Want to know the tricks your carrier doesn’t want you to know? Here are 5 tricks you should check out before you sign on the dotted line with a new service provider (or renew your ISP service).
- Know Your ISP Needs. Do your homework ahead of the big discussion with an ISP representative. Know how much bandwidth your business needs. You can estimate bandwidth based on the number of users you will have and by whether you use VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), stream video or use video conferencing. Your negotiators will want to come to the negotiating table armed with the knowledge of whether you need a static IP. ISPs prefer to use dynamic IPs for their clients because it avoids them having to assign and track specific IPs for each customer. However, if your firm has its own servers for email, a website, or virtual private networks, then you need static IPs and you probably have tasked your IT department with maintaining them. In that case, IT should weigh in on how the ISP agreement and the SLA cover the static IPs your business needs.
- Auto Bill Pay and Automatic Renewals: Your firm can save money by using your ISP automatic renewal feature. If this is a carrier that you have used before and you are not planning to move to a different carrier within a few months, then automatic renewals and automatic payments can help your firm avoid missed payments, late penalties, and, even more importantly, any lapse or disconnection in service.
- Negotiate Your Contract Terms: ISPs usually will negotiate a service level agreement (SLA) that states the various service terms that apply to your contract. While it is important to have the agreed upon monthly fee stated in any service contract, it is equally important that you reduce the following services to writing in an SLA: up-time guarantees (and not just 99.9% of the time); 24/7 support services (whether automated or live); and agreed upon response time to requests for support action and fixes. Like any contract, it is important that SLA terms include agreements as to: whether you receive compensation for breaches of the SLA and for ISP system down times; the amount of material the ISP will process during periods when the system experiences high traffic; the ISP’s cyber security level; the ISP’s gateway redundancy; and whether and how often the ISP checks your internet connection performance. As you will probably guess, it’s a good idea to get and compare several provider service level agreements (SLAs) and choose the best one for your situation before you sign a contract.
- Length of Service Term: If you are not sure about the ISP and the service it provides, you may not want a long-term contract or you may want to make sure that the cancellation provisions allow you to cancel within a short time period. If you have a short cancellation period (e.g, 30 days with notice) and/or you do not plan to move to another provider in the near future, you can sometimes get a discount for a “rate lock-in” for a several months. Providers also offer bundle rates of specific service features at a discounted price. Even if your ISP does not offer these discounts up front, it is worth negotiating for the best rate discounts possible as long as you still receive the services that your business requires.
- Waivers of Hidden Charges and Restrictions. It is important that your IT team check out the conditions under which your ISP will run. In other words, how do the data and bandwidth restrictions stack up for your business needs? You can only find such restrictions in the subscriber agreement and use restrictions policies posted somewhere on an ISP’s website. Also, know whether the ISP will charge installation fees or equipment fees in addition to your monthly service fee. Firms do not often post information on their website about installation fees or the hardware they give so your negotiator will want to raise the issue with the sales person. Most likely, ISPs will waive the installation and equipment fees only in the context of a long-term service agreement.
To read the article that was the inspiration for this post, read “How to Choose an Internet Provider.”