The Importance of Reliable, High-Speed Internet Service
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The Need for Speed?
Where reliable Internet access is important for those who need to get online for business, high speed (or bandwidth) is not usually absolutely essential. As we discussed in our look at software, most of what you need to accomplish online freelancing can be done with a Web browser, and loading web pages and sending email simply doesn’t require extremely fast Internet service.
That’s not to say that you don’t want high speed if it is practical: in general, faster Internet is better than slower. Time is money, after all, and you don’t want to waste it sitting around waiting for web pages to load. But you have to bear in mind that faster options usually cost more than slower ones. Also, you may be limited in terms of what your choices are by where you live and which companies provide service in your geographical region.
Start by comparing the various technologies that are available: you’ll find that some offer far better value than others. For example, if you can get high-speed Internet service from your cable TV company, this is often an excellent value, giving you very fast access for a reasonable cost. It may be twice as expensive as doing dial-up over a phone, but 100 times as fast. For most people doing serious business online, this is a worthwhile place to spend a few bucks each month. On the other hand, if cable Internet costs $69.99 where you are, and there’s an option that’s slower but still acceptable for $19.99, saving $50 a month could make a lot of sense, especially when you’re starting out.
Many companies will offer a range of service levels; for example, your cable company might give you the choice of three or four different speeds, with the monthly cost increasing as you go into the higher-bandwidth options. Your goal here should be to choose the option that provides the best balance of cost and speed, without paying extra for speed beyond what you really require. For example, if the cheapest option is 0.25 Mbits/s speed at $19.99 a month and the second-cheapest is 1 Mbits/s at $24.99, the latter is pretty much a no-brainer. But if the alternatives are 1 Mbits/s at $24.99 and 5 Mbits/s at $49.99, consider starting with the slower option. You may not need any more than that, and you can usually change your service at any time (but ask before making a commitment.)
Remember to also take into account the Internet speed requirements of the actual work you’ll be doing as well. Some online freelancers, such as those who work with databases or multimedia files, have to send gigabytes of data to and from clients. For these individuals, it may well make sense to get the fastest Internet service option available.
If you are one of the people I mentioned just above who sends and receives data in large quantities, be sure to ask about bandwidth limits on any service you sign up with. It’s rare to run into these but it does happen, and could result in your service being cut off—again, at the least opportune of moments.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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