Are you old enough to remember the frustrations that accompanied dial-up internet? You'd sit down to check your email, and--if you were lucky--would manage to look at a few of them in the matter of an hour. The connection was slow to start and finicky once it did. Can you imagine using any modern business tools with internet that slow again? I can hear that resounding "Not a Chance!".
The days of difficult connections and sketchy internet providers should be over. Yet, sometimes you just can't do what you want because your connection isn't fast enough, or it's spotty and inconsistent.
What should your company do if its available internet providers aren't cutting it?
If you familiarize yourself with the vocabulary, you'll be better able to get the most out of your internet providers in Seattle.
What You Need to Know about Internet Providers
First, you've got to know what you're dealing with. So, let's start with some abbreviations as a refresher.
ISP: Internet Service Provider. Everyone in the office--and their grandmas--can talk about internet service providers, but say "ISP" and several will stumble.
There are different kinds of ISP's. It's unusual for internet providers to separate these services nowadays, but this is what you're looking for.
- A Mailbox ISP is all about email service.
- An Access or Hosting ISP's exist to connect a user with the internet; think broadband and fiber optic cables.
- A Transit ISP has a lot of bandwidth and is able to seamlessly connect the host and the access components.
LAN: Local Area Network. This means all the computers and wireless devices that belong to one server. A LAN is usually within one office building or one household. A LAN can work for a few people or several hundreds.
Many devices sharing a Wi-Fi connection are also a LAN--just not a hardwired one--in which case it's called a WLAN, which of course means wireless local area network.
VLAN: Virtual Local Area Network. A VLAN creates a network by grouping LANs together. So, let's say your office building is large and made up of many groups that want or need their own LANs. A VLAN is a way to organize and serve many LANs as one.
Setting up a VLAN offers greater control over the network as a whole, thereby providing a higher security setting.
VoIP: Voice Over Internet Protocol. This is what's replacing landlines for telephone calls. Most likely you already have VoIP at your business as a part of your internet provider's business offerings. If not, make sure to read this article about VoIP.
You have this technology at work if you're using your computer to place phone calls. The idea is that your voice is digitized and sent over the internet to the recipient of your call (who may or may not have VoIP).
VoIP is a relatively new technology, so it can be a bit easier for those with malicious intent to breach the security of a system. VoIP providers are aware of this, though, and are working all the time to strengthen security measures. We bring this up beause uou need to be aware of this so that you can discuss it with your provider.
And guess what? VoIP can help you cut costs! It's now less expensive than a traditional landline.
PBX: Private Branch Exchange. Think of this as the modern version of the lady with glasses hunched over a giant switchboard. Interestingly, this technology has been around since the 1970s.
Most PBXs are cloud based and controlled by internet service providers.
IoT: Internet of Things. This just means every online device you interact with or see around you.
And you know that's not in any way limited to phones--people are connecting their coffee pots, refrigerators, cars, industrial equipment, and so on. Pretty much anything you can think of will eventually become an IoT.
In fact, it's estimated that by 2020 the world will have about 21 billion IoTs in it.
That's a lot of "things".
You need to be aware of IoT because you want to make sure your internet provider has an enormous capacity able to handle an enormous amount of traffic now and over the next few years that your business may be consuming.
Because this world of IoTs, VoIPs, and ISPs is pretty new, all the kinks are not yet worked out about how to secure all of it.
One thought is that internet providers are the key to securing all IoTs. The idea is that with the right filters, the ISP could catch suspicious data--fake email or IP addresses, or just patterns of activity that seem to have been generated by malware--and stop it before it ever reaches the customer. At NPI, we pride ouselves on catching most of these problems before they ever even reach your computer or phone.
Since ISPs would already be looking for and filtering out harmful data, they would also be able to alert the customer to any unwanted activity.
The bottom line here is that when you negotiate the contract with whichever of the many internet providers you choose, also negotiate the security measures you want to have in place.
For instance, your VoIP must be encrypted. It's hard to remember if you're new to VoIP, but your phone won't be connected to a phone jack and little copper wires; your voice, as mentioned above, becomes digitized and transmitted through space, only to be digitally reconstituted just before it reaches your customer's ear. That leaves a lot of opportunities for someone to snatch your words out of the air and compromise business knowledge.
Getting the Most out of Your Service Provider
Knowing what's available from any of your area internet providers, and then being able to personally make sense of the available services, is your first step in getting the most of your service provider. If you don't know what it is, you logically can't ask for it. If you don't know what you need, you also can't ask for it.
Familiarization with the terms is your responsibility, but willingness to help you understand is the responsibility of a good customer service representative. You want to feel you're building a partnership of trust with your provider.
In the Pacific Northwest, you want a company that will streamline your entire network, deal with the vendors involved (there can be several), and treat you well. All at the same time having the best customer support offered in the PNW.
Don't wait through another weekend to make a smart move--a move that will offer your greater security and great ease of use.