No internet. No law practice.
Access to the internet has become as essential as utilities like water and electricity. You and your clients depend on your internet connection. Can you even imagine running a practice without internet?
Or maybe you don’t have to imagine because you’ve run into too many issues with your internet service provider (ISP).
Unfortunately, we can’t just say Company X is the winner, done deal. Internet service and options vary wildly from city to city, region to region and building to building. Additionally, one law practice might require enormous amounts of bandwidth while another only needs the bare essentials. For all these reasons and more we want to focus on how to choose the best ISP for your firm and your specific needs.
The Best Internet Providers Have a Service Level Agreement
This is number one on the list. If your firm cannot risk any interruption in internet service, you need to find an ISP with a Service Level Agreement (SLA). An SLA is a contract that states exactly how reliable your internet connection should be. These contractual responsibilities translate to dedicated service and maintenance of your internet connection. Most SLAs guarantee a connection 99.9% of the time. Depending on what you need from your internet, an SLA could be worth considering. One note – scheduled outages don’t count as downtime, so 99.9% uptime means your office won’t be without Internet access for more than 8.76 hours per year that is unscheduled. Scheduled outages could be noticeably longer (which is why a backup internet connection should at least be discussed).
The Need for Speed
When we talk about internet speed, we’re using the term bandwidth, which is measured in Megabytes per second (Mbps) or Gigabytes per second (Gbps), but it’s important to not get distracted by the technical details. What’s important is how you’ll be using your connection to the internet.
Yes, speed is important and the faster the speed is typically better, but most Internet Service Providers use language that says your connection can reach speeds up to X. This “can reach speeds up to” part is very important because your day to day speed might be much slower than the max speed quoted.
That is further complicated by what you’re using your internet connection to do. Commonly, this is referred to as uploading or downloading. Download is when you receive content; upload is when you send content. Most Internet Service Providers highlight fast download speeds (400+ Mbps) but slow upload speeds (like ‘up to’ 20 Mbps). This means that watching Netflix – when downloading speed matters – would be fine, but having 5 lawyers with webcams in the office join a video conference is too much and everything crashes.
Another usage consideration – if you’re using a VOIP for your phones, speed doesn’t matter too much (it’s a fraction of the upload that a video conference uses) but the reliability of the connection is essential to make sure you don’t drop calls. Older stately buildings right by the courthouse make great offices, but they can wreak havoc with poor internet connections.
You can talk to your ISP or us about what you use your internet for and how many users are typically active. This can help you determine what will be the best option for your firm.
What type of internet is best for Law Firms?
We’ve all heard the hype around fiber internet, but is it really the best? Well, generally it can reach the fastest speeds but these days all new internet cable is fiber. Long story short, yes fiber can be great but an unreliable fiber network is still putting you at risk for internet outages. Always put the SLA at the top of your list.
Sometimes, depending on your location, you won’t have much of a choice in the type of internet. Rural areas might only have satellite internet, which is notoriously slow (this is hopefully about to change with options like Starlink becoming more readily available). Older neighborhoods may only be running cable or DSL. Some cable internet connections can get very reliable speeds while other might experience constant outages, the same goes for DSL, which typically runs a little slower.
The big idea is that while speed might be a crucial element, reliability is a major factor as well. Do your research on ISPs in your area and see which ones have the best balance of speed and reliability.
We know you have many other important things to worry about besides your internet, so we wanted to boil down the most important factors in your ISP. It’s a delicate balance between speed, reliability, SLA and cost.
If you’re not happy with your current ISP, shopping around might be a good idea. Additionally, you may want to send us the current vendor’s contract because there may be certain guarantees that you want to keep or ensure the next ISP offers.
May your internet always be fast and reliable. And may your connection never be lost