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CHOOSING AN INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER
Recent developments indicate an upsurge of activities on the Internet, and other Internet related activities. The media focus is also high: Cheap E-Mail, Backbone to the Internet, High speed data links, Web Development, etc. The Information Age is here to stay, so the trend is bound to continue. But fanciful eye catching adverts don’t tell the whole story. Overblown hype doesn’t help either.
Hype way or Highway? Is it an Information SuperHypeway? So how do interested organizations and individuals ensure that they fully benefit from the vast potentials of the Information Super Highway?
For those who want to fully benefit from the Net, without a trial-and-error, or hoping-for-the-best experience, Internet awareness is a must. Knowledge about Internet Service Providers is one of the most critical aspects of Internet Awareness.
The quality of your Internet experience is determined to a large extent by the quality of service provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). However, Internet Awareness encompasses much more than choosing an ISP. This distinction must be emphasized. As a consultant that deals in Internet and related matters, most clients believe once they have chosen the “right” ISP, they are on the journey to Internet paradise. This is wrong and, at the same time naive. Internet awareness and usage entails more than that.
The ISP Essentially, individuals and organizations, access the Internet through ISPs. ISPs are organizations that have established the necessary physical connections and equipment to offer Internet connections.
In Nigeria, some of the ISPs providing Internet service in Nigeria can be found here:
Your Internet Needs and Focus When choosing an ISP, or starting your Internet experience, you must have a focus. Decide on what you want to use the Internet for - now and in future. What are your aims for using the Internet?
Awareness There must be some form of Internet awareness, possibly through observation, exposure, training and experiences. This exposes one to what the Internet is being used to do presently, and its future potentials. This should additionally equip the participant with information on Internet requirements, as well as knowledge of the Internet situation in Nigeria.
With such awareness one is equipped to make wise choices on issues relating to the Internet, which will crop up from time to time. Issues such as choice of Internet services, ISPs, hardware requirements, security considerations, etc.
So after awareness, how do you choose your ISP?
Some ISPs tend to be more expensive than others. Of course cost is important. But cost shouldn’t be your only yardstick in taking a decision. Your decision should be based on affordability and who best meets your needs and requirements.
Type of Access An issue that also needs to be cleared is the form of access. Is it dial-up or wireless access? Again cost is an issue here as Wireless is much more expensive since what you have is a permanent connection to the Internet, unlike dial-up. What do you need to do and how often will determine your form of access.
Whichever form of access you choose, your ISP must be “strong”. A critical factor to be considered when choosing an ISP is the technical strength of the ISP. This refers strictly to the technical capability of the organization. Is it well staffed with the sort of personnel that can handle technical issues on the Internet? For example, Internetworking software or hardware, web development, capacity planning, setup and installation, troubleshooting, etc. Staff must have the right qualifications, experience, skills and knowledge.
Technical Strength Of major concern to you must be whether the ISP has the technical capabilities to meet your present and future Internet requirements. The ISP itself has to tell you what its technical strength is like, i.e. in terms of personnel and equipment. In view of the number of “cowboys” claiming to be ISPs, such information provided by the ISP should be verified. Always ask technical questions, no matter how awkward. Is onsite support available? What is their response time to issues like? Is emergency support available? What are the limits, if any, on disk storage, e-mail or other Internet traffic?
Busy signals are an indication of performance problems that affect Internet usage. What is the ISP’s policy on busy signals? How busy are their modems? When are the peak usage hours? How will the ISP protect you from busy signals? Failure to demand for truthful answers can eventually turn out to be costly in terms of time, funds and opportunities.
Professionalism: The professionalism of the prospective ISP is equally important. How professional is the outfit’s customer service? Are they the sort who promise heaven but deliver hell? You have to be careful not to be taken in by sugar coated stories, or window dressed adverts. Always separate the hype from the real facts on the ground. Are staffs courteous, trained and professional? Remember you’re the customer. How are you treated when contacting the ISP? Was your call or request treated in a professional and timely manner? Or are you given the impression when you make enquiries that you are “disturbing, or asking too many questions”?
The Internet gives the ability to work (send e-mail, retrieve information, upload data, etc.) in an efficient and timely manner. Don’t allow an ISP to be your stumbling block.
Total Internet Solutions Additionally, assess the ISP’s attitude to Total Internet Solutions (TIS). Any truly professional ISP should be able to provide TIS, not just an Internet connection. Can the ISP fulfill all your needs? Can it provide services such as Domain Name Services, Onsite installation and maintenance, Web services, Internet security services, and Network Consulting? It is important that you identify and choose an ISP who is focused on solutions - TIS. Providing an Internet connection is not enough.
Cost The cost of the Internet service is of course important. But it must be stressed again that cost should not be the sole determining factor in choosing an ISP. Some ISPs might offer very cheap rates, as a way of attracting customers, while the quality of their service is very poor. In such a situation, you find that your Internet service is actually very expensive as the only Internet services you’re paying for are excuses and busy signals.
Charges/ Payment Methods In addition, how does the ISP charge for its services? Are charges based on flat rate access (which requires you to pay a fixed amount for a given period, independent of usage), or usage access – “pay-as-you-go”. The charge / payment method used by the ISP must be one you are comfortable with, and must make financial sense to you. You must have a focus on how you want to use the Internet. Furthermore, are there any hidden or extra charges?
Track Record Another crucial factor is the track record. What is the track record of the ISP? This could be track record of the ISP itself, as well as the track record of key professionals in the organization. With regard to the track record of the ISP, the ISP should be able identify successful working sites as evidence of past and current performance. The previous performance of the key professionals is important, especially if it is a new ISP, with a few clients. To really assess the track record of the ISP, it is important that as a prospective client of the ISP, you meet with some clients of the ISP independently and ask for their honest opinion on the ISP’s quality of service. Don’t regard this as going behind anybody’s back, instead consider it as: looking after your own interest.
In assessing information obtained from such organizations that use various ISPs, ignore or discard any information that appears tainted with any form of bias or sentiment. Only deal with objective assessments based on actual experiences, before coming to a conclusion.
The future What is an ISP’s plan for the future? This is important since the Internet is a medium for the future, and in view of the rapidity of developments on the Internet. Does the ISP have an idea of how it will offer quality services in future, not just today? Anything as dynamic as the Internet changes daily. Does it have any future plans, or it is just going along for the ride? What are the ISP’s growth plans? If such plans exist are they realistic? Simply put, the ISP must have a vision of the future. The ISP’s vision of the future depends to a large extent on its understanding of the future.
There is no room for compromise. Go for an ISP that understands the future - of Internet. By doing this one is securing a fruitful, long-lasting and problem-free Internet experience. The ISP’s vision of the future influences its internal training programme. A lot can be detected by observing its attitude towards training. Does the ISP invest in training? And if it does, is it practical, result-oriented, and in line with its vision for the future? Or is it simply to give the “techies” a break?
Again, with respect to the future, ask specific and relevant questions. For example: Is there a plan to upgrade bandwidth in future? When and by how much? Ask for, and demand for, straight answers. Remember you’re the one paying. Remember you’re the one who will lose business if things go wrong. Understanding and managing the changes that occur on the Internet is absolutely fundamental to the growth and stability of an Internet Service Provider.
Lifelong Awareness When one is aware about the capabilities and concepts of the Internet, it will be much easier to make the right decision concerning your choice of an Internet Service Provider. Most of the awareness will have to be acquired on a Do-It-Yourself basis. Individuals and organizations have to devise ways of continually updating themselves on the Internet, by observing trends and happenings in the Internet sphere. How else will you know if techniques and products your ISP uses are current and capable?
Observing trends, especially in the international market, can be useful in assessing online services. What are the implications of new technological developments? How are mergers going to affect current users, or any new users? Internet awareness is a practical, ongoing activity that is critical to your making the right decisions on Internet issues. Internet awareness is not simply limited to Internet concepts and services, but should be a continuous exercise.
Be Wise Assessment of ISPs can be done either by you if you are sufficiently Internet literate and aware, or you could use a consultant who is experienced in such activities. ISPs shouldn’t be chosen carelessly using sentiments, flashy adverts, or other unsound criteria, when a careful and thorough assessment can be done. Most ISPs, being organizations managed by human beings, are not perfect. Some may be strong in one area, but weak in another. Choose an ISP that best fulfills all your needs.
Dependence Like most successful and productive IT driven services, you may quickly become dependent on the Internet as a means of conducting your activities - business or social. In today’s Information Age, many use the Internet, for business, to make immense impact and gain high value at low cost.
Selecting your ISP carelessly can deprive you of the tremendous social, educational and commercial benefits of the Internet. In your own interest, you better choose your ISP wisely.
For information on ISPs in Nigeria, visit this Top Internet Providers Link here: http://www.jidaw.com/isp.html
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