Whether you're looking to make your first connection to the Internet, or you're already on-line, but considering changing Internet Service Providers, then here's a few tips that can save you time and effort.


  1. Use An ISP

    An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a company that will provide you with an Internet access account, and e-mail account, and the software to access it. This is different than companies like AOL and CompuServe that offer private networks, with Internet access as a secondary benefit. To achieve real business productivity, stick with an ISP.

  2. Go With A Leader

    Try to choose one of the largest ISP's in your market. The industry is already beginning mergers and acquisitions, which can be very disruptive to your on-line life. You can save yourself future inconveniences by choosing an ISP who's currently at the top of the food chain. A strong regional or nation service provider is preferred.

  3. Protect Your Future

    Regardless of who you choose there's always the chance you will have to change services in future. That's no real problem, as long as you have a permanent e-mail address.

    Visit just about any reputable domain registrar and purchase a domain name and also sign up for an email account at the same time - www.godaddy.com is extremely affordable!

    The value of using your own domain for email is that you can change ISP's without changing your e-mail address. While I've changed ISP's over a dozen times, I've never had to print new cards because of it, I simply don't use the email account provided by my various ISPs, and instead use my own domain.

    Alternatively, if you already have a domain and website, you can probably contact your host to achieve the same result, or you might choose to simply have your domain email to you ISP account.

    In any event, think of this as having a permanent phone number that follows you around for life.

  4. Give Yourself Options

    Look for an ISP that has lot's of local access numbers, so you don't have to pay long distance rates, even when you travel. And, if you do travel, make sure they have an 800 number that you can use to access the Internet and your e-mail when you are outside of their local access areas. While there's usually an hourly fee for 800 access, it's typically cheaper than a long distance call, and beats being shut out of the web when you're away. Right now Earthlink and ATT have large numbers of local access numbers.

  5. Look For Support

    Sooner or later we all have to contact customer support. Better to call an ISP's support line before you sign up, just to see if anyone really answers the phone! After a few very frustrating experiences, I now only choose companies that offer 800 number support, that is staffed 24 hours each day; and suggest you do the same.

  6. You Get What You Pay For

    While there are companies that offer Internet Access for $10/month, or less, most of the reputable providers offering stable service charge in the $18 to $23 range. Avoid "pre-paying" for several months, or even a year, ahead of time just to get a lower rate. You may find that a company to which you've pre-paid for a year's worth of service, isn't around after the first six months!

  7. Read the Fine Print

    There are a lot of subtle differences in ISP service contracts. Many "unlimited" access plans now have surcharges for high volume users, typically for using over 100 hours a month. Others place restrictive limitations on how you can send and receive e-mail. Shop around, and always remember: "If it sounds too good to be true..."


Copyrighted with all rights reserved by Stephen M. Canale