Choosing An ISP
Choosing an ISP who will handle your needs today and tomorrow should be
a top priority and lack of good Customer Service ranks as the number one
complaint from many Internet users.
At St. Louis Internet
we sell Customer Service. Many ISP's offer low-ball pricing for
their services - but try to get a human on the phone when you have a problem
and your site is down. In fact, you may not even know when your site
is down ! Our 99.999% Up-time for the year 2001 speaks for itself.
Our network, equipment and staff are state-of-the-art to keep your e-business
running twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
FACT#1: Many ISP's over sell their
Bandwidth is the maximum amount of data which can flow from an ISP facility
back and forth on the Internet. You simply can't put more than one gallon
of liquid in a one gallon container, but on the Internet you can - resulting
in slow response times. St. Louis Internet averages 64% of available bandwidth
and we always increase as needed to insure your Internet needs are running
at maximum speed.
#2: Most ISP's aren't ISP's !
send a server they purchased to a "farm" where it's one of the
"cattle" in the hands of a third-party, or, they purchased space
on a "real" ISP's server. Either way, your services are indirectly
handled by a third party who doesn't even know your name, and, the ISP
you chose is at their mercy. St. Louis Internet owns and maintains all
of its equipment and software. We do not use third-parties to handle our
hosting, EMAIL and other web-based services.
#3: Consider your ISP an employee.
If your receptionist is the first person your customers will hear or see
when they walk in your building, so is your ISP when they visit your web
site. If the receptionist is on break and not answering the phone or is
simply slow to respond, your business reputation is negatively impacted.
Your customer may turn and leave your business for your competitor. First
impressions are true on the Internet just as they are in face-to-face
#4: Hosting is Hosting, T-1's are T-1's - OR ARE THEY?
We recently bid
against a competitor for a high-speed T-1 line. How did our competitor
bid $300/month lower than us since the phone company portion of
the line charges are, for the most part, the same.
Answer: The competitor bid a FRACTIONAL T-1 costing
the ISP about 40% less than the DEDICATED T-1 we proposed !
The competitor told
the customer it was a "T-1" - which it is, however, the competitor
forgot to tell the customer his Internet speed wasn't guaranteed at the
full, T-1 rate - and the customer didn't know to ask...
When you select St.
Louis Internet as your service provider we will deliver our promises without
any hidden costs or blank stares of misunderstanding. We also won't confuse
you with buzz-words and technical jargon you might not understand.
-- P.S. - We received the order on the above "misunderstanding"
by our competitor :)
#5: True quality always costs less. While other ISP's may offer
cheaper services what does it really cost you out-of-pocket when your
site or connection is slow or completely down ? We pay a seasoned support
staff to insure your e-business needs are running 24x7 and we GUARANTEE
your up-time in writing.
HERE ARE SOME IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS
IN YOUR SELECTION OF AN ISP FOR HOSTING, EMAIL, DIALUP AND DEDICATED SERVICE:
- Business References.
Call several references and ask them about the service they received,
how long they have been a client and their opinion of the ISP.
"Bigger is not always Better". Ask your ISP what last month's
bandwidth usage was as a percentage of their total. Any ISP using more
than seventy percent on average could present severe problems for you
during peak hours. Likewise, ISP's with low percentages who are more
costly are likely charging you for the excess bandwidth they bought
and didn't need.
- History. How
long as the ISP been in business ? How many domains are hosted by the
ISP ? What percentage of the ISP's customers have been online for more
than two years ? While some of these questions may seem like prying
questions - they are important to you in making your decision because
longevity with a number of clients supports loyalty and means a satisfied
- Uptime. Ask
the ISP what percentage of time ALL of their equipment was accessible
on the Internet for the prior year. Obviously, equipment fails and equipment
gets upgraded. There are acceptable periods of "downtime"
which is expected in order to maintain servers, upgrade software and
keep up with future technology. We suggest that any ISP with less than
99% uptime be scrutinized closely. With proper equipment and planned
maintenance and upgrades, you should expect at least 99% uptime for
- Backup. Does
the ISP backup your data frequently ? It is expected that web designers
have current copies of your web site on their systems. However, more
complex sites which contain dynamic databases such as products, prices,
sales, etc., are the responsibility of the ISP to backup and maintain.
Make sure the ISP performs frequent file backups of your data.
- Failure Plan.
The Internet is reliant on many, many factors and cooperation between
ISP's to work. It is likely the only industry where competitors must
mutually agree to serve each other for the Internet to work. Your ISP
must have at least one "alternate" route to the Internet in
the event their primary route fails. ISP's who purchase services from
another ISP should be critiqued more heavily because they are likely
reliant on that ISP for their service. This is the classic "multi-level-marketing"
approach, where an ISP simply uses the facilities of yet another ISP
to conduct business. ISP's in this situation are completely subjected
to the decisions of their "upline" and are not in total control
of their connectivity. In addition to alternate Internet routes, your
ISP should also have battery backup (UPS) on all their equipment and
gas or diesel generators capable of running for days without the need
for traditional electric service. Also ask the ISP about "backup"
servers. What happens in the event the server your site is hosted on
fails ? Are you out of business for hours or days ? The reality is that
equipment will fail, electric will fail; but a good ISP will have a
backup system in place which can be implemented quickly to guarantee
you the quality of service you deserve.
- Monitoring and
Security. Make sure your ISP monitors their network and those of
their national backbone providers 24 hours, seven days per week and
respond to any outages immediately. Make sure your ISP has a good
"firewall" (NOT A $100 SHAREWARE PROGRAM), or security
monitoring system, to ensure that the service you receive will not be
subjected to known, intentional tampering and abuse.
Once you decide on what your web site requires make sure your ISP offers
the necessary services you will need and if there are any additional
charges make sure you are aware of them. Most ISP's will charge extra,
as an example, for secure (SSL) transactions, database access, etc.
If you have employed a web design firm to write your online store make
sure they are involved in the question and answer phase with the potential
ISP before you sign a contract or write a check.
- Support. What
days and hours of support can you expect from the ISP ? Minimally, the
ISP should offer routine technical support during normal business hours
Monday through Friday. All ISP's should have provisions for handling
critical outage calls after normal business hours and on weekends -
essentially 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In the technological
world we live in today, most ISP's will use voice-mail or other electronic
means for their clients to leave messages when their staff is busy or
after normal support hours. While this practice is acceptable to most,
make sure your ISP will return your phone call promptly and that your
questions are answered.
- Dedicated Connections.
If you are looking for a permanent, dedicated connection to the Internet
for providing access to your employees, there are additional considerations:
Make sure your ISP will guarantee you the bandwidth of that office
connection if it is a guaranteed agreement.
Make certain your ISP offers Firewall protection to keep hackers
or intruders out of your internal network.
Your ISP should be able to manage or install at your location any
software that will control what Internet services you decide your
employees can and cannot use. Other software which can monitor your
employee usage for management purposes should also be available.
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