ISPs, Connections, DSLs & Browsers

by WOHe

There are several factors to consider before deciding on the
best Internet options for you.

Have you heard the terms “ISP” (Internet Service Provider) and
“Browser?” What’s a “DSL”?’

Choosing an ISP or deciding between DSL and a cable connection
can be confusing and, for the non-computer-person, boring and
frustrating! In this column, I’m going to try to make it
simpler.

Almost every time I’m out speaking to kitchen and bath dealers,
I hear the question, “Which ISP and/or browser should I be using?”
The truth is, there’s not one good answer to the question, but
several factors to determine your best option. Before I cover
those, let’s define ISP, browser and DSL.

  • The ISP: In order to browse the Web or send and receive e-mail,
    it’s necessary to be connected to the Internet. An ISP furnishes
    you with this connection. ISPs have computers connected to the
    Internet all the time. When your computer dials into one of these
    computers, you then become connected, as well.
  • Browser: A browser is the software program that allows you to
    view Web pages. There are two browser programs that most people
    use. One is Internet Explorer (by Microsoft) and the other is
    Navigator (by Netscape). A browser’s job is to interpret the “code”
    that’s sent over the Internet to your computer into something more
    easily understood.

The next time you’re on line, look at the top left side of your
screen. You’ll see a word similar to “Location” or “Address,” and
after that will be a long, thin, white space. This is where you
type the address of the Web site you want to go to. This is part of
your browser, too. A browser also has other functions: it provides
you with tools to help you recall your favorite sites, allows you
to go backward or forward by page, or to stop something that’s
taking too long to download.

Choosing an ISP
All ISPs have about the same function to get you connected to the
Internet. However, some can offer you various speed
connections.

Most people use a modem and a standard phone line to connect to
the Internet. However, there are some new technologies that allow
you to surf the Web faster than before. The best new high-speed
options include DSL and cable.

The first thing to consider is how fast you want to connect to
the Internet. In many areas throughout the U.S., there’s only one
choice a modem, at a speed of up to 56K. Usually a standard
modem-type connection will cost about $20 per month, per account.
It’s best to have a phone line specifically dedicated to your
computer’s modem.’

If you have the need for speed, DSL and cable connections which
aren’t available in every area throughout the U.S. yet may be the
best way for you to go.

  • DSL (Digital Subscriber Line): DSL is usually touted as being
    the best choice for business. However, it’s not your typical phone
    connection and requires a special setup process. The speed of DSL
    will range from 128K to about 1.5 Mbps (1,500K). Of course, the
    more speed you get, the more it will cost. DSL usually starts at
    $80-$100 per month.
  • Cable connections: Your cable connection speed will vary
    depending upon how many other people are connected using the same
    cable company. Cable companies that call to sell you this service
    will say that you’ll have a high-speed connection usually at around
    4 Mbps (4,000K). This sounds great; the only problem is that they
    don’t tell you that, unlike DSL, you share the same connection with
    other cable subscribers. For example, if four people are using the
    same connection, your speed will drop down to 1 Mbps. If 40 people
    are using it, your speed will drop to 100K. Cable connections
    usually cost about $40 per month.

Assessing needs
Another factor in the ISP decision process is how many people at
your company will require Internet access. If only a few people use
the Internet a couple of times a week, then a standard modem
connection will do fine. However, if the people in your company are
beginning to compete for Internet access, or you need to get more
phone lines in to connect to the ‘net, it may be time to consider
going the DSL route.

As I’ve noted, DSL is a high-speed connection. It can also
support multiple users without requiring separate phone lines and,
at a certain point, DSL becomes a better value than multiple-modem
connections.

Let’s say, for example, that your company needs two phone lines
at $30 per month just for Internet access. You’d also have to pay
for multiple Internet access accounts at $20 per month. Well,
you’re now investing up to $100 per month in Internet charges.
Getting a higher-speed DSL connection now starts to make economic
sense.

Next, take into consideration whether you and your computer are
mobile. If you find yourself needing access to the Internet from
various parts of your state, or from different points across North
America, it’s cost effective to get a national ISP. For example, if
you live in Vermont, and you’re in a hotel in New Mexico and you
want to connect to the Internet, if you use a national ISP, you’ll
only have to pay for a local phone call (as opposed to a long
distance phone call back to your ISP in Vermont).

If you’re mobile, you must use a modem, since DSL and cable are
installed at a location and do not travel. On the other hand, if
you aren’t traveling with your computer, you might choose your
local phone company because most of them now also act as ISPs and
they can help you get on line.

Just as you’re seeing ISPs come in several flavors, another
option is the all-in-one ISP. The most well-known of this type is
AOL, which is easy to use and set up, and gives you everything in
one neat, easy-to-understand package.
While figuring out which ISP or what type of Internet connection
you want isn’t as much fun as actually surfing the Web, they’re
obviously decisions you have to make.

The bottom line is that a good ISP will make it easy for you to
get on line, and the ISP’s staff will assist you when in need.
Don’t be afraid to call. And if the ISP you’ve chosen isn’t
helpful, choose one that is!

A Comparison of Internet Service Providers
(ISPs)

Connection
Download Speed
Approx. Cost
Pros & Cons
DSL
Standard phone line with
special setup.
Moderate to
fast
$90 per month
Fastest connection speed
of the three options, although’
stationary connection does not allow for mobility.
Cable
(Shared)
cable’
connection
Moderate
$40 per month
Good middle-of-the-road
option, but if the cable company has many customers,’
connection can be slowed.
Modem
Regular phone line
Slow to moderate
$20 per month
Can get on-line from
anywhere, although multiple factors can affect download speed.

P.S. Thanks to Steve Krengel, technical geek and WorldView
Technologies president, for his assistance with this column.

Karla Krengel is v.p./sales and marketing for the Chicago-based
Worldview Technologies, Inc., the leading Web site design firm for
kitchen/bath and interior design professionals. She speaks widely
throughout the industry on Internet-related topics, and is an
instructor for the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

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