Congratulations on your new office! The lease is signed, the company logo is hung, and the coffee maker has been set-up. (#priorities)
Next up on your to-do list: “Get internet.”
But where do you even begin?
If you’ve never had to find, purchase, and set up the internet for a business before, it can definitely seem overwhelming.
Pilot knows a thing or two about internet, so we’ve put together this guide to help you find, purchase, and set up a reliable network for your office.
Let’s get into it.
Let’s talk about the ‘how’
Before you go scheduling installation appointments, you’ll have to find a local provider and determine what type of internet is the best fit for your businesses’ needs.
Deep breaths. We’ll walk you through each step!
Finding service providers in your area
First, you’ll need to figure out which ISPs serve your area or building. Your building super or property manager may be able to provide you with a list of available providers, and you can also ask neighbors what providers they use. Or, search for your zip code or town and “Business Internet Service Providers'' to see what you can dig up. You might also have received a postcard or two from local providers trying to win your business. NYC-based businesses can fill out the form on our homepage to instantly see if Pilot is available in your office building.
Types of internet for enterprises
Internet types–like satellite, cable, fixed wireless, fiber–are all unique and useful in different situations.
Satellite internet is a wireless connection that uses satellite dishes to provide internet access. It’s a great option if your business is located in a rural area, but it is slower and less reliable than other types of internet.
Fixed Wireless internet involves a connection that’s delivered wirelessly to your business from a nearby access tower. It’s a good option for remote areas or any buildings without a traditional point of entry to run cables. It also isn’t plagued by the reliability challenges that can come with a satellite connection.
Cable internet is a wired connection that uses a coaxial cable connected underground. Cable can be fast and reliable, but problems can happen when too many people are using it at once.
Fiber internet is a wired connection that uses fiber-optic cables to send light pulses to transmit data between devices. Fiber is extremely fast and reliable. (We’re biased, but we think fiber is pretty awesome!)
It’s also important to check whether or not the ISP you choose has a Service Level Agreement (SLA) included. This contract between ISPs and customers sets the tone for the quality of service the provider must deliver. This way, you can hold ISPs accountable for any performance issues that happen. (We’ve got one here.)
How much speed do you need?
Your internet bandwidth needs depend on your business’s situation: How many employees are going to be there? What will they use the internet for? How many simultaneous video calls are needed to connect with the increasing number of hybrid employees and clients?
We’ve got a complete walkthrough in our guide to internet bandwidth and speed, to help you determine your speed needs.
Hunkering down on hardware
There is a fleet of devices you need to purchase to get an internet connection. These devices work as a team to make sure your emails are sent quickly and your video calls run smoothly. We’ll walk through each, in the order that they’re typically connected, so you know what to expect as you’re setting up.
A modem is a small device that serves as a termination point for your connection and acts as a bridge between the internet and your internal network. It converts data signals from your internet hookup (like coaxial cable) into a format readable by your local network.
Typically, your ISP will set your modem up for you in an IT closet, where the cable is coming into the office.
A quick note: If you go with fiber-optic internet, you’ll likely have a device called an ONT, or optical network terminal, that performs a similar function as a modem.
A router is a gateway to the internet, moving traffic around internal and external networks. Routers are how your printer and laptop can talk to each other, and they direct data packets out to the right places on the wider internet. Devices can connect to routers wirelessly (WiFi) or be hardwired using an ethernet cable.
The modem or ONT that your ISP installs might double as a router. Otherwise, your router usually will live in the IT closet and connect directly to the modem via an ethernet cable. If you’re not planning to use access points (more on those below) to extend your WiFi reach, you can set up your router in a centralized location to increase your WiFi coverage.
A firewall is the security guard for your network. It’s a device that watches over all of your network’s traffic and decides what data is and isn’t allowed to be transferred (just like a bouncer can reject people who’ve had a few too many).
Often, your router has firewall functionalities. If not, it’s helpful to add a firewall to your IT closet to help protect your employees’ and IoT (Internet of Things) devices–like your computers and security cameras–from hackers and other internet villains.
A network switch connects to your router to provide additional ethernet ports for devices that need to be hardwired or just need a more stable hookup than WiFi (like access points and voice over IP phones). Many switches also provide power-over-ethernet which eliminates the need to plug access points or voice over IP (VoIP) phones into traditional power outlets, giving you more flexibility in where you place those devices.
Your office might already have ethernet home runs built in, and you’ll want to set up your network switch close to the existing patch panel (usually in an IT closet). Otherwise, your switch should live somewhere near the router.
An access point is a device that extends the WiFi reach beyond what your router can do by itself.
The placement of these devices is extremely important to your internet’s wireless capabilities, so you shouldn’t blindly put them up around the office. Without strategic placement, you could end up with dead zones within the office. That would likely result in upset employees knocking on your door to fix it.
Some ideal locations to set up your access points include the ceiling, centralized places, and spots close to where the internet is used most.
Ethernet cables connect your network switches to your devices, router, and modem. The cables are sort of like the subway lines, connecting key hubs throughout the city to make sure people can easily get from one place to the next.
These cables are also important for voice services since the most reliable way to deliver VoIP services is when an ethernet cable directly connects the phone to the network gear itself.
Where you put your cables, and how you set them up, will depend on the location of your network devices and any devices you want to connect to the internet. Luckily, these cables can be hidden in the floors, walls, and ceilings, and accessed via a trusty ethernet port.
Some final notes on hardware
Now that you have a solid understanding of the types of hardware you need and how to set them up, here are some things to keep in mind.
First, since every office is different, setting up your hardware may look different depending on your office. Factors like the size of your space, how many walls there are, and what kind of building material was used can impact your network. To make sure you consider every factor, check out this article—it breaks down everything that influences your WiFi quality.
Second, if you want your internet to reach its full abilities, it’s strongly recommended to purchase hardware that supports at least 1 gigabit-per-second (Gbps) bandwidth.
Getting you on your way–and fast
Being tasked with buying and setting up your office internet for the first time might be a little stressful. But, we’re here to help you through it.
And, once you are set up, we’ve got troubleshooting resources to take care of any common problems you may experience.
Pilot’s got your back as you venture out to your own office for the first time. Give us a call and see how our reliable business internet is something you can count on.