How Much Math Is On The Calif Real Estate Exam Ten Ways to Make Your Life As an Internet Provider Easier

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Ten Ways to Make Your Life As an Internet Provider Easier

From ISPs and WISPs to library, business, and university networks, Internet use is on the rise. However, as the demand for Internet access continues to grow worldwide, so do the opportunities and challenges for service providers. As soon as your user base grows, the obstacles that providers face start to emerge. From competition to disgruntled customers, the business that once seemed certain to succeed can quickly test the will of even the most battle-hardened, tech-savvy business owners and network administrators. However, for all types of Internet providers, there are ways to make the process easier.

For all suppliers…

1. Set boundaries early on – When you start a new service, don’t leave your users open. You might be fine with no rate caps on users when you only have 10 users sharing a 10 meg link, but when you get to 100 users sharing a 10 meg link, you’ll need to put rate limits on everyone. The problem with waiting is that your original users will get used to higher speeds and won’t be happy to share them as your business grows, unless you apply some reasonable restrictions up front.

2. Prevent your network from getting bogged down – Many ISPs believe that if they set maximum rate limits for their users, their network will not crash due to congestion. However, if you oversold your containment ratios, you’ll get locked out, and simple rate caps aren’t enough. Don’t make this mistake.

This may sound obvious, but let me explain. We often meet operators with 500 users on a 20 mega link. Next, they offer two rate plans: 1 mega for consumers and 5 mega for businesses. They then place rate caps on each type of user to ensure they don’t exceed their allotted amount. In a way, this is supposed to absolve the operator from overselling. That’s all very well, but if you do the math, 500 users of a 20 meg link will overwhelm your link at some point and no one will be able to come close to their “promised amount”.

If you are oversold, you will need something more than rate caps to avoid lockouts. At some point, you’ll need to go with a layer 7 modeler such as Packeteer or Allot NetEnforcer. Or, you can use a NetEqualizer. Your only other option is to keep adding bandwidth.

3. Good technical support is essential – Don’t put all your faith in the local guru who built your network. There are a lot of good technical people out there and there are a lot more that will make a mess of your business. This can create really difficult decisions. I like to use this analogy:

I’m not a concert pianist, not even close, so I can’t tell a Julliard-trained pianist the guy who plays Beatles songs in the piano bar at my local pub. Since I can’t play a lick, they all surprise me. Well, the same goes for non-technical business owners who hire network technicians or developers. They all look incredibly smart when in fact they can run you into the ground. The only way to know is to find someone with a really good track record of making things work for people. So, ask around.

Bonds have no vested interest in making a custom dynasty out of your business (another thing to keep in mind). It is like the doctor who needs the patient to stay sick. You don’t want this. Poor or wrong technology support can be the main cause of failed ISPs or problems with selling your business.

4. Don’t overspend – ISPs and WISPs, remember that on the open market your business is likely to be valued at only three-quarters of your revenue, so don’t fool yourself into spending too much on equipment and loans thinking you’re going to get a white night. If your income is $500,000 a year, you’ll be in good shape if you get $400,000 for your business. And this can only cover your debt. Yes, there are exceptions and you might get a little more, but don’t expect to double your income. It just won’t happen, so plan your spending accordingly.

For network administrators in both public and private companies and institutions, funding is not always a given. Budget cuts and reallocation of funding can leave administrators in a bind. So be careful when planning and managing your network. Consider things like recurring costs and license fees when shopping. Over time, these expenses can add up.

5. Optimize your bandwidth – A NetEqualizer bandwidth controller will allow you to increase your user base by 10 to 30 percent without having to purchase additional resources. This allows you to increase the amount of people you can bring into your infrastructure without expensive construction. However, a purchase like this can be a difficult decision. It is best to think long term. A NetEqualizer is a one-time cost that will pay for itself in about 4 months. On the other hand, the purchase of additional bandwidth continues to increase month after month.

For commercial ISPs and WISPs…

6. Make sure you have a user base to grow – For ISPs and WISPs, maybe 500 homes before they start building. Yes, you can do it for less, but 500 is kind of the magic number where you can pay yourself and maybe some hired help so you can be profitable and take a day off. WISPs and ISPs with 100’s of customers are great, but at this size they will still be a hobby that you may not be able to download a couple of years from now.

7. Be the reliable alternative – If you are in a dense metropolitan area and have the resources, you can offer Internet connections to hotel and business customers with paid services. Many hotels and businesses have unreliable connections, or none at all. Obviously, you’ll need real estate across the street, but once secured, you can point a directional antenna at the building and give your signal a recognizable name for your users to connect to. Then offer them the connection for a daily fee. For many users, paying a small daily fee for reliable service will be worth it, especially if the hotel or business offers subpar Internet service, none, or an exorbitantly priced connection.

8. Make payment as easy as possible – When a customer is in arrears on paying their bill, make sure you have a way to direct them to a payment site. Don’t hang up and wait for them to call. For small operators, you don’t need to automate the payment cycle, just send them to a static page that tells them how to pay their bill. For larger operators (3,000+ users), the expense of automated bill payment may be worth the extra cost, but for a smaller set of customers, a static redirect to a page with instructions and a phone number.

9. Look for a competitive credit card processor – Your bank will likely provide you with a service, but they are generally an intermediary in this transaction. There are credit card processing agencies that sell their services directly and can be more profitable. These are no-nonsense dollars that add up in savings every month.

10. Cross market – Don’t be shy about it. Once you have a captive audience, there are all kinds of cross-marketing ideas you can do to earn extra income. Done tastefully, your users won’t mind. This could be a special with the local car dealer offering them coupons. Or for something like a pizzeria. There’s unlimited potential here, and if you’re not tapping into it, you’re missing out on easy income.

Obviously, these 10 tips won’t apply to all ISPs, but it’s almost a given that at least some of these issues will arise over time. While there’s no guarantee that any network will work perfectly, these tips should help guide ISPs and network administrators in the right direction.

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