We’ve observed the various ways some of our customers access the internet from their place of business and had a few ask us for advice on how best to get access at their shop. So we thought it worthwhile to summarize the primary options businesses have in accessing the internet. We included a general assessment of each option’s reliability (in terms of uptime and speed…but of course your experience may vary) and cost.
Use a trusted open wi-fi. | Reliability:Low | Cost:Free | Many businesses lure customers with free wi-fi nowadays, including coffee & tea shops, restaurants, and even office supply stores. There’s a good chance there’s one near your business; it’s certainly worth checking before you order something else. The downside to this approach is that the signal may not be reliable all the time. If the coffee shop fills up with many wi-fi users or if it’s a little too far away, the connection may be spotty. But it may be good enough to check your schedule for new appointments a few times a day…and it’s free!
Share with a neighbor. | Reliability:Medium | Cost:Low | If the business next door already has internet access, it may be worth asking if you can pay a portion of their bill each month to share access. If they don’t already have a wi-fi router, you could offer to buy and help install one (just be sure to set up it up to require a password for access). One drawback to this solution is that the connection may go down when your neighbor is gone, and you’ll have no way to fix it. But it can save you and your neighbor some money.
Get a wireless card for your laptop. | Reliability:Medium | Cost:High | All the big wireless carriers (Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, etc.) offer wireless cards for your laptop. If you haven’t seen one, it’s a small device that generally plugs into a USB port (virtually all laptops have this) that establishes an internet connection using the cellular network. With a wireless card, you could access the internet on your laptop anywhere your carrier has coverage, not just at your business. It’s pretty slick, but not cheap: most plans run about $60 per month.
Go with Clearwire. | Reliability:High | Cost:Medium | Another option, which has only been available for a few years now, is Clearwire (or another WIMAX provider…try Googling “wimax” for your city and see what you find). Clearwire’s coverage areas are still fairly limited, but if you happen to live in a city where it’s available, it may be a good option. At about $30 per month, it’s less expensive than a laptop wireless card and DSL/cable. With Clearwire, you receive a “wireless modem” that picks up a signal from a nearby tower (similar to cell phones). What makes this solution attractive is you can take the modem with you, so you could use the same modem at home and at work (you just need to plug it into an electric outlet), all for about $30 per month. If you’re lucky enough to live in a coverage area, I suggest checking out this option.
Fall back on DSL or Cable. | Reliability:High | Cost:High | And finally, you can of course always go with one of the old standbys: DSL or cable. This will generally require the phone or cable company to make a visit (some time between 8:00am and Noon, right?). The reliability is generally high, but it will likely cost you around $50-$60 per month.