide internet services over an average copper telephone line, giving you an easy entry point for your business internet service. Perfect for light usage like file sharing and cloud backups, a DSL allows you to create a local area network (LAN) that can be tailored to your business needs. Because of the limited bandwidth and speeds of a DSL, it’s meant for smaller businesses with only a few simultaneous connections.
- Cable internet: Cable broadband internet services use a coaxial cable to connect you to the web with speeds tailored to more moderate-to-heavy activities. Online backups are faster, and file management is seamless, even with multiple simultaneous users. If your organization has upgraded to HD audio streaming or is now using VoIP services for teleconferencing, cable internet is a great option to enable your organization.
- Fiber internet: With a fiber-optic internet line, you get the best bandwidth and the fastest solution for a business internet connection. However, because fiber-optic lines still require a lot of infrastructure to be built, its limited to a few regions throughout the country. If a fiber-optic business internet line is available in your area, most providers offer reliable, always-on service with blazing fast speeds of up to 10Gbps. That means you could transfer 1TB of data in 15 minutes or less.
- Satellite internet: For more remote areas that may not have access to a land line for an internet connection, a satellite internet service can help you wherever you are. Just like with satellite TV, your ISP will install a receiver dish at your worksite to establish an internet connection. Because the connection quality of a satellite line depends on everything from trees to the weather or even sunspots, it offers unstable service with slower transfer speeds when compared to land-based options.
Contracts and bundles
A business ISP will usually provide a service level agreement (SLA) as a contract for its customers to state exactly what services will be provided. These SLAs can cover everything from low latency and always-on connections to transfer speeds and technical support, all to help make sure your business is getting exactly what it needs.
An SLA can also include how you’ll be compensated if the baseline service level isn’t met, so it’s important to choose a bundle that meets all your needs. And while you can get a business internet plan without any sort of contract locking you in, you can often get cheaper monthly rates with a multi-year package offered by most major ISPs.
Downtime and customer service
Making sure you have a reliable connection is arguably the most important part of any business internet plan. After all, what good is a fast internet connection if you can’t actually connect to it? Most major ISPs offer “near-perfect” uptime.
On the other hand, an unreliable internet connection can affect everything from your transfer speeds to how many lines it can support. More importantly, an unreliable line can bring your business to a complete stop, halting productivity, preventing sales and potentially damaging your customer relationships.
How much does business internet cost?
You might be surprised by the cost of a business internet plan, as it can range anywhere from $45 per month up to $500 per month, depending on your needs. For a business with less than 20 employees that only needs to run low-bandwidth applications like checking an email or running a point of sale (POS) system, you could probably find a plan with speeds up to 200 Mbps in the $50 per month to $75 per month range.
A business with an e-commerce component or using cloud-based software as a service (SaaS), should expect around $100 per month for moderate 600 Mbps speeds. If your business handles large amounts of data like transferring video files, regular voice over IP (VoIP) meetings, or teleconferencing, that’s where you’ll want faster plans closer the 1000 Mbps range that can cost up to $500 per month.
For more complex organizations with specific needs, or a larger enterprise with a staff of 20 people or more, you can contact a sales representative from any major ISP to create a customized bundle tailored to your needs.
Best internet service providers for small businesses
These are some of the best internet service providers offering business internet packages.
Verizon Fios Business
According to J.D. Power, Verizon Fios Business is rated the best overall business ISP thanks to symmetrical download/upload speeds of up to 940 Mbps, award-winning customer service, and reliable internet connections. Although Verizon Fios uses fiber optic connections and has a “Fios Gig Connection” plan, that service doesn’t offer true gigabit speed.
Another consideration to be aware of is that Verizon Fios is available with a 24-month service agreement that automatically renews. While you could get the service without a contract, that can cost an extra $20 every month.
AT&T Internet for Business
For the fastest business ISP, AT&T is the place to be. Unlike Verizon, AT&T delivers on its gigabit transfer speeds, offering downloads as fast as 1 Gbps. If your business requires a reliable, ultra-fast connection to run data-heavy applications or for real-time communications, AT&T Internet for Business is a great option that offers symmetrical download/upload speeds.
While AT&T is the fastest ISP, it also comes with a higher price tag of up to $300 per month for its 1 Gbps plan. AT&T business internet was also ranked at the top of customer service by J.D. Power, so while it does indeed cost a bit more, its customers don’t seem to mind.
Comcast Business Internet
Comcast business internet is a fast, reliable option that provides service competitive with other providers like AT&T and Verizon. Comcast business internet is available in speeds ranging from 25 Mbps to 1 Gbps, giving you dependable, blazing-fast internet connections, but it’s also among the more expensive options.
Comcast business internet can cost up to $499.95 per month, but it also comes with free installation, Wi-Fi tools, security applications and 24/7 tech support. While Comcast has a mixed reputation for customer service at a higher cost, its business internet customer care really does help you get the help you need whenever you need it.
Cox Communications is a great internet service provider for businesses of all sizes. It offers service plans with internet speeds that range from 25 Mbps to 10 Gbps. All of its plans have a static IP address, email accounts, online backup storage space and security licenses. Wi-Fi services for employees and guests are included with the high-speed internet service.
Xfinity from Comcast is a residential ISP that provides high-speed internet to home-based businesses. Its service plans' internet speeds range from 25 to 2,000 Mbps. Depending on where you live, you can get service plans with speeds ranging from 25 to 2,000 Mbps (2 Gbps). The 2,000 Mbps speeds, however, are only offered in a small portion of Xfinity's coverage area. The company offers both cable and fiber optic connections, read our full Xfinity internet review for more details.
If you’re unable to get an internet service through a landline, Viasat satellite internet service is a great option wherever you are. With Viasat, you get solid coverage in even some of the most remote areas in the country, offering transfer speeds of up to 100 Mbps. But it’s not the most cost-effective option, costing up to $500 per month for a 100 Mbps plan.
Because of its enhanced technologies, Viasat is able to provide a reliable, consistent low-latency connection, but it’s the speed throttling you have to look out for. While Viasat won’t cut off your internet connection completely, if you reach your daily limit, it will limit your transfer speeds. Due to the high cost and speed limitations, satellite business internet is usually saved as a last resort when there are no other options.
Frontier Business Internet
For the least expensive option, look no further than Frontier Communications. Offering fiberoptic plans ranging from $55.99 per month to $239.99 per month, Frontier offers symmetric transfer speeds for its business internet plans that include an integrated VoIP solution to help streamline communications. However, you get what you pay for.
Frontier is notorious for poor customer service and high latency in their connections. Because of the unreliable service across the board, Frontier is often faces the most complaints of a business ISP, but if you’re solely focused on getting costs down, this service offers a 3-year price guarantee so you won’t see any sudden changes in your monthly bill.