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What kind of Internet access makes
sense for your business?

If you're reading this in the morning, the abbreviation DSL might stir up a craving for a double–skim latte. Or maybe it'll trigger the old nagging question about your current Internet connection: Is it time to upgrade from dial–up to dedicated access?

Dial-up and broadband: the basic differences

Dial–up access is the most common method of connecting to the Internet. As its name suggests, a dial–up connection taps your computer (equipped with a modem) into the Web over a standard phone line.

With broadband (DSL or cable) access, on the other hand, your connection to the Internet is always on; there's no dial–up necessary. Broadband connections are more expensive than dial–ups, but the greater expense is often offset by the boost in speed and convenience.

Four questions

To decide whether your should use dial–up or broadband Internet access, ask yourself:

  • Does your business have more than three people using the Internet?

  • Does your business send or download large files?

  • Does your business regularly use the Internet to research or make purchases?

  • Does your business rely on a connection to the Internet that is consistently up and running and  rarely down?1
If you answered "no" to each question, then you should consider staying with your dial–up connection. If you answered "yes" to any of the questions, you may want to consider switching to some form of broadband access. For more help in making a decision, use the table below.

DSL and cable

Small businesses typically turn to DSL (Digital Subscriber Lines) or cable when opting for a high–speed Internet connection. The two options have comparable speeds and pricing.

DSL operates through existing phone lines, but it does not intefere with phone use. You can receive calls or talk on the phone while online. There are two types of DSL: ADSL, which receives information faster than it sends it and is more popular with consumers, and SDSL, which provides the same speed in both directions and is more popular with businesses.

Cable Internet connections provide high–speed access over cable television wires. Because they operate over shared wires, cable connections are not truly dedicated. Access speeds can be reduced if there are hundreds or thousands of users tapping into the same cable line. While not widely available, cable connections are relatively affordable. To inquire about pricing and availability in your area, contact your local cable company.

Leased lines and frame relays

Medium–size and large businesses sometimes opt for higher speed connections, such as leased lines or frame relays. A leased line, sometimes referred to as T–1, is a private, dedicated line that goes directly from your office to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). If you don't need maximum speed, you can purchase a fractional T–1 leased line, which is a T–1 line split into segments and divided among users. Leased lines provide guaranteed bandwidth, since they are not shared with other users. A leased line connection is also available at T–3 speed or fractional T–3 speed. T–3 transmission rates are faster than T–1 rates.

Frame relay differs from a leased line in that the connection to the Internet is owned by the telephone company and is shared by many users. Frame relay ISPs provide a Committed Information Rate (CIR) for the minimum transmission speed they will guarantee. Many also provide "burstable bandwidth", which means you can use more than your contractually allotted bandwidth for short periods of time without incurring extra fees.

Recommended access table

  1–10 hours/week  10–50 hours/week 50+ hours/week
Email, Web browsing Dial–up DSL (ADSL) or cable DSL (ADSL or SDSL), cable, frame relay, or leased line (T–1 or T–3)
Email, Web browsing, research, file downloads, online purchasing DSL (ADSL) or cable DSL (ADSL or SDSL) or cable DSL (ADSL or SDSL), cable, moderate to high–speed frame relay or leased line (T1/fractional T1).
Email, Web browsing, intensive research, large file downloads, online purchasing, Web hosting, connecting multiple offices Moderate–speed frame relay. Moderate to high–speed frame relay or leased line (T1/fractional T1). High–speed leased line (T1 or T3/fractional T3).

1Questions originally drawn up by

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