If you're in the market for the services of a national ISP, you've got many to choose from. They all offer different ISP services, sport different ISP technologies, have different records regarding both ISP security and ISP reliability, and of course charge different amounts of money. Sites like the ISP Buying Guide can help with these comparisons. You find an ISP directory with feature list comparisons, cost comparisons, and more. You will also be able to drill down and do some comparisons based upon state, so you can even see some of the local ISPs alongside the national ISPs.
Let's say you're in the typical scenario of having moved to a new place and are now looking for an ISP. Let's further say that you've had bad experiences with national ISPs and are looking for a local one. This can be a little tricky as doing a Web search for keywords like "ISP" or "Internet Service Provider" will pull up all sorts of irrelevant sites and a handful of national ISPs, but probably nothing useful. There are three things that can help: the first is to include your state or province name along with your other search terms, something like "Massachusetts ISP" for example. The second is to utilize something like DMOZ that includes listings by region. The third is to find the local Web site for your new town and the local Web site for the closest large city and see what ISP lists they have; they quite possibly keep an ISP directory, and maybe even have some customer feedback.
Some ISP Web hosting companies provide a special type of ISP search service that enables your Web site to be searched. If you configure your Web site appropriately, visitors will be able to search it for particular words or phrases. While this is not too useful for the typical home site, it's a huge advantage for large business sites. Businesses looking for Web hosting providers should always check in advance whether or not the provider has some sort of searching ISP technology. Most ISPs with dynamic Web hosting capabilities will have searching technology; most ISPs with only static Web hosting capabilities will not.
In general a business should never use free Internet services. There are a few key reasons for this. The first is that the ISP reliability ratings of the free services tend not to compare well against the ISP reliability ratings of the paid services. The second is that most of the free ISP services will show advertisements (potentially competitors' advertisements) on your displays. The third is that people who are a little Internet-savvy will quite literally make jokes about businesses that have e-mail addresses in domains like aol.com or hotmail.com. You don't want your business to lose respect before people even examine your goods.
VoIP is an exciting new ISP technology that can benefit businesses and ordinary people alike. Businesses often have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to set up elaborate phone systems, and then spend large sums of money for monthly upkeep. VoIP won't reduce the set-up cost; it'll stay about the same. It will however greatly reduce the monthly expenses. Businesses that have just purchased new traditional phone systems will not be able to economically switching to VoIP systems. Businesses that are looking into getting new phone systems though should strongly consider the VoIP alternative. More and more businesses are considering VoIP technology to be a standard part of their business Internet.
Business ISPs that focus on Web hosting services should offer dynamic Web hosting among their ISP technologies. An internet service provider business plan for the Web will usually have a back-end database (like PostgreSQL, Oracle, or even MySQL) for holding business records, and a dynamic engine like Zope, JSP, or WebObjects to automatically make use of that data to generate pages on demand. The rationale for this approach is one of cost: no business wants to pay an outlandish sum of money to have its entire site redesigned when a single new product or service is added or upgraded. With dynamic Web hosting capabilities, a product or service may be added or changed once in the database and the entire Web site will modify itself accordingly. It's a little more expensive to set up, but it pays for itself over the life of the Web site.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|