I receive numerous phone calls and e-mails from shops and suppliers asking advice on how to properly evaluate local Internet service providers (ISP) for web projects. Like many of you, I too have flipped through phone books looking for a potential host for web sites. A few years back, there might have been 2 or 3 listed, but now, depending on your location, there can be as many as 30 or more. With over 6,000 ISPs in the U.S. and over 10,000 worldwide, how do you choose the right one? Easy, let them make the decision for you.
The following is a step-by-step checklist on how to select an ISP. If followed, many headaches may be avoided.
Step 1. Evaluate your initial options. You really want to have a list of about 5 ISPs to evaluate. You can develop this list from local advertisers, phone books and other sources. Call each one to make sure a live body answers and ask them to whom you can send a request for a quote for your project. If you do not feel good about the initial call, scratch the ISP off your list.
Step 2. Develop a quote sheet based on your project needs. This will be the request for quote that you will send to each of the ISPs you have initially selected. Here is a list of important questions/points to ask:
- What is the annual lease fee for the hosting of your site and domain name?
- Are there additional charges for traffic or site usage?
- What types of e-mail services do they offer, including virtual e-mail? Does your account come with a certain number of e-mail accounts?
- What type of line connection will your site have to the Net?
- What type of speed (bandwidth) can your visitors expect? Will it be a speed demon or a slug?
- What are the programming rates, both hourly and/or per project? Can you get a full project quote or is it a la carte?
- Will you have the ability, if needed, to make site-programming changes (by FTP-File Transfer Protocol) from your computer?
- If you already have a domain name, what is the fee, if any, for transferring it to the new ISP location?
- Does the ISP provide site-monitoring resources for tracking daily/monthly traffic statistics? Is there an extra cost for this service?
- Do they offer e-commerce solutions, and what are the associated costs?
- What types of technical support does the ISP offer, and what times are they available?
- Based on your needs, when can you expect the web site to be completed or launched? The idea here is to get a firm date.
- Have the ISP provide at least 10 online examples of web sites it has completed so that you can evaluate its work personally.
Step 3. After completing your letter, send it off to each of the ISPs on your list with a specific date you wish to receive your project quotation. Be sure to include all of your contact information to insure that you are easily available to answer any questions. In addition, be clear in your letter that you are requesting a written quote for your evaluation. This step alone can separate the wheat from the chaff.
Step 4. Let the ISPs do the work for you. At this point, they will be selling themselves to you instead of you having to choose a needle in a haystack. These simple steps should lead to some clear decisions on which ISP to choose as your project partner.
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If you are currently searching for an ISP, may I suggest that you checkout these three sites. Each of them has a large database full of local, national and international ISPs. I really like the search feature on ISPS.com, which allows you to search for an ISP by area code. This site is very effective and easy to use. Happy hunting.
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