An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a company such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, or Spectrum that provides Internet access to companies, families, and even mobile users. ISPs use fiber-optics, satellite, copper wire, and other forms to provide Internet access to its customers.

The type of Internet access varies depending on what the customer requires. For home use, cable or DSL (digital subscriber line) is the perfect, affordable choice. The price of home use can range anywhere from free to roughly $120 a month. The amount of bandwidth is usually what drives the price. Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be sent through an internet connection in a given amount of time. The speed for home use usually varies from 14 kilobits per second to 100 megabits per second. For large companies and organizations, their bandwidth requirements may be 1 to 10 gigabits per second, which is both insanely fast and expensive!

Internet service provider (ISP) is a, company that provides Internet connections and services to individuals and organizations. In addition to providing access to the Internet, ISPs may also provide software packages (such as browsers), e-mail accounts, and a personal Web site or home page.

Different types of internet service providers

There are over 100 internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK. It is a very competitive market with lots of different offerings and deals. Even household names, such as banks and retailers, provide ISP services.

Different types of ISP connections

ISPs use a range of technologies to enable customers’ connection to their network. The most common types of internet connections include:

  • DSL (digital subscriber line)
  • cable broadband
  • fibre optic broadband
  • wireless or Wi-Fi broadband
  • satellite and mobile broadband
  • dedicated leased line

Most ISPs offer a range of packages aimed at different levels of users, based on factors such as the speed of connection, the number of email addresses needed or the amount of free web space.

Choosing the right type of internet service provider

When selecting an ISP, you should carefully determine your ISP requirements. You should consider:

  • the type of services you need
  • the costs and quality of services
  • the number of users needing an internet connection
  • the location of the users
  • the bandwidth capacity
  • contention ratios and other terms and conditions of the service

You should also determine if, either now or in the future, you might need:

  • Virtual Private Network (VPN) access
  • email access
  • website hosting services
  • domain registration
  • e-commerce facilities
  • use of online databases
  • access to cloud technologies

Keep in mind that, as your business grows, your requirements may change. Some ISPs offer flexible service plans or scalable solutions. You should examine your requirements carefully and consider all the various factors when choosing your ISP

What is the role of ISPs and what do they do?

Internet service providers connect your personal or business computer, laptop, mobile device etc to the internet. ISPs may be commercial, non-profit, privately owned or community owned companies.

Most providers offer the same types of internet services to customers, including:

  • internet access
  • email access
  • domain name registration
  • web hosting
  • co-location (or data centre services)

Some ISPs also provide services such as website design or development of e-commerce facilities.

At the top of the Internet access pyramid are Tier 1 Internet service providers. A Tier 1 Internet service provider is an ISP that has access to all the networks on the Internet using only network peering agreements they do not have to pay for. To help conceptualize what purpose Tier 1 ISPs serve, think of Tier 1 ISPs as the major highways of the Internet. These ISPs connect all corners of the World Wide Web. Some popular examples of Tier 1 ISPs include Vodacom, Bharti, Deutsche Telekom, British Telecommunications, and Verizon.

Tier 1 Internet service providers sell access to their networks to Tier 2 ISPs. Tier 2 ISPs then sell Internet access to organizations and home users. However, sometimes Tier 1 ISPs may sell Internet access directly to organizations and individuals. Additionally, a second intermediary ISP, referred to as a Tier 3 ISP, may purchase network bandwidth from a Tier 2 ISP before selling that bandwidth to end users.

When traffic is routed from your home network to the Internet, it goes through a number of hops before reaching its destination. For example, traffic may travel from your modem, to your Tier 3 ISP’s network, to a Tier 2 ISP’s network, to a Tier 1 ISP’s network, then back down through a different set of ISPs before reaching the destination.

The underlying technology that ISPs use to establish connectivity can be based on analog telephone lines (dial-up), DSL, cable, satellite, Wi-Fi, fiber optics, or other connectivity mediums. The reason many cable and telephone providers are also ISPs is because their underlying infrastructure can accommodate Internet traffic

Advantages of using an ISP for hosting

  • You do not need to invest in your own web server.
  • Most ISPs have very fast connections to the internet.
  • The ISP’s server should offer a very high degree of availability (up time) and reliability.
  • The ISP should have a secure operating environment, high quality virus protection and the latest software patches to ensure the security of your site.

Disadvantages of using an ISP for hosting

  • You need to trust your ISP to maintain the availability and security of your website.
  • If the ISP is hosting too many other sites on a shared server, this may compromise your website’s performance.
  • If the ISP gets blacklisted (eg because of hosting adult content sites or spam sites), this can directly affect you. For example, you may find that your IP address is on various spam blacklists. This can cause your emails be filtered out and junked or you may not be able to register with certain services, websites, forums, etc.

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