have unique requirements when it comes to selecting an Internet service
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #355 August 13, 1996 High Tech Office column
Last week, we looked at how to select an
Service Provider (ISP) for an individual or for a small business.
If you've got a small organization with a relatively small network,
you may want to look at a scheme for sharing a single modem or ISDN
connection among your users. For example, the new version of Artisoft's
popular Lantastic network (7.0) allows all workstations on a network
to share a single Internet access. Be aware that while this is much
more affordable than providing each user with individual access, users
are sharing a limited amount of bandwidth. A couple of users can access
the Web at one time while a few more are checking their e-mail, but
beyond that, performance will drop too much to be practical. Still,
this may be an affordable solution for many small networks.
for Internet service for a big organization, you have special needs.
Some of the questions you need to consider are the same, but on a
larger scale. Others are unique to large, networked organizations.
You'll do best if you consider your needs and future plans, and then
gather information on your current capabilities before you go shopping
for an ISP. Think of the bandwidth you need, both now and for future
expansion, but don't even think about phone-line/modem connections,
except for supporting employees on the road or working from home. Even
medium-speed ISDN connections at 128 kbs are probably too slow.
Instead, consider getting a 1.54 megabyte/second T1 connection (about
60 times modem speed) or an even faster T3 connection. Some service
will sell fractional connections--a piece of a T1 connection, for
example, but check prices: you may find a full T1 connection only
slightly more expensive. The speed of connection you need relates
to the number of employees you expect will be using the Internet at
any one time.
do you need? If all you want is to provide your employees with Internet
e-mail, you may be best off with a dedicated e-mail service, such
as Vancouver's Electric Mail Company (926-7783), for much less
than the cost of a "real" Internet connection. On the other hand,
you may want to establish your own corporate domain name, or provide
other Internet services.
you know your
needs, and only pay for what you need. Can you save costs by letting
your own people handle installation or technical support? Or are you
best off contracting these services with your ISP? If so, what level
of technical support can it provide? Is it available 24 hours a day,
seven days a week? Is there tech support that specializes in corporate
customers? Can it help you set up and maintain an effective fire wall
to isolate your company's internal network from the rest of the Net?
administrator. Be aware of the hardware you already have, and what
you'll need to add. Be aware of availability of spare parts for
if--you have a hardware-related problem. Can your ISP provide
on an emergency basis?
you'll need to
work with the phone company in adding that T1 or T3 leased line, who
does that work--you or the ISP? Do you need to connect branch offices
or out-of-town facilities? What provisions will you make for employees
who are travelling on business? Can they connect to your network from
Toronto? New York?
on the importance
of this issue, you may want to contract with a larger, national service
provider rather than a strictly local firm. Even more than small
large outfits probably want to establish their presence on the Web,
so you'll need to register your own Internet domain name, and develop
a Web site. Can your service provider help with these tasks? Should
you be looking at one of the many companies providing Web site design
and consulting? Should you be doing this on-site?
ISPs pride themselves
on providing a full range of services, you may want to get different
services from different providers. Although cost is clearly an issue
for big organizations, focus on questions of technical support,
and future expansion when looking at a way to connect your organization
to the Net.